Joe Rose and Jed Parry are two of three main characters in ‘Enduring Love’. McEwan presents the two characters in many similar ways, as well as differently. From the beginning of the novel, the reader learns a lot about the personalities and traits of the characters, through Joe Rose’s speech and thoughts (as he is the first person narrative) and through Jed’s speech and actions. McEwan’s presentation of the two men changes throughout the chapters in the novel. From the very beginning, we learn that Joe Rose is a ‘complicated simpleton’, a very rational man, who has a love for science, evident through his scientific jargon and language and the accuracy of his descriptions and accounts of events.
“… Barely a neuronal pulse later came other thoughts in which fear and instant calculations of logarithmic complexity were fused.” (Chapter 1)
Jed on the other hand is a very passionate man… passionate about religion, and also about Joe’s acceptance of religion. McEwan vaguely presents Jed in the beginning of the novel, in chapter 1 as more of his character is revealed in chapter 2. Jed is physically, merely described as:
“He was twenty-eight, unemployed, living on an inheritance in Hampstead”. (Chapter 1)
In chapter 3, we learn through Joe, that he is feeling trapped, and imprisoned with the ballooning incident, with having to tell the story to so many of his and Clarissa’s friends. The whole chapter exposes Joe’s characteristics as a narrator. His uses scientific jargon a lot, evidence of his love for science, but I think that Joe uses all this scientific jargon, not only because he has good knowledge in the science field, but also because he may be re-assuring himself of his scientific potential, of being a true scientist and not an ordinary man who everybody has left on the shelf for someone with better knowledge, experience and success in science. Also, because Joe is presented as a very rational man, he hardly shows any of his emotions. He uses a lot of the scientific jargon and vocabulary to explain an event, or how someone may be thinking or feeling. He never directly states his feelings. Jed on the other hand, is presented as a man who is not afraid of exposing his feelings. Certainly not afraid of exposing his feelings towards Joe. An interesting point would also be the fact that Jed taught English as a foreign language, and in some ways, he is similar to Clarissa, who is very keen on English, and Keats… his work, his life, his love. They are two passionate people who aren’t afraid of showing their feelings, and I think that McEwan makes this a perfect example of binary opposition.
Chapter 5 is filled with scientific ideas, terms, vocabulary and jargon. This is included in one of the main themes all throughout the novel, regarding science V Religion. In this chapter, Joe is presented as a man who is unsure of himself, doubtful of his capabilities. Joe contemplates on the reliability of his intuition, and whether or not this situation with Jed Parry was actually a serious matter, or just a sick joke, a figment of his imagination. At this point, the
reader may well decide to doubt Joe. If Joe is unsure of himself, then how much more the reader? Jed on the other hand is very sure of himself. He is adamant about getting Joe to accept the love of God, and accept the fact that Jed loves him. Jed seems absolutely sure that he is in love with Joe, although he keeps questioning why this is happening to him.
In some ways, Joe and Jed are similar. It is thought that not one person on Earth can be completely altruistic. Joe and Jed are not completely altruistic, but everyone is to an extent, and that is the case for the two men. Joe sacrificed his romantic meal with Clarissa on the day of the ballooning incident to go and help out, and save the boy in the basket. This was selfless to an extent, even though he may have wanted recognition or applaud from the other men, and Jed is selfless in the fact that he is sacrificing himself, as a sort of ‘messenger’ from God that he has to convert Joe, or at least get Joe to acknowledge God, and even accept the love from God, and the love that Jed has too.
“The scales tipping, from altruism to self-interest…”
As previously stated, Joe has moments where he is unsure of himself, doubting his capabilities not only as a scientist, but also a lover to Clarissa, he clearly admits in chapter 6 that he ‘feels like a mental patient’.
