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A Critical Commentary on the Opening of the Novel Essay

The opening chapter of Ian McEwan’s novel, Enduring Love is said to be one of the best in history by many people. This may be because of the literary terms employed, the author’s style, or even the event described itself, but I think that the way in which McEwan combines these features is what truly hooks the reader. The author starts the novel with a rather shocking event; the fall of a balloon and the death of an innocent man as a consequence. The three main characters, Jed, Joe and Clarissa are all present when this happened, at the park, and with another group of people, they try to remove a young boy from this hot-air balloon.

Unsuccessfully, they release all the ropes holding the vehicle down but one, the one being held by the man who later falls and dies, introducing guilt into the lives of the people who were there during the accident. Apart from thoroughly describing the shocking event, Ian McEwan is able to insert clues about the characters the way readers have a rough idea of who they are without having to read lengthy dense descriptions of each one of them. This also enables the author to develop each personality more thoroughly throughout the next chapters.

This is seen, for example, when the couple drinks an expensive wine during the picnic and recalls having gone to places like “Carluccio’s” suggesting they belong to the high class. Another case in which the author gives a hint of Joe’s personality is when he points out the character’s possible interest in science: I think that while we were still converging, before we made contact, we were in a state of mathematical grace. Joe’s character in the novel can also be analyzed more intensely by the reader because he is the narrator.

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Therefore, his opinion and point of view upon the event and upon other characters can clearly be recognized. The genre in which the chapter is written is very appealing as well, as it is a thriller with a deep insight of the people’s feelings and emotions. This mix in genre allows McEwan to transmit Joe’s thoughts and, at the same time, to make the reader very involved in the plot. One of the other reasons why the opening chapter of Enduring Love is such an effective “hook” is the language and literary terms used by the author.

McEwan uses a tense and nervous tone when he describes the accident, which is aided by the short sentenced syntax chosen by the author that builds up even more suspense: I got there before them. When I took a rope the basket was above head height. The boy inside it was screaming. Other literary devices used by McEwan in this chapter are imagery and metaphors, which help the reader to understand the situation from Joe’s point of view. These are mainly applied by the author when describing the setting or the general situation the characters were involved in.

These features that can be found in the passage construct the style of the novel that is another factor that persuades the reader to continue reading. An example of a metaphor that shows the magnitude of the disaster that was about to happen can be seen below: We were running towards a catastrophe, which itself was a kind of furnace in whose heat identities and fates would buckle into a new shape. Terms such as foreshadowing and personification were also employed in the opening passage to the novel.

The author suggests the possibility of a relationship between Joe and Jed when he describes them “… rushing towards each other like lovers. ” (This is also a simile. ) The reader can also see this strange behavior between both characters by the way Joe is concerned more about Jed than the other men that were present. An example of personification in this chapter is the description of the setting where the couple was having their picnic: … a field waiting for its early summer mowing.

In conclusion, I believe McEwan was able to construct a very effective opening passage to his novel by combining the several devices explained previously. With the style, language and tense tone he used, he manages to leave the reader needing more information not only about the accident, but also about the relationship between each one of the characters introduced. The clues left by the author regarding what will happen next in the novel, in my opinion, creates a need to find answers, thereby making the first chapter essential for the story.

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