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The Three Central Protagonists In Enduring Love Could Be Said To Represent Science, Art And Religion. In The Light Of This Statement, How Far Does This Count For The Conflict Between The Characters?

1762 words - 7 pages

(Enduring Love by Ian Mc Ewan) Love that endures is a main theme in the novel, and the strongest force in existence which has the capability of bridging those whose outlooks are diametrically opposite, for example, art, science and religion (Clarissa, Parry and Jed). However, this only bridges them, it does not resolve any differences they may have in terms of perspective. I do not think it possible to answer the above question without touching on why these three topics are diametrically opposite. I intend to answer this as well as what the characters' differences are, and if they spring from their own opposing outlooks.Paradoxically, the characteristics of art, science and religion that cause them to be diametrically opposed are discreet, yet at the same time obvious. The character of Joe represents science within the novel. Because of his scientific characteristics, he believes everything must be based on fact. He has an overriding need to establish facts in order to see his 'truths' and believes only in rational actions, particularly in human beings. However, this theory, along with many of his, is flawed. In trying to understand the chain reaction that occurs within the novel, he himself acts irrationally and with genuine feeling, but of course, does not recognise what he previously referred to as 'irrational' when he experiences these feelings himself. For example, in the very first chapter when Joe meets Clarissa from the airport:'...in thirty-five minutes I experienced more than fifty theatrical happy endings, each one with the appearance of being slightly less well acted than the one before...and suspected that even the children were being insincere. I was just wondering how convincing I myself could be in greeting Clarissa...immediately my detachment vanished, and I called out her name with all the rest.'Throughout the novel, he contradicts himself and what he believes. Although it does not state anywhere, I wonder if this is the authorial voice shining through and that McEwan does not believe in Joe's outlook. In the above quote, he analyses the behaviour of the people at the airport and criticises its genuineness until his 'detachment vanishes' and he experiences it himself.The character of Clarissa, representing art within the novel, is very different from Joe, just as art is very different from science. Her outlook on life is 'diametrically opposite' to Joe's. One very clear example of this is the debate on a baby's smile in chapter 8, where the '...human nature was up for re-examination...' - Joe cannot accept simple answers like Clarissa. Joe's belief is the same as that of Edward O. Wilson, '...it is a social releaser, an inborn and relatively invariant signal that mediates a basic social relationship.' Clarissa on the other hand believes 'The truth of the smile is in the eye and heart of the parent, and in the unfolding love which only had meaning through time.' At this stage in the novel, Clarissa and Joe's enduring love bridges...

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