By Keith Lyons
Ian McEwan in the novel ‘Enduring Love' depicts the theme of obsession in many diverse forms. McEwan uses different styles of language to portray the characters and their many types of “unhealthy obsessions”. By exploring the ways McEwan presents each character, we can clearly observe the extremely obvious obsessions, yet that is not the case, lying below the surface there are yet more delicate and subtle obsessions that each character exhibits.
The most evident obsession in this work of fiction is Jed Parry's obsession with Joe Rose. As the reader, we find this most disturbing because of the intensity that it is presented to us within the novel. At the opening of the narrative, directly after the misfortune accident, Joe Rose proceeds down the hill to inspect John Logan's body, closely followed by Jed Parry. McEwan utilizes his use of language with talented effect to get across Jed Parry's obsession with religious conviction and Parry's dialogue to show his zeal to pray. ‘I don't think you understand. You shouldn't you know, think of this as some kind of duty. It's like, your own needs are being answered? It's got nothing to do with me, really, I'm just the messenger. It's a gift.' In addition to the first, quote ‘... I mean, you don't have to believe in anything at all, just let yourself do it and I promise you, I promise...' Jed's reiteration within the sentence and the word ‘promise'shows Jed Parry pleading with Joe Rose and expresses his heartfelt beliefs. There is also a ‘weirdness' as Joe Rose makes the decision to tell Jed Parry the insensitive truth about his religion ‘Because, my friend, no one's listening. There's no one up there'. ‘Parry's head was cocked, and the most joyous of smiles was spreading across his face.' This is a significant moment in the novel as we soon uncover, that the source of the story and Jed's obsession unfold after the fateful meeting following the tragic accident of John Logan.
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McEwan uses religious imagery to convey the embarrassment felt by Joe and passion of Jed's beliefs. ‘…, as I saw it, to deliver me from the radiating power of Jed Parry's love and pity.' The use of the verb ‘deliver' has staunch religious overtones and suggests deliverance in the same Christian sense of Jesus ‘delivered' mankind. McEwan also makes use of the phrase ‘radiating power'. This is for the most part an effective use of imagery as it conveys the idea of Jed Parry being the source of the obsession, which spreads out and has an effect on those around him. Jed's obsession with religion and his growing obsession surrounding Joe Rose are interlinked. Jed's strange behaviour towards Joe intensifies with his religious zeal. McEwan expresses this in their second meeting; we begin to understand Jed's reasoning and motivation for needing Joe to pray. ‘To bring you to God, through love. You'll fight this like mad because you're a long way from your own feeling? But I know that the Christ is within you. At some level you know it too. That's why you fight it so hard with your education and reason and logic and this detached way you have of talking, as if you're not part of anything at all? You can pretend you don't know what I'm talking about, perhaps because your want to hurt me and dominate me, but the fact is I come bearing gifts. The purpose is to bring you to the Christ that is in you and that is you'. By placing importance on the word ‘purpose' this shows Jed's intent and in due course the motivation behind his pursuit of Joe. In a strange twisted logic, Jed is using his faith as rationalization for his obsession.
McEwan symbolizes Jed's necessitate for Joe through the quotation ‘He was watching my face with a kind of hunger, as desperation.' ‘Hunger' and ‘desperation' give the reader a sense of the voracious passion that Jed feels for Joe. McEwan also presents Jed's obsession through the letters that he sends to Joe. The letters act rather like a soliloquy in a theatre would and we are able to see the character of Jed without Joe's perception as the narrator. The letters are perhaps the most disturbing part of the obsession as McEwan reveals Jed's raw emotion and obsession with Joe Rose. ‘Joe, Joe, Joe….I'll confess, I covered five sheets of paper with your name.' The use of repetition emphasises Joe as the subject of Jed's obsession and the action of writing his name over sheet of paper is a sign of immaturity. ‘Does it horrify that I can see through you so easily?' A rhetorical question appeals directly to the reader as we see events through Joe's eyes and reveal an insidious side to Jed's character.
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Yet there could be deeper obsessions such as Clarissa with children or even Keats.