The Use of Narrative Structure in Enduring Love

The Use of Narrative Structure in Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

IntroductionIan McEwan’s novelDigesting Loveis a complex novel every bit good as a compelling read. The degrees of complexness are dexterously interweaved into the extremely skilled prose, so that the novel seems to flux rather seamlessly from get downing to stop. The consequence is an seemingly straightforward construction comprised of events that occur in a additive patterned advance.

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However, a close reading of the novel demonstrates that there are degrees within this ‘straightforward structure’ that are non straightforward at all. Surely, one can map out a series of events that do organize a clear additive sequence that can be called ‘plot ‘ . However, the profusion of this novel lies non in the secret plan, but in the narrative construction, and in the sleight with which McEwan employs certain techniques to connote, propose, and animate uncertainty in the reader ‘s mind. This essay will turn to the narrative construction of this novel, analysing the techniques McEwan employs and measuring their effectivity on the novel as a cohesive work. It will analyze what has been expressed as the inclination of postmodern authors to research ‘narrative as the containment and control of temporal experience ‘1.

The analysis will cover the novel ‘s the point of position, including degrees of narrative, peculiarly the issue dependability ; the inclusion of the epistolatory manner and its function in the narrative ; and the significance of the appendices to the overall apprehension of the novel, every bit good as their effectivity as a literary technique.Point of View and Narrative Structure

Quite merely, the point of position of this novel is that of its supporter, Joe Rose. That is true throughout the organic structure of the novel, with the exclusion of those sections that are written in epistolatory format, but these are clearly set off in chapters of their ain. At the novel ‘s terminal, there are besides two appendices. The first of these is in the 3rd individual, a psychiatric study about Jed Parry and his upset. The 2nd is a ‘sample ‘ missive from Parry, presumptively among those written during Parry ‘s hospitalization. Within the first-person narrative construction, there are many sub-levels of narrative that exist in this novel. First, nevertheless, we will analyze the storyteller himself: Joe Rose is himself a author, and hence a storyteller. But he writes, or ‘narrates’ , scientific discipline. This sets him apart—perhaps in his ain head more than anyplace else—from authors of fiction, who may be perceived as creative persons or creators—engineers whose creative activities come from within an a private, interior landscape. His profession besides sets him apart from scientists, those who explore environments and experiment with the new things—things that Joe merely writes about. If we accept the averment that narrating is non the same as making, so, and moreover that one needs to make something to hold a true apprehension of it, so how much does Joe really understand of scientific discipline, the subject on which he is allegedly an expert?The Narrative ‘Within ‘ the NarrativeQuestions like those above do non come in the reader ‘s head unbidden: the storyteller, by presenting them to himself, invites the reader to theorize every bit good. Throughout the novel, there are many such inquiries, every bit good as frequent mentions to the narrative act itself. The storyteller is really witting of his ain narrative technique, every bit good as that of those around him. There are illustrations of this throughout the novel, proposing that the novelist is, at all times, cognizant of himself non merely as a novelist, but besides as a representative of the postmodernist manner and subjects. At times, the narrative takes on a moony quality ; in fact, the storyteller comments on the languor itself: ‘Like a ego in a dream, I was both first and 3rd individuals. I acted, and saw myself act. I had my ideas, and I saw them float across a screen’2. At other times, the storyteller negotiations about his ain procedure of narrative as a professional author: ‘I already had the lineations of a theory—not one that I believed in, needfully, but I could hang my piece around it. . . A narrative in itself—a small tired, possibly, but it had served a 1000 journalists before me’3. This description of narrative as a contrived aggregation of words designed to accomplish an terminal is subtly effectual on a figure of degrees. The composing itself is smooth, but the sentiment is unsettling: are we, the readers, being manipulated as good? Alternatively, are we privy to the particular ideas of the storyteller? By naming attending to a common author ‘s technique, are we being let in on ‘trade secrets’—or, instead, are we reminded of the easiness with which we as readers can be ‘duped ‘ ?Dependability of the NarratorThere is besides a inquiry about Joe ‘s credibility as a storyteller: is he dependable? The reader is given ground to surmise that on a figure of different degrees throughout the novel. For illustration, in the initial conversation Joe has with Clarissa about the accident, in which they rehash the events of the twenty-four hours, the duologue does non pealing true. He tells us that ‘Clarissa told the beginning of her narrative in a rush’4, a description which does non rather seem to suit Clarissa, who appears to be methodical in her attack to most things. This statement besides serves to distance Clarissa’s ‘version’ of the narrative from his version, which is presumptively more accurate. In add-on, in Clarissa’s version, Joe informs us, there is a ‘swaying, drop the balling tangle of ropes and men’ , a description which someway does non convey a sense of horror, but instead one of esteem of this image of male chumminess and gallantry. The reader may hesitate here to inquire if this is, in fact, an accurate rendering of Clarissa ‘s history. In fact, it seems more as though this is how Joe would wish to believe Clarissa has viewed the incident. A concluding point about ‘Clarissa’s’ version, as told by Joe, is that we learn that she excessively ‘had gone frontward to assist but could non happen a trim line to hang on to’5. Make this really go on? Did Clarissa really say that this happened? In add-on, if so, should the reader believe the truth of what she says? The reader does non and can non cognize for certain, as the lone beginning available to us is the storyteller. The 2nd conversation about the accident takes topographic point hours subsequently, on the same twenty-four hours. After a period of sexual love, Joe says that he and Clarissa found themselves necessitating, one time once more, to speak about the twenty-four hours, but this clip to person besides each other: ‘It was while we were back in the kitchen in our dressing gowns, busting the electric refrigerator, that we discovered a demand for company’6. Here the reader is presented with yet another version of the narrative, which the storyteller explains, was told in ‘the married style’ . It seems, on one degree, that he is merely ‘showing off’ his ain grandiloquent manner, while utilizing her as a foil. Furthermore, he writes ‘our narrative was deriving in coherency ; it had form, and now it was spoken from a topographic point of safety’7. The narrative shortly seems to go a thing of its own—and the word ‘thing’ is used here rather deliberately, because the storyteller would hold us believe that that is what it had become. He explains that he and Clarissa Tell and recite the narrative ‘many times’ , so many that he admits to happening himself reiterating glib phrases, sometimes including indistinguishable adjectives and words over and over once more Here it seems as though the narrative has merely become a piece of rote memorisation, but Joe goes even further, asseverating that ‘it became possible to tell the events without live overing them in the faintest grade, without even retrieving them’8. In the thick of these assorted messages, there are elusive cues and inside informations that alert us to certain qualities in other characters as well—in specific, Jay Parry. After Parry’s invitation to ‘pray’ after the accident, there is a funny scene in which the storyteller dexterously uses descriptions that subtly suggest to the reader that Parry is non to be trusted. Parry, at this point, is on his articulatio genuss, fixing to pray. ‘Parry tested to talk moderately from his diminished height’9notes the storyteller, giving the reader the distinguishable feeling that whatever Parry is about to state will clearly non be sensible.

