How McEwan Presents Ideas about Memory and Recall in Enduring Love

How McEwan Presents Ideas about Memory and Recall in Enduring Love

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How McEwan Presents Ideas about Memory and Recall in Enduring Love

In ‘Enduring Love” McEwan has created a storyline that refers to the 1st
person narrator’s own perception of his own mind and memory. Because
of this we do not know whether to trust Joe or not as he is extremely
biased in his own opinion. At the very beginning of the novel we, as
the reader, feel extremely safe being “in Joe’s hands” because we see
the very scientific, rational mind; however as we go on through the
story we see the loss of rationality and we are given hints not to
trust Joe as much as we did; “His writing’s rather like yours” and “Mr
Tapp went to the toilet, not his daughter”.

Within the opening chapter we see as a very clear memory from Joe of
the balloon accident. Within this chapter we see the very rational
side of Joe where we see the view of the balloon accident from a
“buzzards” point of view so that it looks like the people who are
within the balloon accident are on a snooker table coming from all
direction. Joe is able to stop time here and point out where
absolutely everyone is in relation to himself and the actual balloon.
The use of narrative and chronological time not being the same in the
first chapter also gives the reader different views of Joe’s own
memory and what kind of state he is in within the first chapter; the
change from people running towards the balloon to then of Joe’s and
Clarissa’s reunion to then being back at the balloon accident.

From the very beginning of the novel we, as the reader, see that Joe
is a very rational person who has to think about every single detail
of his own life and other people’s lives around his own. However in
Chapter 3 we see a very emotional part of Joe as he describes what
both he and Clarissa are up to after the great tragedy of the balloon
accident; “why didn’t I think of this?” and “she caressed my balls”.
This defiantly shows another side of Joe that we hadn’t seen yet, this
gives the reader the insight into Joe so that we know what different
sides there are to him that can affects his own memory. This is
extremely important for the reader as we must know whether the
narrator is trustworthy or not. At his point we are given no reason
to doubt Joe and what he is telling us. However at the end of chapter
3 we are given an inclination not to trust Joe as much as we do as Jed

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phones Joe and tells him that he loves Joe; ”I feel it too, I love
you”, however instead of telling Clarissa this he decides to keep it
to himself; “wrong number. Go to sleep”. This gives the reader a
reason not to be so trusting of what Joe is telling us.

Later in chapter 18 Joe describes to the reader about the morning of
Clarissa’s birthday. However we are again totally committed to
believing what Joe says because we have no other point of view to
compare it with. By now we are not sure whether or not to trust Joe
or not because of the points made to us by Clarissa earlier on in the
novel, for example how Jed’s and Joe’s handwriting seem to be the
same; we are given the idea that Joe himself has created these letters
himself and is telling us his own misguided recollection. The show of
affection at the very beginning of chapter 18 shows that Joe is still
very emotional and this shows that there is still a side of Joe that
is still the same as at the very beginning of the novel; “When I gave
her a card she kissed me full on the lips”. After the morning of
Clarissa’s birthday Joe goes to talk to the police, and to create more
suspicion for the reader they wont believe a word of what he is
saying; “the harassment consists of…?”, this adds to the reader’s
doubt about whether or not to believe Joe as if the police don’t
believe him then we are given the hint by McEwan not to believe Joe
yet again. At the end of Chapter 18 we see a memory of Clarissa’s
last birthday from Joe’s perspective. This is a very detailed
description of her last birthday, this gives the impression that Joe
can remember very certain facts when they concern him directly and if
it is something he really wants to remember, such as a happy day with
his girlfriend.

In Chapter 19 Joe meets up with Clarissa and Jocelyn, her godparent,
for her birthday meal. In this chapter Joe gives his present to
Clarissa after listening to Jocelyn’s story of how DNA was
discovered. In the first paragraph he is very factual about his
surroundings but in the second paragraph Joe gives us his memory of
what happened, which is not like the rest of the novel where he has
been there describing events as they happen, this time he is taking a
step back from the story and describing them as they had already
happened. This is very different form the rest of the story; this
could be seen as a change in style for Joe, as though he is becoming
more and more irrational. In this second chapter he describes the
food as “red” and tells us how the waiter brought out “the fat tongues
of roasted peppers”, this refers back heavily to earlier on in the
chapter where Clarissa and Joe kissed; “these days our tongues never
touched, but this time they did”. This gives me, the reader, the
impression that he is more involved in remembering his own emotional
status rather than remembering details about what is happening within
the restaurant. However he then goes on to describe someone that is
behind him with his daughter and an elderly gentleman; he tells us how
he later found of that his name was Colin Tapp; this shows us that Joe
is becoming very irrational in telling us his story as he keeps
jumping from one part in the story to one later on and then having to
go back to fill in what he has missed.

About half way through this chapter Joe tells us that he is finding it
very hard to remember certain facts about his own recollection of the
course of events; “or were these details I observed later, in the
chaos, or in the time after the chaos?” These words come from Joe’s
own mouth and create even more doubt in the reader’s mind about
whether or not to trust Joe seeing as he is starting to doubt
himself. Another thing Joe says is that “a day or so later it became
temptation to invent or elaborate details… to force memory to deliver
what was never captured”, if this is true then how do we really know
whether Joe is actually telling us what happened or just his own
invented version? Joe then tells us that the next thing that he
remembers is the arrival of the “waiter with our desserts in stainless
steel bowls was temporarily soothing”. This gives us the thought of
whether or not Joe is trustable as he can remember such great minute
details like the stainless steel bowls. Joe tells us that his sorbet
was lime flavoured and on the white side of green in colour. Next the
hit men come in and shoot Colin Tapp and Joe is convinced that the
bullet was meant for him.

In Chapter 20 Joe talks to the police about the shooting. The
questioning of Joe by the police inspector gives the reader insight
into the other people’s views that were at the restaurant and so gives
us a chance to compare Joe’s version of events to other people’s. The
inspector goes through all the events that Joe has said and what the
other people in the restaurant have said and how they differ; “Mr Tapp
went to the toilet, not his daughter”, “Number five is from all the
witnesses except you: one of the men said something in a foreign
language”. This makes us think that Joe is just imagining all these
events to make his own story true and therefore we shouldn’t believe
what Joe has told us throughout the whole novel. And to complete the
reader’s disbelief in Joe’s own memory and how he is recalling the
story is the fact that the sorbets were brought to the table during
the shooting and were vanilla instead of Joe’s belief of “apple. If
the guy says its anything else then we’re talking about two different
waiters” – however earlier on in chapter 19 Joe tells us that his
sorbet was lime flavoured not apple and therefore he is contradicting
himself. This is enough for the reader to completely lose faith in
Joe’s narration throughout the novel and we are left in a state of not
knowing what to believe as the truth and what not to anymore.

Throughout the novel McEwan has created an element of distrust between
the reader and the narrator, Joe, by creating ideas that make the
reader reads into without even thinking about. McEwan has used memory
and recall very subtlely so that the reader doesn’t read much into it
at that point, but has used it enough to make the reader distrust
Joe. McEwan has defiantly used the idea of memory and recall and how
they can be corrupted very easily on what the individual actually
wants to believe and what is actually true very well and has used it
to his own advantage to create the atmosphere within the novel.
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