Enduring Love


Ian McEwan

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Themes and Colors
The Importance of Loyalty Theme Icon
Rationalism vs. Intuition Theme Icon
Obsession Theme Icon
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Enduring Love, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Importance of Loyalty

The catastrophic balloon accident at the start of Enduring Love precipitates several crises of loyalty. One crisis involves a group of strangers, another strains the dynamic of a relationship, and a third involves a widow grappling with her doubts about her late husband. Each of these scenarios shows that catastrophe can dramatically reshape situations that once seemed clear and stable. Once characters come to doubt the reliability and benevolence of the world around them, they…

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Rationalism vs. Intuition

Enduring Love features a protagonist whose commitment to rationalism—the notion that actions should be based on knowledge and reason—collides with characters who live by intuition or emotion. McEwan clearly validates Joe’s commitment to reason: despite Clarissa’s resistance, Joe immediately diagnoses Parry as an insane and dangerous individual, which allows him to later save Clarissa’s life. Yet McEwan also takes Clarissa’s emphasis on intuition and emotion seriously, as she deftly points out the flaws…

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Enduring Love is a novel of obsession: not only sexual or romantic obsession, but also religious obsession and obsession with the past. The book’s characters continually fixate on one another, on their own feelings, on their pasts, and on the lives they might have had if they had made different choices. This tendency, the novel suggests, is both harmful and a natural consequence of being human.

The most obviously destructive example of obsession in the…

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The Nature of Love

At the heart of Enduring Love is the question of whether love is something that endures or that must be endured, and the double meaning of the novel’s title suggests that both answers are correct. This is consistent with McEwan’s larger project: asking the reader to consider love in all its complexity. Love is not merely a force for good, McEwan seems to be arguing, but a biological and neurological fact that manifests in ways…

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