Is the conflict between relative fact and human nature ever resolved in Ian McEwan's
Is the conflict between relative fact and human nature ever resolved in Ian McEwan’s
The central premise of Enduring Love is a conflict between logical and rational facts and the complex, sometimes contradictory emotions which are part of human nature. The protagonist, Joe, is a science journalist and clings to concrete facts and truth in order to make sense of the world; this is compromised when he meets Jed Parry, who suffers from de Clérembault’s syndrome and therefore believes that Joe is in love with him. Throughout the novel, McEwan draws parallels between science (biology in particular) and human moral dilemmas, epitomising the conflict between fact and the unpredictable human nature: this is particularly underlined in the incompatible stances Joe and Clarissa have on the subject (Clark and Gordon, 2004). Joe and Jed meet at the scene of an accident in which a man dies. Jed begins to stalk Joe, but Joe’s partner, Clarissa, does not believe him when he tries to warn her. Joe’s inability to correctly recall the events leading up to an assassination attempt on him, orchestrated by Jed, means that the police officers do not believe his story, either. He is frustrated by this because ‘facts’ and ‘truth’ are his coping mechanisms, but ultimately, Joe’s obsession with the truth drives a wedge between he and Clarissa, and his desire to silence Jed’s lies result in a complete lack of compassion for his plight, though he understands that Jed is mentally ill: where ‘facts’ are prioritised over emotion, undesirable consequences result. Joe and Clarissa ultimately reconcile, emotion triumphing and demonstrating that their love has successfully ‘endured’ the ordeal; the second appendix reveals that years later, Jed is still fixated on Joe, showing another form of ‘endurance’. This ending implies that, despite never taking a definitive stance on the debate, McEwan recognises the power of emotions over facts.
Clark, R., and Gordon, A. (2004). Enduring Love: A Reader’s Guide. New York: Continuum.
McEwan, I. (1997). Enduring Love. London: Jonathan Cape.