Enduring Love

by

Ian McEwan

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Enduring Love: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrative shifts to a letter that Clarissa has written to Joe sometime after Joe’s shooting of Jed Parry. Clarissa opens by apologizing for the “row” that she and Joe had the previous evening, and she also apologizes, again, for disbelieving Joe about the danger posed by Parry.
Clarissa recognizes that she has not been completely loyal to Joe and that she has erred by disbelieving him. She will have more to say, but first she must make these important concessions.
Themes
The Importance of Loyalty Theme Icon
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
However, Clarissa states, Joe’s “being right is not a simple matter.” Clarissa continues to believe that the entire episode “might have had a different outcome” had Joe “behaved differently.” She criticizes Joe for being so “intense and strange” and for lying to her about Parry’s initial phone call. She brings up Joe’s betrayal—his “ransacking” of her desk—and suggests that Joe’s researching of Parry’s condition was meant to “substitute for the science [Joe] wanted to be doing.”
Clarissa’s remark that Joe’s “being right is not a simple matter” is perhaps her most important assertion of the supremacy of emotion over reason. For Clarissa, a factual understanding of the threat posed by Parry is merely one item on an entire emotional continuum. Though Joe was correct about that detail, he was wrong about many other things.
Themes
The Importance of Loyalty Theme Icon
Rationalism vs. Intuition Theme Icon
Obsession Theme Icon
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Continuing on, Clarissa suggests that much of Joe’s emotional turmoil over the last many weeks has been due to his fear that he was the first rescuer to let go of his rope. “Parry,” she argues, presented Joe “an escape from [his] guilt.” Furthermore, Clarissa states, she understands why Parry might have thought Joe was “leading him on”: Joe’s obsessiveness suggested that Parry was bringing something “out” in him.
These claims represent yet another point at which Joe’s and Clarissa’s understandings of recent events cannot align. Clarissa explains Joe’s behavior using the language and ideology of psychoanalysis. Joe would almost certainly reject such a characterization as illogical.
Themes
The Importance of Loyalty Theme Icon
Rationalism vs. Intuition Theme Icon
Obsession Theme Icon
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Clarissa’s most important point, which she soon comes to, is that Parry’s ultimate violence was never “inevitable”; rather, it was spurred on by Joe’s reactions. Clarissa thanks Joe for “saving [her] life,” but she simultaneously argues that Joe might have put it in jeopardy in the first place by overreacting to Parry’s attentions. As the letter concludes, Clarissa suggests that the two need “some time apart” (she will stay with her brother, Luke) and that she doesn’t know whether their love will survive.
Because Clarissa’s assertions cannot be proven with facts (but must rather be intuited using a kind of emotional sense), Clarissa is unable to share in Joe’s perspective. As a consequence, she and Joe cannot resume their relationship. Their love, no matter how long-lived, seems unable to transcend their fundamentally incompatible worldviews.
Themes
The Importance of Loyalty Theme Icon
Rationalism vs. Intuition Theme Icon
Obsession Theme Icon
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
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