In Enduring Love there are several different relationships with ‘love’ apparently going on in some form or another. However calling all the love in the book an “unhealthy obsession” is a vast exaggeration of the truth. McEwan does depict love in a dark way but healthy love is clearly present between some of the characters especially in the beginning between Joe and Clarissa. Joe and Clarrisa’s relationship does deteriorate when under a lot of pressure, and Joe does become overcome or obsessed with suspicion of Clarrisa but to say all they both feel for each other is a “unhealthy obsession” is a very pessimistic view on the situation.
The other main relationship in Enduring Love is Parry’s and Joe’s this is very unhealthy, Perry becomes obsessed with Joe and Joe in turn eventually becomes obsessed with Parry. Joe’s obsession is based around fear of Parry and wanting to apply science to understand his ‘condition’ while Perry’s obsession is weird and tied in with sex, his religion, and the accident. Although Joe and Parry are obsessed with each other I do not think this is ‘love’ in any form. Joe is not in love with Parry nor will he ever be he just wants to understand him and get rid of him so he can get on with his life and he is obsessed with this.
Parry believes himself to be in love with Joe, I think that he is not actually in love he is just a strange disillusioned lonely man and is “unhealthy obsessed” with Joe and God. We can tell Joe is obsessed by what he says to Clarrisa quite early on in the book, “‘Listen. Yesterday he was following me’, ‘Clarrisa, It was him! ‘” Joe doesn’t know it was Parry following him he just had a “feeling”, this shows he is very fragile at this stage of the book and open to paranoia.
He is beginning to get obsessed by Jed because he is constantly thinking about him and assuming he is there just because of a “feeling”, this is very unlike Joe because he usually goes by science and this is not a scientific fact just a “feeling”. This illustrates how Parry is getting to Joe and damaging his normal pattern of thinking leaving open to irrationality as we see later. “There’s nothing wrong with my mind. It’s a good mind. Sweetheart he’s a real threat, he could be dangerous’, by this stage in the book Joe has convinced himself Parry is a threat and he is ignoring Clarissa’s needs and he is becoming consumed by Parry.
Clarrisa is begging for compassion and support, “I’m frightened”, but Joe responds by “I am too, he could get violent. This shows how Parry has affected Joe to the stage where he has become an obstacle to Joe and Clarissa, an obstacle they cannot get rid of and stands between them and working out their relationship. Joe’s obsession of Parry and his fear of him eventually drives him to murder, so Joe does have a “unhealthy obsession” with Parry and what he might do. Joe feels no love for Parry.
Parry believes himself to be in love with Joe but clearly from events that unfold in the book this is an “unhealthy obsession” for him. Parry’s love is not a traditional type of love and this is what McEwan is showing us, that love is not always healthy and true. Parry’s love is for a man, this in itself is untraditional but not uncommon, he also apparently falls in “love” with him from just one meeting, the balloon incident. It is also interesting to see that Parry is a devout Christian who follows every word of the bible but still has homosexual feelings for Joe.
This shows how contradictory his love is and abnormal and even “unhealthy”. In Joe and Parry’s first proper conversation Parry says to Joe, “you love me, you love me, and there’s nothing I can do but return your love” and “we’ve come together for a purpose”. This is very strange because Parry is assuming Joe is offering him his love even though he is not, he also tells Joe they have come together for a purpose. It is clear from his early stage his Parry is obsessed and has convinced himself of untruths. Throughout the book Parry’s obsession steadily increases to the point of kidnapping Clarissa.
Only Parry can see his love as true love, while to any other sane person it would seem like unhealthy obsession. I think it is evident Parry’s love has come from a lonely isolated lifestyle dominated by his religion and this has devoured him to a stage where he is mentally unstable and this leads him onto a “unhealthy obsession”. Joe tells Parry “Believe me I have no feelings to control”, and Parry thinks this is some kind of “joke” when Joe says it, this shows how warped Parry’s mind is and how obsessed he is with thinking Joe and him share love.
The relationship between Joe and Parry clearly is an obsessive one, but in different ways. Joe is obsessed with Parry and what he might do and what he is doing to his and Clarissa’s life, while Parry is obsessed with Joe and being with him in some form or another. The phrase “where love is never love, but a unhealthy obsession”, does apply to Parry, because his love is not actually love as far as the reader and Joe can comprehend and is a “unhealthy obsession”. This statement does not apply to Joe though because Joe knows he is not in love with Parry and he is not deluding himself like Parry.
Clarissa and Joe I believe do love each, but their love turns sour due to the balloon incident and Parry’s influence over their relationship. Joe tells the head of police, “its put a lot of pressure on our relationship, we were very happy before”, I think this is a true depiction of what has happened. We see throughout the book that Joe and Clarissa do have great affection for each other. This relationship cannot be described as an “unhealthy obsession”, but love. However there are some elements of obsession in their relationship that surface as the story unfolds.
Clarissa’s obsession with Joe’s being made tears apart their relationship. Clarissa does not understand Joe’s situation and doubts at several points whether or not Parry exists, this represents the loss of trust in their relationship, “You say he’s outside, but when I go outside there’s no one, no one Joe”. This shows that Clarissa no longer trusts Joe. Clarissa has decided that Parry probably doesn’t exist and that Joe has a “problem” she tells him “you need help”, “I’m talking about your mind”.
This is very damaging for the couple’s relationship because Joe is in need desperate need for her support and advice. Joe at a point in the story in driven into a fit of madness by all the things happening around him, he suspects Clarissa of no longer loving him, and asks himself, “Was she beginning to regret her life with me? “. Joe has been driven to this state of doubting Clarissa and losing faith in her by her lack of response to his situation with Parry we can tell this by when Joe says passionately, “he’s mad don’t you see” and Clarissa responds “quietly” with “yes”.
Joe is driven to a point of obsessive mistrust of Clarissa and raids her study in an attempt to find evidence of a “hot little bearded fuck-goat”. This is a turning point in the book because Joe’s obsession with the possibility of Clarissa having another man drives him to breaking sacred bonds of trust in their relationship. Clarissa is devastated when she finds out. “I think we’re finished, don’t you”. Joe isn’t obsessed with Clarissa just does not understand her because he has been submerged in his own private world by Parry, and Clarissa is not obsessed by Joe she just doesn’t understand him because she doesn’t understand Parry.
I think calling Joe and Clarissa’s love an “unhealthy obsession” is a harsh overstatement, and although it’s hard to judge whether their love it true what they have or had is not a “unhealthy obsession”. Mrs Logan is also another example of how mad love for some one can drive them to desperate measures or thoughts. Mrs Logan is convinced that her husband has cheated on her and this is a failure of her love and trust of him on her part.
This is partially a coping mechanism to his death, when Joe comes to visitor she says I imagine almost manically, “It’s rosewater, can’t you smell it? like Joe did earlier in the book she has become so desperate and at her wits end that she has resorted to creating fantasy tales in her mind. McEwan throughout the book does bring out a more aggressive “darker” side of love and shows it is not all roses and happy endings, he tells the reader using the characters that love is a overwhelming powerful driving force that can bring people to their knees and make them come upon a state of almost insanity.