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Narrative devices in McEwan's Enduring Love, Chapter one -Part 1

Narrative devices in McEwan's Enduring Love, Chapter one -Part 1

‘Enduring Love’ is a psychological thriller by Ian McEwan, written in prose. Even the title itself is quite ambiguous as, the word, ‘Enduring’ could be either a verb or an adjective, drastically changing the meaning; is this a love so strong that it is enduring everything, lasting through every trauma, or, is the love something that has to be endured, and therefore suffered?

     The first chapter introduces the audience to the tragic incident which continues to affect the characters throughout the novel. The accident occurs in the countryside, so that it is emphasized as the countryside is not usually associated with chaos, usually the opposite in fact. Although, because the balloon is described as ‘red,’ the audience becomes aware of the impending doom because of its connotations of danger and perhaps violence.

     This chapter is non-chronological because it does not just follow the event as it happened, it jumps back to Joe meeting Clarissa at the airport, and then the picnic they were having, before eventually returning to the trauma of the balloon accident. This is quite an effective way of building tension as, the reader is already aware that the balloon incident will not end well; ‘We were running towards a catastrophe,’ so they would want to know what really happened as soon as possible, yet the narrator, Joe, interrupts this. The lack of chronology is largely because Joe is very conscious that he is telling the story, and that he is in control, for example, when he says; ‘What idiocy, to be racing into this story and its labyrinths.’ His use of the word ‘idiocy’ is almost patronising towards the reader, as it suggests that they are foolish for wanting to know the details of the accident, when of course, it is human nature to desire to know such things.

     The reliability of the narrator can definitely be questioned because it is evident that McEwan is retelling us the story though his creation Joe, and therefore, because Joe is also involved heavily in the plot of this book, the exact details and events may be biased, as it is from Joe’s perspective, and equally, he may be withholding information, which at one point, he admits to; ‘I’m holding back, delaying the information.’ This confession could just be a genuine admission, or, it could be a ploy, wherein, Joe confesses to concealing information, and consequently the reader may trust him more for admitting this, even though there is no real reason to trust any of Joe’s narrative.

     Almost instantly from the beginning of chapter one, another perspective is shown, if not quite an unusual one; ‘I see us from three hundred feet up, through the eyes of the buzzard we had watched earlier.’ This other point of view may be inclined in an attempt to suggest Joe’s validity; it seems as though he is offering an objective and therefore ‘true’ story of events, through the incorporation of other perspectives. However, equally, because the view is from the buzzard, it could be insinuating how insignificant the incident is in the grand scheme of things; ‘To the buzzard, Parry and I were tiny forms.’ The adjective ‘tiny’ not only reflects size but potentially importance; many people die every day as a result of horrible circumstances such as war, so why should this one death be of such importance? 



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