Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Ian McEwan, Enduring Love (1997)

Ian McEwan’s novel Enduring Love (1997) is a crime thriller that explores the psychotic delusions of erotomania, or de Clérambault’s Syndrome, a condition that leads to stalking.  This disturbing and at times horrifying and mortally dangerous dilemma is looked at from the perspective of the stalker’s victim.  Meanwhile, McEwan also looks closely at the stalker’s symptoms and the deluded nature of their thinking to give his readers insights into this condition. 

In addition to enlightening his audience about the psychology of erotomania, McEwan also seeks to enlighten them about the principles of socio-biology and Darwinian evolutionary theory in regards to the nature of morality.  This is done by treating his audience to an examination of the tension between inclinations towards altruism or self-interest.  As well as this, the author also seeks to subtly promote rationalist and humanist modes of thinking. 

McEwan also examines the problematic nature of perception and memory and how the assessment of evidence, and the construction of an argument from that evidence, can be subjective and influenced by emotions.  McEwan would see this awareness as valuable for its own sake, yet he also sees it as relevant to an understanding of the limitations of the legal system when dealing with evidence and testimony based on memory, and the shortfalls of the legal system when addressing issues like stalking and the prevention of potential crimes. 

Much of the drama of the novel arises from the author’s sensitive exploration of the feelings associated with what it is like to be right about something important and threatening and to not be believed by others.  Additional drama and insight comes from the novel’s treatment of the dynamics of a marriage confronted by a crisis.  Marriage is shown to be more fragile than formidable in such circumstances. 

The victim of the stalker, Joe Rose, is like most people in the way that he is initially unaware of the seriousness of the situation in which he finds himself.  However, step by step he becomes more aware of the persistence of the stalker and the danger of his predicament.  Unfortunately, since he was initially uninformed about the relevant psychology, he mishandled the stalker and inadvertently provided him with material upon which to build a delusional romantic scenario.  The novel conveys that when one is the victim of a stalker it is essential to be adamant and unflinching when telling the stalker that there is no relationship and no further communication is allowed, and this should be done as soon as possible, preferably at the outset.  Any compassion, even in the tone of one’s voice, can be misconstrued by the stalker as implying that there could be a second chance or that the victim is playing games, like hard-to-get. Any niceness conveys mixed messages that will be misconstrued by the stalker’s delusional mind. 

Once Joe educates himself about the relevant psychology, he gains a greater ability to formulate a defensive strategy.  But what is particularly taxing on Joe is the lack of support he received from his wife and the police, since his wife underestimated the seriousness of the situation and the police were constrained because the stalker had not broken any laws. Joe’s situation becomes more concerning as the stalker reveals himself to be potentially homicidal.  After surviving an attempt on his life, and fearing for his safety, Joe purchases a gun on the black market.  Eventually the stalker kidnaps Joe’s wife, forcing Joe to shoot and wound the stalker to rescue her.  Only when the stalker is incarcerated does Joe find some relief. 

Through the story of Joe Rose, the novel does much to educate its readers about the psychology of stalkers and how to deal with them if ever one is unfortunate enough to find oneself in a situation where this knowledge is needed. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Enduring Love meaning, Enduring Love themes, Enduring Love analysis, Enduring Love notes