The first chapter of “Enduring Love” is famously known by book lovers and critics alike for its enthralling opening, which left his readers gasping for air through the heart thumping suspense. The chapter opens with setting the scene of the incident. MacEwan creates foreboding by implying that something is about to happen. “… this was the pinprick of time on the time map… saw danger… ” We know that something bad is going to take place, this immediately casts a black cloud over what we are about to read and so intrigues the reader; luring us to read on.
The way in which MacEwan writes in first person retrospect is essential to the story in its entirety, as this narrative approach allows us into Joes’ most inner thoughts and feelings, engrossing us in the characters emotionally, and giving us the feeling of transporting into the book, physically. MacEwan makes the story life-like by being able to inform us of Joe’s thought-processes, interrupting the main point Joe is trying to make with past happenings, as maybe we would when telling someone about an incident or event.
This narrative approach therefore makes him able to use flashback to extreme affect, giving MacEwan the chance to create nail-biting suspense and tension. For example, on page 3, Joe finally gets to the main point and then drifts off onto the passed events of the day. The reader has to read on to find the conclusion of the incident. Another of MacEwans’ delaying devices in chapter one is his use of freeze framing. In this instance he uses it to inform the reader of important information; who the men are holding on to the balloon.
It is vital that the reader begins to familiarise themselves with these characters so they are not merely strangers. The freeze frame creates tension, and emphasis on the scene. MacEwan wants the reader to digest this information well. It has struck me that MacEwan has used two different drama conventions: crane shots and freeze framing. These make us visualise and think of the scenes in certain ways. Their use is very deliberate. The thing that fascinates me most about the opening of chapter one, is that Joe begins to tell the reader about the incident through the eyes of a buzzard.
This crane shot gives the reader the advantage of being able to see, or rather imagine the whole scene in the field, and ironically, able us to see Jed Parry and Joe running towards each other “… like lovers… ” Again, MacEwans’ use of narrative and flashback is used to full advantage as the reader finds out the significance of Parrys’ and Joes collision. Something very distinctive about the opening chapter is the way that MacEwan writes about the way Joe feels when he saw danger. “What idiocy, to be racing away… from our happiness… ” This line holds a sense of ambiguity as it is written with hindsight.
Yes he was racing away from their peaceful afternoon, was this also a sign that he ran away from their happiness they had together? It is clear that Joe’s reaction to what he saw was instinctive. “I don’t know how she resisted the urge to run… ” Joe indicates that what happened change his state of mind. “… this was the last time I ever understood anything clearly at all… ” On the last page of chapter one, John Logan is about to fall and Joe, a scientist, a pessimist on the subject of religion and supernatural forces, wishes in complete desperation that there was something other than “… uthless gravity… ” “I still thought… freak physical law… some phenomenon… would intervene and bear him up… “Joe’s actions, thoughts and emotions were incomparable to science. They were simply basic human instincts and emotions. Maybe this is why he recites his actions.
He can’t explain them by rational means, nor can his science help his grief. One of the most distinctive parts of chapter one is on page 15 when the ‘crew’ start to fall apart. Joe has lost control and is faced with the choice of looking out for himself or the child. The child was not my child… being good made no sense… ” Was this basic human instinct or utter-selfishness? Logan held on. This was his instinct as a father, husband, doctor and rescue worker. Joe questions, who let go first? Was it him? He can’t be sure, although he’s not prepared to admit it was him. Consequently, Joe reels over the event again, again and again, exhausting himself with the same questions. Could he ever recover from this horrific event? And so the reader is left with many open ends and so continues to reads on.
In conclusion there are many things which intrigue me about “Enduring Love” and many things which are incredibly distinctive. The way in which Ian MacEwan writes using the narrative approach enables him to affect the reader emotionally and psychologically. He’s very direct in the way he wants you to imagine things, for example the buzzard. The use of flashback and freeze framing allows him to interrupt events with thoughts creating tension and suspense. MacEwan writes Joe incredibly well in the first chapter, accounting for his reactions emotionally, and physically. I just have to read on.