“I felt like a mental patient at the end of visiting hours. Don’t leave me here with my mind.” (Chapter 6)
“I opened the door feeling slightly mad.” (Chapter 7)
This quote uncannily sounds so much like Jed Parry, that it wouldn’t be expected from Joe. After all, Joe was supposed to be the opposition, the man who rejects everything that Jed throws at him, whereas in this powerful quote, we realise that as time progresses and as Joe is left with his mind, to contemplate and come to conclusions about Jed, the more he becomes like Jed in his thoughts. Jed also things that he is going mad to a certain extent, with his exclaims of
“I know this gives you power over me, but there’s nothing I can do about it.” (Chapter 7)
As well as Jed and Joe being obsessive and altruistic to a certain extent, they are both labelled as “childish”. Clarissa makes a remark to Joe earlier on in the novel, calling him “like a child”, this is because he either can’t express his feelings properly, or because he lacks the intense seriousness in particular issues that Clarissa addresses him. Jed is also labelled child-like by Joe, after they meet in Chapter 7, after Jed calls him on the telephone and says, “I love you”. There are some quotes, which are an example of the way Joe relates Jed to a child:
“The whining note was back in his voice”.
“He was like a curious child.” (Chapter 7)
“He was back to whining” (Chapter 8)
In chapter 9, we see Clarissa’s account of her emotions and thoughts through the eyes of Joe. He narrates as though he is reading Clarissa’s mind and can tell us exactly what is
going on with her feelings towards Joe. In this chapter we see that Joe feels inadequate because of his “fake scientist” job, and also his inadequacy as a lover for Clarissa. He tells a story of Clarissa’s friend confiding with her at work about her lover not being sexually satisfactory. This may be an outlet of Joe’s feelings, and how inadequate he really feels towards Clarissa, not satisfying her in their relationship.
“She thinks she understands Parry well enough. A lonely inadequate man. A Jesus freak who is probably living off his parents, and dying to connect with someone, anyone, even Joe.” (Chapter 9)
In the quote above, we see that Clarissa, through the eyes of Joe thinks that Jed is an inadequate man, but really, realistically, we know that this is Joe talking, expressing what he truly feels about Jed. Joe himself thinks he’s inadequate, and whether or not he purposely compares himself to Jed and his inadequacy, Joe in indirectly comparing himself to his stalker, through the case of them both being inadequate men, but also being obsessive. We know that Jed is obsessed and besotted with Joe after hiring a detective to research all he can on Joe’s life, and we learn that Joe, to some extent is also obsessed with Jed, as he never stops talking about him, when Clarissa comes home, hoping to have a relaxing bath, Joe is at it again, talking about Jed like a “non-stop talking ape”.
“Especially now that he is back on Parry”.
“He seems unaware that his arguments are no more than ravings…”
“You were so intense about him as soon as you met him. It’s like you invented him.”
“The suggestion that is he who is obsessed by Parry”.
Chapter 11 is a letter from Jed to Joe, explaining his feelings, and deepest emotions. Here, we definitely see that Jed and Joe are different in the ways they express their feelings. Jed has no inhibitions whatsoever and can clearly explain what he is feeling for Joe, unlike Joe on the other hand, who has to rely on science to explain things. In chapter 12, Joe shows Clarissa the letter that Jed has written him, and she makes comments on the similarity between Joe and Jed. We also learn that Clarissa is unsure of Joe’s sanity, and whether he’s making this all up or not, whether Jed is just a figment of his imagination.
“His writing’s rather like yours”.
“I didn’t trust myself” (Joe)
Joe and Jed are presented in various ways, with similarities and differences. Themes of binary opposition are featured and focused on throughout the whole novel. Stalker & Victim, obsession, science V religion, love, guilt, altruism and other themes are evident through the way the characters behave and interact with each other. At face value, it may seem as though there is nothing similar about Jed and Joe, that they are two very different people with two different morals and principles, especially one being an atheist, and the other a believer in God. However, once the characters are analysed and scrutinised, we learn that there are slight and subtle similarities between them. Both have a love in their life: Joe – Clarissa and science, and Jed – God and Joe. They also have obsessive natures within them. It is then interesting to try and pinpoint where the “Enduring Love” lies, and who is included in this love.