Enduring Love

by

Ian McEwan

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Enduring Love: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is Clarissa’s birthday, and, to Joe’s surprise, she kisses him when he gives her a card. Joe suspects that Clarissa is being “kind” because she knows that their relationship is over. He continues to feel, too, that Clarissa has “done neither the research nor the thinking” about Parry’s condition and is thus underestimating it. Parry’s love, Joe believes, “could not stand still”; it must soon turn “to either indifference or hatred.”
Joe’s attempt to analyze Clarissa’s behavior with logic says much about his character, as does his belief that the “research” and “thinking” he has done about Jed Parry trump Clarissa’s intuitions. Joe’s desire to make predictions about the future using knowable data is a hallmark of his rationalism.
Themes
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Obsession Theme Icon
As Clarissa leaves for work, Joe goes to his study to wrap her present: an early edition of John Keats’s poems. While there, he gathers all of Parry’s letters and reads them again, looking for “significant passages.” Joe is “attempting to compile a dossier of threats,” and he has come to understand that Parry’s threats lie not in his “pathetic” expressions of love but in his recollections, for example, of how much he loved hunting as a child: enjoying the “power of life and death” that was in his hands when he was armed with a gun. So, too, do Parry’s threats lie in his assurance that he can hire others to do his bidding, which Joe reflects on once again as he works.
Joe’s commitment to reason can be seen once more in his approach to Parry’s letters. By annotating and organizing Parry’s correspondence, Joe is attempting to bring reason to bear on a problem that is, by its very nature, resistant to logic. Joe’s fear, too, is a result of his logical thinking: he instinctively believes that the clues to what Parry will do next can be found in Parry’s words, despite the fact that those words bear little relationship to reality.
Themes
Rationalism vs. Intuition Theme Icon
Obsession Theme Icon
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Joe notices, reading further, that Parry’s letters contain very few religious references; instead, “his religion [is] dreamily vague on the specifics of doctrine.” God, for Parry, is “undeniably ‘within’ rather than in his heaven”; thus, Parry has a license, Joe realizes, to “respond to the calls of feeling or intuition.”
Joe explicitly connects Parry’s delusional love with an intuitive, self-focused way of thinking. Thus, Parry rejects religious doctrine, in Joe’s analysis, because doctrine would represent objective claims that exist outside of Parry’s head.
Themes
Rationalism vs. Intuition Theme Icon
Obsession Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Joe leaves his apartment carrying his notes about Parry’s letters. Parry is not outside waiting for him, and the change in Parry’s routine makes Joe “uneasy.” Arriving at a police station—his destination this morning—Joe has to wait for “over an hour” to be seen, and he speculates that the “exhausted air” that seems to fill the station is a result of “the human need for order meet[ing] the human tendency to mayhem.” At last, Duty Inspector Linley appears and leads Joe into an interview room. There, the two men sit beneath fluorescent lights to talk.
The stress that the Parry situation has caused in Joe may be responsible for Joe’s emotional, non-rational thinking in these paragraphs. Joe feels “unease” despite the fact that Parry isn’t present. Similarly, he gives into a metaphoric, non-literal idea about the police station’s air. The Parry situation is corrupting Joe’s reason, and not for the first time.
Themes
Rationalism vs. Intuition Theme Icon
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Joe reflects inwardly about the strategy that has finally brought him into a face-to-face conversation with a policeman: he has lodged a formal complaint about the way his case has “been handled so far,” and now that complaint must be dealt with. Sitting with Duty Inspector Linley, to whom he has already told his story by telephone, Joe tries to determine whether the man is “slightly clever or very stupid.” Duty Inspector Linley asks Joe a series of questions about Parry’s behavior, and, once again, Joe finds it difficult to describe Parry’s obsession in a way that clearly indicates its criminality. As Duty Inspector Linley asks Joe about Clarissa’s response to Parry, it quickly becomes clear that Linley suspects that Joe’s mental state may not be entirely healthy.
Duty Inspector Linley is not the first character to question Joe’s sanity, an irony given the fact that Joe is ostensibly the sanest character in the novel. Like Joe, Duty Inspector Linley is able to comprehend Jed Parry’s mindset and character only imperfectly. Because he is a member of an institution—the police—dedicated to an ordered reality, he finds it difficult to make sense of Parry or to fit Parry’s behavior into a preexisting, bureaucratically approved narrative. Parry literally has no place in his world of fact and reason.
Themes
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Frustrated, and “beginning to detest Linley,” Joe states that he has “good reasons to believe [Parry] will turn nasty” and that he has come “to the police for help.” Duty Inspector Linley suggests that he would have done “the same [him]self,” but, even after examining the threats that Joe has copied out from Parry’s letters, he declares that Parry is a “pussycat” as far as stalkers are concerned. When Joe insists that Parry is likely to hire someone to assault him, Linley responds that Joe’s case is “too weak” to pursue. Joe asks Linley to “send a couple of officers round to [Parry’s] place” and let him know he’s being monitored, but Linley answers that such an action is not possible “in the kind of society we have, or want to have.”
Joe is dedicated, both professionally and by inclination, to the pursuit of evidence-based fact. Yet here, two men look at the same facts and come to drastically different conclusions. This may suggest a weakness in Joe’s evidence-dependent way of looking at the world. Unless evidence means the same thing to everyone, no shared conclusion can be reached. And because observing evidence is an inherently personal act—one brings to it one’s own biases and, indeed, one’s own intuition—to arrive at common ideas is quite difficult.
Themes
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Late for Clarissa’s birthday lunch, Joe leaves the station in frustration and rushes to the restaurant where he is to meet Clarissa and her godfather, Jocelyn Kale. As he walks, he thinks about Clarissa’s last birthday, “when [they] had celebrated without a trace of complication in [their] lives.” Even now, Joe reflects, he can’t bring himself to believe that their relationship is really over, despite what Clarissa has declared. Instead, he tells himself that their love is “just the kind to endure.”
Though Joe has been explicitly told by Clarissa that their relationship is over, he rejects that problematic fact in favor of the more emotionally palatable notion that their love will ultimately “endure.” This reveals that Joe’s commitment to reason is, like most other people’s, incomplete. He retains his emotional defense mechanisms.
Themes
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The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Reflecting further on Clarissa’s last birthday, Joe recalls the specifics of that day. He had worked on an essay about “the genetic basis to religious belief” and had speculated that religion gave believers “the brute strength of singlemindedness.” In bed that morning, Clarissa had attempted to make love to Joe, and he had made a playful show of resisting her, reading the newspaper while she “sat sleepily astride [him].” Even now, Joe recalls being simultaneously aroused by Clarissa and interested in a newspaper article that caught his eye. He ponders the marvels of the human brain, which is able to sustain such dual attention, even as he considers how much he misses his daily life with Clarissa. The task of reclaiming that life, he understands once again, will have to be his alone.
Because of his rational character, Joe uses scientific language and ideas even when remembering highly emotional and personal events and moments. Joe’s memory of a happy time with Clarissa cannot be merely a good memory; rather, it is an illustration of a particular scientific phenomenon. Related to this is Joe’s memory of his essay from the previous year. Joe is clearly remembering that paper in the context of his relationship with Jed Parry, and he is tempted to apply scientific reasoning even there.
Themes
Rationalism vs. Intuition Theme Icon
Obsession Theme Icon
The Nature of Love Theme Icon