McEwan began ‘Enduring Love’ by telling us ‘The beginning is simple to mark’. It seems that although it is ‘simple’ to mark the beginning of a novel, finding the end is much harder. This is because McEwan believes there is no such thing as an ending.
A conventional book, or play, would have three parts, a beginning, a middle and an end, but ‘Enduring Love’ Is not a conventional book and McEwan is not a conventional writer. McEwan wants us to believe in a future for his characters after the story is over. To create the illusion that his characters do exist out of the novel McEwan wrote three endings to ‘Enduring Love’, giving evidence of their continued existence.Order now
The first ending is the most conventional of the three. In this chapter Joe picks up Clarissa and takes her to meet Jean Logan to explain the truth about John Logan’s motives in hanging onto the balloon ropes. It is a transitory chapter, where things are explained and loose ends are tied up.
When Joe meets Clarissa again, after the letter, and the separation, there is inevitably tension, but the tension itself is satisfying, because the reader is expecting tension. It is as if, once there has been that primary awkwardness, the ‘fumbled squeeze of hands’ and the statement made ‘too cheerfully’, Joe and Clarissa will be able to move on. It is almost as if the tension is serving a cathartic purpose.
Later on in the chapter there are hints of reconciliation between Joe and Clarissa ‘I caught Clarissa’s eye and we exchanged a half smile as if we were pitching our own requests for mutual forgiveness’. This would not have been possible if Joe and Clarissa had not endured the tension.
Joe and Clarissa are so nearly reunited in this purifying chapter. Chapter twenty four is also purifying in that the presences which haunt the novel are almost forgotten. Parry is only referred to as something from the past, which is no longer threatening ‘this along with a bloodstain on the carpet, was Parry’s legacy’. Throughout the novel, Joe has had an obsession with Parry and in this chapter, that obsession is resolved.
Other obsessions which have lingered throughout the book are also cured. Joe, in explaining the science of the river to the children, comes to terms with his work as a science journalist rather than a scientist and ceases to view himself as a failure.
The most important obsession to be cured is the obsession with John Logan. Both Joe and Jean Logan are obsessive about John Logan. Jean Logan is obsessive with jealousy and Joe is obsessive with guilt. Throughout the novel Joe has wondered whether he was responsible for John Logan”s death, and Jean Logan has wondered if John Logan was having an affair. Logan has haunted the entire novel in various guises, as the selfless martyr, the absent father and the possibly but eventually not faithless husband.
Chapter twenty four concludes the story of Logan. It is explained that he was not unfaithful, so although plunged into guilt, ‘but who’s going to forgive me? the only person who can is dead’, Jean Logan can grieve properly, then move on. Joe is also absolved of his guilt about Logan”s death in this chapter, because he has done something for Logan. He has proved Logan’s fidelity to his wife. There are even parts of this chapter where it appears that Joe takes Logan’s place in his interactions with the children. John Logan, being dead, is the only character in the novel who can have a real ending. The other characters can have issues resolved, but it is only a temporary, artificial ending.
It is appropriate that the issues which are resolved in this chapter, are resolved at a picnic ‘much the same as before’. The book began with a picnic, so it’s ending with a picnic is another factor which adds to the cathartic atmosphere of the chapter. It is as if by revisiting the setting of the chaotic first chapter ‘The last time understood anything clearly at all’, Joe and the other characters can make sense of the confusion and guilt the balloon incident had plunged them into. There are many similarities between the final chapter and the first chapter, but the important difference, is the first chapter ends on a dark, pessimistic note, while the final chapter ends optimistically.
Jean Logan has found out John Logan was not having an affair. Bonnie and Reid have introduced a new kind of love into the novel. Joe and Clarissa may be reconciled, and Joe is standing by the river, explaining science to children. The children and the river both add a sense of regeneration to this chapter and the whole novel. It ends with the innocent image of Joe standing with Rachael by the river.
Chapter twenty four is satisfying as a conclusion in a fairy tale way, but it may make readers who are familiar with McEwan”s style feel there is something missing. McEwan likes shocking and unsettling his readers, he has done it at several parts through out the novel. It would seem strange that such an unconventional novel could have such a perfect ending. A reader who thinks like this would be right, of course McEwan is not going to let his readers off with a ‘happily ever after ending’. He is the writer who started a novel with a man falling to his death from the ropes of a balloon. He is the writer who masterminded a shooting in a restaurant. He is not a writer who is going to leave everyone perfectly happy. Enduring love is a dark novel, and a light ending wouldn’t be right for it. For a start, Parry, cannot be totally forgotten.
McEwan is aware of this, and the moment the reader turns the last page, safe in the knowledge they have finished the novel, they hit the first appendix.
The first appendix is not McEwan at his most disturbing, but it is a tone of voice the reader is not used to. It is a ‘report’ on de Clarembault’s syndrome ‘reprinted from the British review of psychiatry’. It uses objective scientific language, which after an emotionally charged novel, such as ‘Enduring Love’ is a shock.
After the reader has adjusted to the scientific language I think appendix one is quite a satisfying conclusion to the novel. It explains the science behind Parry’s condition creating sympathy for him which the reader had not held when Parry’s victim was narrating. There are points in the first appendix when it is possible to begin to see Parry as a victim of a terrible disorder ‘Mullen and Pathe highlight the tragedy for patients and victims alike’.
The first appendix is also satisfying, because it sums up the thesis behind the whole novel, ‘the pathological extensions of love not only touch upon, but overlap with normal experience and it is not always easy to accept that one of our most valued experiences may merge into psychopathology’. The idea of ‘Enduring Love’ is to explore, what is love and what is madness and where is the line between the two. This report explains this in scientific language.
The scientific language also makes Parry seem less threatening and more distant. Throughout the novel Joe used scientific language as a consoling factor to distance himself from emotion. The first appendix reflects this.
By the time the first appendix is over the reader is convinced that this finally is the end, but as they turn over the page, the second appendix confronts them with a sickening shock. After the cold scientific language of the first appendix, the reader is plunged back into the insane and intense emotion of Parry.
The final appendix takes the form of a letter from Parry to Joe in one long babbling paragraph. The letter is written three years after Parry’s admittance to prison but he still has the same style, of using a wall of deluded words, which no one can break.
Although we know from the first appendix that Joe and Clarissa are back together and have adopted a child, they are not totally secure. Parry does not go out of existence, he still continues to linger as an ever threatening presence. The final appendix raises the question, how could Joe ever feel safe when Parry is still obsessed with him and still writing things like ‘No going back now, Joe! When you are his you also become mine’.
The final words of the letter ‘Faith and Joy’ are usually words which hold a positive connotation, but in this context they are terrifying. They are the ‘faith and Joy’ of a maniac.
The final appendix is not at all satisfying as a conclusion to ‘Enduring Love’. It leaves the reader feeling disturbed, confused and chilled. any sympathy the reader has picked up for Parry in the first appendix evaporates into horror, as the second appendix is read.