I believe it is a rather cliche opening to a novel but with McEwan being the author he manages to make it is an effective cliche. McEwan, through the introduction of characters and detail, instantly introduces the subject of class into the novel and so sets the backdrop for the novel. With a bottle of 1987 Daumas Gassac and a name like Clarissa that holds the connotations of wealth and luxury we are told of the class and lifestyle surrounding who we assume are the main characters. With the narrative voice in chapter one of the novel focusing on thought and detail and not emotion it introduces a rather robotic character in Joe.
We get to know him quickly and quite intimately as the novel is written as though he is talking to straight to us. We are shown the absence of feeling in him which is replaced by the almost irrational use of logic he uses. For me, too much emphasis is put on the scientific part of Joe, we are told his mind works in a scientific way and it is made apparent that he is very intelligent but this is drilled into the readers head over and over again until it becomes potentially irritating and monotonous.
There is no human being behind the voice, he observes in very close detail everything around him but does not feel a great deal about it. Joe’s need for detail to perhaps eliminate some of the guilt that he feels at this stage of the novel is repeated to the extent that it becomes almost obsessive. The relationship between Joe and Clarissa is intriguing. They are both at opposite ends of a spectrum, with Joe being an unemotional, rational and obsessive scientist it is worlds apart from Clarissa, who is an artist and relies heavily on emotion.
Despite being together for seven years, the two are too different to be compatible in a much longer term, they think in different ways and appear to not have a lot of common ground.. In the first chapter the focus is on the balloon accident but when it becomes apparent that this is not the main event in the novel the only other thing we have been given to focus on is the relationship between the pair which is interesting and dare I say it, it makes the reader want to read on.
The setting for the opening scene is a blank canvas; the field in which the accident takes place is simple and lets the accident take the forefront of the story. The simplicity gives way for more complex events but the serenity of the scene which is then interrupted by a tragic accident is significant in that it could be a metaphor for the rest of novel. Joe and Clarissa are quite happy together in the beginning and have been for some time but as the story unfolds and Jed, like the balloon, crashes into their relationship, cracks begin to show and disaster strikes.
McEwan uses a lot of delay techniques in the first chapter. I find he delays the events to the point of near boredom. Although what he writes is interesting it is repetitive and nauseatingly pretentious. The majority of the chapter is McEwan making his presence felt, the narrative voice changes from being Joe to being McEwan and back to Joe again. There are too many complex paragraphs that have barely any relevance to the novel other than to show how intelligent McEwan is. However despite not particularly enjoying the first chapter of “Enduring Love”, McEwan achieves his initial objective, to intrigue the reader.