How does McEwan present Joe’s thoughts and feelings in the extract
McEwan uses a number of techniques to express Joe’s thoughts and feelings portraying his feeling through the use of literary and linguistic features.
The majority of the extract is declarative, for example ‘I sat back in my chair gathered my notes’. Joe is expressing himself and he is able to describe his thoughts through this method. The sentences range from being short and simple such as ‘Dread was too strong.’ to long and complex sentences with a number of conjunctions. This variation in sentence structure shows Joe’s own variation in thought, and the erratic nature of his emotions at this time. The writing is first person, this allowed the reader to feel more involved with the character and should allow a better insight into the characters thoughts.
He is finding it difficult to express himself emotionally and this is summed up well with ‘I couldn’t find the word for what I felt’. It shows his uncertainty and makes it clear that he is emotionally out of touch. The inability to express himself adequately stems from his rational mind controlling his actions. Joe takes comfort in science and this can be seen by the number of science related statements found in this small passage alone.
An example of this is ‘mental-visceral’ and ‘diminishing pendulum movement’. His feelings are exact, and he takes comfort in accuracies and specifics. His whole emotional experience is a paradox, he is clearly distraught and confused yet his style is still controlled while still unpredictable. His distress can be seen through the lexis used, words such as ‘contaminated, crazy’, ‘anxiety’ , ‘fear’ and ‘apprehension’. These strong words clearly outline Joe’s state of mind. McEwans uses interrogative sentences such as ‘Why so suddenly’. This is used to reveal Joe’s inquisitive mind and shows his analysis of everyday events.
The word fear is used repeatedly during the extract, it is something that remains on his mind and almost haunts him. The personification of fear is particularly striking which is shown with ‘My fear had held a mask to it’s face’. This can be seen as fear always being present, but hiding behind the ‘mask’, which I believe is the science he often hides behind. By using an abstract noun so frequently it is clear that Joe is not himself, usually avoiding such inaccuracies in this context.
A rule of three is used, for example ‘Pollution, confusing, gambling’. This stands alone with no further exploration, which gives it an even greater impact. Using the rule of three creates a deeper understanding of the uneasy mindset Joe has found himself in. There is a calculated progression from pollution which could be seen as expressing the blindness to his emotion to the confusion he has with them. There are a distinct lack of adjectives in the way that Joe writes, McEwan does this deliberately and continues the idea of being at a distance with his emotional side.
As the extract comes to a close it becomes more evident that what Joe is really afraid of is uncertainty ‘I was afraid of my fear, because I did not yet know what it was’. This reveals his passion for control and understanding, when he is in a position of unknown he begins to become nervous and anxious.
Go on to Discuss Joe’s reactions to Parry elsewhere in the Novel
Joe’s reactions to Parry are generally negative ones, often finding his beliefs and mannerisms baffling and childish. The first chapter in the book covers the incident involving the balloon. This is where Joe’s initial impressions are formed and they provide a good overview for how Joe would feel towards Parry throughout the novel. He begins by expressing the two as running together ‘like lovers’. On first reading you do not pay particular attention to this, but it is clearly a sign of things to come.
After the balloon incident Parry and Joe are faced with the body of Logan and Jed suggests to ‘pray together’. The lead up to this phrase shows Joe’s unease around him, and he it is ‘not my thing’. This passage offers the first hint of conflict between the pair, with Jed revealing his religious and emotional side while Joe being the exact opposite and taking comfort in the sciences. They are both very similar in that they are both very stubborn and lack empathy towards other people, paying little attention to what the others person desires. Joe approaches the whole situation with much unease and although putting on a front, the narration shows he is already being very critical of Jed such as when he believes Jed is going to suggest performing some kind of inhumane act on the corpse.
The feeling towards Jed develops as the novel progresses and Joe makes it clear how he is feeling. The use of first person narration insures we are always subject to how Joe interprets the world. The instability of Parry is becoming more obvious as time moves forward with phrases such as ‘The whinning note was back in his voice’. This suggests mental instability in Jed and gives the reader doubts towards his mental health it also reveals the needy and over emotional side that is seen throughout. This links in with how Joe see’s Jed as a child an example of this is ‘He was like a curious child’.
This also accounts for his impatience and like a child when he does not get his own way he throws a tantrum.This childish disposition coupled with the instability of Jed gives the reader a sense that Joe is nervous and possibly even afraid of Joe. It pre-occupies his mind throughout the novel and is something that haunts him. Joe believes that Jed is obsessed and this is shown with ‘the long winter of his obsession’. This creates a striking image, as seeds lay dormant during the winter and grow in the summer it is creating a chilling link with nature.
There is a stage in the novel where Joe shrugs off his nervous unease towards Jed and convinces himself he is no threat. This is shown in their first meeting after the initial balloon incident whereby Jed is waiting outside. This is shown with ‘he was a harmless fellow’. Although he may just be trying to comfort himself, and put aside his doubts in hope it will somehow go away; Joe often reassures himself in this way.