What he does state may look a spot utmost, since he tells Joe he believes ‘that God has brought us together in this calamity and we have to, you know, make whatever sense of it we can? ’10.

In and of itself, this statement is non needfully the grade of a moonstruck: any person who has undergone a traumatic event such as this might seek to happen some rational, if mystical, account to do it more toothsome. However, the fact that Joe describes Parry’s effort to talk ‘reasonably’ suggests that Parry is moving anything but sensible. The image of Parry’s ‘diminished height’ lingers in the reader’s head as good, although since he is on his articulatio genuss, it is merely natural that his tallness be diminished. Yet the storyteller relates this so skilfully that what is diminished here is Parry’s credibleness, even before he has had a opportunity to talk a word.Shift in Point of ViewA instead disconnected displacement in point of position takes topographic point about one tierce of the manner into the novel, when the storyteller announces that ‘it would do more sense of Clarissa ‘s return to state it from her point of position. Or at least from that point as I later construed it ‘11. The following events are so narrated in the 3rd person—essentially, Joe negotiations about Joe, as though outside of himself. This remotion gives an uneven and slightly eerie esthesis to the reader, which is non alleviated by Clarissa ‘s ( Joe ‘s? ) reference of ‘symptoms ‘ and ‘agitation ‘ , touching less-than-subtly to mental instability of some sort. At this point, the reader may inquire which of the characters is really off-kilter. Alternately, it may look that this combination of personalities has managed to unify to make this unusual state of affairs, as though each person had certain constituents that, matched by complementary constituents in the other, consequences in the compulsion we are subsequently told is ‘de Clerambault ‘s syndrome ‘ .The Epistolary StyleThe storyteller ‘s inclusion of letters written by two of the characters is another technique that merits close attending. There are three paragraph-length letters from Parry to Joe12. Two are in the organic structure of the text ; the 3rd is Appendix II—the papers that ends the novel. Additionally, there is a missive from Clarissa to Joe13. The displacement to epistolatory manner gives the storyteller an chance to show the point of views of the other characters in a believable manner within the context of the novel. Yet they are besides a really limited beginning of information for the reader. First of wholly, the pick of letters is non left to us. Second, these letters filtered through a storyteller who has established himself as undependable on a figure of occasions.

