Enduring Love

How does Ian McEwan make chapter one of Enduring Love interesting and intriguing? McEwan uses a number of techniques to make the first chapter of Enduring Love interesting and intriguing. The techniques used in the opening passages draw the reader into the narrative, gaining their curiosity and forcing them to read on. By writing in the first person McEwan allows the reader to empathise with his main character from the very first page. This gives the reader an immediate intimacy with the narrator, making us feel involved in the action as soon as it begins. For instance the first page drags the reader into the story almost immediately with the repeated use of the word “I”. For example “”I don’t recall,” “I ran faster,” and “I see us”. At this point we don’t even know our characters name and we only know minimal, abstract details about him. Using “I” so much at this point without telling us much about the character, could be an attempt by the author to subliminally make us think we are the character. By making the character anonymous yet personal we are drawn into the novel as we feel what is going on will directly affect us. This would give us an instant understanding of the characters situation making us interested in what will happen next and thus willing us to read on. As mentioned we don’t find out the characters name in the first passages or indeed the entire first chapter of the novel. We find out lots about his life, where he lives, his interests, what his relationship with his girlfriend is like and what she is interested in but we don’t find out as simple a thing as his name. On the one hand we could interpret this as simply the author adding intrigue, making us want to read on to find out his name. However, it could also be, as mentioned above, a device by which we are able project on to the main character. As in, because he is nameless but speaks in the first person there is nothing to stop it from being “me” experiencing the events the character is experiencing. Again, this technique could be said to make us empathise with the character, making us more interested with the narrative. The characterisation of the narrator (who we come to call Joe, and I will refer to as Joe for ease of reference) also helps to make chapter one of Enduring Love interesting and intriguing. Throughout the first chapter Joe, on multiple occasions, uses scientific or mathematical references in moments of tense action. For instance on the second page Joe talks of “the comforting geometry” of the “convergence of six people”. This gives us an important insight into Joe’s personality. His use of language such as this at such moments in the narrative suggests that he possesses a highly analytical personality as not many a person would talk of geometry as “comforting”. This reference and his later description of helium on page 3 give us little snippets of his mindset, making us interested to learn more about him but also give us an insight into the importance of the event to Joe. If this was just a throwaway part of the narrative the author would just give us the details of the event. As the detail and description is so extensive it gives us the impression that the event has been turned over and over in Joe’s mind and every small part of the event has been carefully analysed. This gives the reader a sense of the importance of this chapter and encourages them to read on to find the relevance of this event to the rest of the story. This idea of the importance of the event being hinted at by the level of description on the part of the narrator is again made apparent to the reader through the author’s use of “digressions” in his narrative. McEwan writes the chapter in a decidedly non-linear fashion allowing for little side stories, for instance Joe taking delivery of Clarissa’s book and picking up a picnic (page 3) in the middle of the most critical part of the narrative. This is referred to directly in the narrative (at the bottom of page 2) when it is related “I’m holding back, delaying the information”. As well as suggesting that the scene has played over and over in the characters mind the digressions from the main plot serve to heighten the tension by withholding the details of the storyline. This technique makes the narrative more interesting and intriguing, making the story gripping so you want to read on. Another effect of the use of these digressions is the fact that they make the pace of the story change dramatically at various points within the narrative. Obviously this is most apparent on page 3 where the narrative breaks from the action to describe the events leading up to the accident finally returning to the same point on page 8. Clearly, this serves to intrigue us as reader through withholding the story as mentioned in the above paragraph but also allows McEwan to play with the emotions of the reader. Just as we are getting into the journey to the park and Joe and Clarissa’s relationship we are dragged back to the balloon as quickly as we were dragged away from it earlier. This variation in pace makes the chapter more emotional for the reader and adds to the suspense. When the author focuses on the action the pace is much faster. The writing at these points is exciting and dramatic. The very first sentence is a good example of this. It is short and ambiguous, “The beginning is simple to mark” and this is incredibly powerful in a number of ways. First it prompts the question “The start of what? ” which draws the reader in to the narrative. Secondly it promises that something important is going to happen which gives a sense of anticipation to the reader as well as beginning the tension that will mount all the way through the first chapter. Lastly, it puts us, the reader, in the middle of the action from the word go, there is no build up, we are already here, at the beginning of what is going to happen. McEwan maintains the tension of the action scenes through use of short, ambiguous sentences as explained above as well as the use of sharp, interest catching vocabulary, shorter words and the use of more commas. This gives us the impression that the narrator, Joe, is caught up in the action of the moment and his thoughts are coming thick and fast rather than well chosen and descriptive as when he is more is pensive. This is apparent on page 9 when Joe just starts reeling of lists of adjectives to describe what he is seeing, for instance “…complacency, exhaustion…”. This, again, serves to further draw us into the story by making the narrator more believable and therefore relatable. I believe the single most important technique the author uses to interest and intrigue the reader are the constant allusions to the future that colour the text of the first chapter. The best examples of this are on the first and third pages of chapter one. The opening line, as discussed above very clearly indicates that the event that will occur shortly will be the cause of something big. The line on page 3 “this was the last time I understood anything clearly” reiterates the impression given by the first line. Both of these quotes impress upon us the importance of what is to come which is really just a very simple way of making the reader feel obligated to read on. If it is as important as is suggested it must be worthwhile reading. To conclude, the author’s use of the first person gives us an instant intimacy with the narrator and uses detailed description to create a believably intricate character, all the while withholds essential details, allowing us to place ourselves in the narrator’s shoes. Through the use of a non-linear narrative McEwan prompts the reader to continue by denying the conclusion of the story for as long as is reasonably possible. We are compelled, by hints as to what the rest of the novel holds and the intriguing details of the character’s personalities, to read on. Through these techniques McEwan makes the opening chapter of Enduring love both interesting and intriguing.

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