In an extract from Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love’ the main character, Joe, faces many conflicts emotionally. In Joe’s mind, his emotions and rational thought pull him in two different directions when all he seeks is a common answer. In order to portray Joe’s emotional distress, Enduring Love’ is told through first person narration. Joe searches for logical explanations but the more he looks, the further the truth seems to be. The day after John Logan’s death, Joe’s conscious makes the whole event illumined and animated’ in his mind.
He begins to relive the nightmare, trying to find the right answers. His guilty conscious accuses him of kill[ing] (John Logan)’. Joe cannot deal with his new-found responsibility and tries to find what he believes to be the truth’. On one hand, he wants the truth to be that he was not an accomplice in a man’s death yet on the other hand he wants to know what actually happened and who was the cause of it. However, the truth is, he will never know. He is left with questions and he who believes entirely in science, math and the nature of knowing, can’t comprehend this fact.
Joe analyzes the situation using his mathematical and scientific knowledge. He believes that eight hundred pounds would have kept [them] close to the ground’ and therefore, the first person’ to let go is at fault. He is looking for someone to blame and so places all the responsibility on this one soul. Yet he does not want to be this person, when he knows he very well could be. The thought of this being possible is excruciating and he obsessively tells himself that it was not [him]’. He only wants the truth if the person turned out to be him.
Joe tries manipulating mathematics to make calculations’ regarding the balloon incident and uses his analytical mind to find answers yet he never allows his feelings to consume him. He’s always analyzing his own thoughts. He wants a selected truth not reality. Joe’s conflict is also shown through a repetition of certain words. They show his feelings transition from self- blame to searching for the culprit. While trying to ease his mind, Joe no longer uses the word I’. He can’t take his own accusations and so places the blame on the group as a whole. He repetitively uses the word we’ when referring to what could have been done but was not.
Joe continuously used the word if’ while creating solutions for all the situations that went wrong yet he still does not find who was responsible for the tragedy. In the end of the extract, Joe’s feelings are somewhat resolved. Through first person narration, the reader is able to see firsthand Joe’s emotional conflict. This is shown through the many questions he poses himself and the solution generated from them. His self-predicament finds an answer neither through scientific nor mathematical calculations but through his moral values. He realizes that there are two ways at looking at the situation.
He could either believe that one person had been the ultimate cause of John Logan’s death, while the other option was that no one person was responsible, rather everyone chose not to add to the casualties. Whatever conclusion he was to arrive at, he tries to convince himself that even if the cause’ was one being, the individual was not the morally responsible agent’. Either way, by trying to believe in his deduction, Joe has already created a persuasive argument not to blame himself for the death of another human. He has found a way out of his own guilty conscious.