Letterss from Jed Parry

What is McEwan’s point in including these letters from Jed Parry to the supporter in the organic structure of the novel? Since the storyteller seems to be rather forthcoming with inside informations, the reader may inquire what the author’s intent is in utilizing this alteration in manner and position. The obsessional tone of the letters gives a sense of Parry’s mental province much more efficaciously than Joe’s ain description of it. By including these letters, the storyteller is demoing, instead than stating, the extent of Parry’s compulsion in a manner that is acceptable to the reader. It besides allows the storyteller to present information about Parry that would be impossible for the storyteller to cognize. For illustration, the disbursal of five 100 lbs paid by Parry for photocopies of Joe’s work. This is much more effectual revealed to the reader through an epistolatory manner, and it besides maintains the credibleness of the narrative line.

Letter from Clarissa

The missive from Clarissa is another effectual tool, in that it allows the reader entree to information which would non be valid or dependable if it were to come from Joe himself. Through Clarissa missive, we get a ‘second’ appraisal of the relationship between Clarissa and Joe, every bit good as a ‘witness’ to the eccentric events that have transpired since the fateful and tragic balloon event.

DecisionMcEwan concludes his novel with a finale of two appendices. De Clerambault ‘s Syndrome is the topic of Appendix I. Write in a sharp medical manner and including a bibliography, this appendix has an air of professionalism about it that would propose to any insouciant reader that it is in fact reliable. However, by the stopping point of the novel, the reader has gleaned adequate information about the storyteller to cognize that his dependability is invariably in inquiry. In add-on, as a scientific discipline author, acquaintance with psychological slang is a realistic premise to be made. Therefore, we may oppugn the cogency of this syndrome of ‘de Clerambault ‘s Syndrome ‘ , which is in fact a documented upset. As described by Reynolds and Noakes, ‘there can besides be an unhealthy sort of compulsion, which is likewise given the name of “love” , even when there is no cognition of the supposed “beloved”’14.

The inclusion of this appendix leads to farther guess on the portion of the reader, and surely adds to the complexness of the novel. On one degree, it is reassuring for us to plunge ourselves in the authorization of this scientific manner ; it is as though the voice of saneness has stepped in at the last minute to corroborate our intuitions, and to confirm our belief that our ain universe perceptual experiences are in fact, in line with world. However, it is followed by Appendix II, which is a brief missive from Parry, who is now presumptively hospitalized. It is a stalking finale to the novel, stoping with the words: ‘Send me a message soon—faith is joy ‘ . Any certainty that Appendix I may hold inspired is ephemeral ; the lone thing that one may cognize for certain is that a subsequence would be welcome.

End Notes

1Morrison, Jago. 2001. ‘Narration and Unease in McEwan ‘s Later Fiction ‘ . Surveies in Contemporary Fiction Spring 2001: pp. 253-279. Washington: Heldref Publications, p. 253.

2McEwan, Ian. 1997. Digesting Love. New York, NY: Random House, p. 21.

3Ibid, p. 51

4Ibid, p. 32

5Ibid, p. 32

6Ibid, p. 39

7Ibid, p. 39

8Ibid, p. 40

9Ibid, p. 28

10Ibid, p. 28

11Ibid, p. 85

12Ibid, Ch. 11, 101-106 ; Ch. 16, 143-148 ; Appendix II

13Ibid, Ch. 23, 233-236

14Reynolds, Margaret and Noakes, Jonathan. 2002.Ian McEwan: The Essential Guide.London: Vintage, p. 120.


McEwan, Ian. 1997. Digesting Love. New York, NY: Random House.

Morrison, Jago. 2001. ‘Narration and Unease in McEwan ‘s Later Fiction ‘ . Surveies in Contemporary Fiction Spring 2001: pp. 253-279. Washington: Heldref Publications.

Reynolds, Margaret and Noakes, Jonathan. 2002.Ian McEwan: The Essential Guide.London: Vintage.

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