Enduring Love uses curtains to represent that human knowledge is often corrupted or incomplete. When Joe looks out his apartment window at Jed Parry in the street below, he hides himself from Parry’s vision by standing behind the curtains, yet Parry, in a subsequent telephone message, congratulates Joe on using those curtains to send him a message. Joe has done no such thing, of course, which shows that their communication has become corrupted. Likewise, when Joe visits Jean Logan, he sees in her closed curtains a sign of grief and sadness, yet he understands simultaneously that he is merely projecting his own knowledge of her recent bereavement onto the house’s appearance. Here again, a character has attempted to draw meaning from curtains, yet the knowledge that proceeds from that attempt is tainted. Jean is indeed bereaved, Joe understands, but the placement of her curtains does not necessarily proceed from that fact. As the novel proceeds, Joe finds himself thinking more and more about the very word “curtains” and his memory, just beyond the edge of recall, of a famous house in which curtains were used as a signal. This famous house turns out to be Buckingham Palace, and Joe’s memory is of a mentally ill Frenchwoman who fell in love with King George V in the years after World War I. Like Parry, she suffered from de Clerambault’s syndrome, and she came to believe that the king was using the palace’s curtains to communicate with her. In an ironic temporary reversal of his curtain symbolism, McEwan allows this curtain-related memory to confer upon Joe what the reader understands to be correct information: Parry is himself afflicted with de Clerambault’s. At the end of the novel, however, McEwan reverts to his earlier use of curtains as an indicator, or source, of incomplete knowledge. When Joe approaches his apartment with a gun, determined to rescue Clarissa, it is now he who must see past the curtains with which Parry has obscured himself. Once again, curtains are used to represent the necessary incompleteness of human awareness.
Curtains Quotes in Enduring Love
This woman was convinced that all of London society was talking of her affair with the king and that he was deeply perturbed. On one visit, when she could not find a hotel room, she felt the king had used his influence to prevent her from staying in London. The one thing she knew for certain was that the king loved her . . . . He used the curtains in the windows of Buckingham Palace to communicate with her. She lived her life in the prison gloom of this delusion. Her forlorn and embittered love was identified as a syndrome by the French psychiatrist who treated her, and who gave his name to her morbid passion. De Clerambault.