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How does McEwan tell the story in Chapter 9?
Chapter Nine opens with a reconstruction of Clarissa's story in third person. Clarissa comes
back to the apartment after having a bad day: one of her students has called her crying about
impossible work, her class went poorly, her appointment diary was missing, she had a bad
performance review meeting, and colleague spent the lunch break complaining about how her
partner doesn't satisfy her. As she walked up the stairs, all she wants is for Joe to take care of
her. When she opens the door, however, Joe is feverishly babbling about Parry's harassment
(how he stood out the house for several hours, constantly ringing and leaving answer machine
messages) and his desire to get back into an academic job in theoretical science. Clarissa
ignores Joe and goes to take a bath, but Joe follows and keeps ranting. Whilst in the bath she
starts reflecting on her father's Alzheimer's and she begins to worry that Joe is going crazy.
She accuses Joe and implies that he's made up Jed Parry which leads into a domestic
argument. Finally, after shouting things they don't truly mean Clarissa storms out of their
bedroom. Joe, bitter and hurt, storms out of the house, slamming the door shut for Clarissa to
hear. Despite the darkness and rain Joe proceeds down the road when he sees Parry waiting for
Love is made explicit throughout this chapter. We are reminded of Clarissa's feelings as she
`experiences a little lift of the spirits when she remembers that Joe will be home'. However, the
strain of her and Joe's relationship is beginning to show, perhaps because Clarissa's memory of
the balloon accident has returned. Either way, Clarissa has to reassure herself that `they love
each other and happen to be in very different mental universes now'. Tension is built as the
reader experiences an argument between the couple, which has of course derived from the third
party, Jed. McEwan introduces uncertainty into the plot in regards to the future of their
Obviously science is a prominent theme throughout the book and it appears again in this
chapter. Joe has decided that he wants to return to theoretical science but it seems to be some
kind of facade for his emotions `She's heard this before.' Due to Joe's rational nature, working
seems to be the only logical thing to do to in order to ignore Jed and his own thoughts.
Joe's ambition towards returning into science could also be seen as his desperation to shun Jed
from his life. The conflict of Science vs. Religion is an overarching theme throughout the novel
which is presented through the two characters. Joe's sudden motivation has perhaps
subconsciously been sparked by Jed an attempt to oppose his religious views that Jed is trying
to inflict onto Joe, `he does not even break his stride'.
McEwan shifts the narration into 3rd person. This allows the reader to understand the thoughts
and feeling of the other characters because so far the novel has only been based on Joe's
opinions. McEwan chooses to focus merely on Clarissa, perhaps because this is the turning
point in their relationship it allows the reader to have a wider and deeper understanding to why
their relationship is about to fall apart. The use of this shift in perspective could arguably be a
sign of Joe's unreliable narration the use of an omnipresent narrator shows things for what they
really are instead of from Joe's perspective.
The narrator is a focaliser who provides rich detail throughout the chapter. Arguably not all of the
information is relevant but deflecting the narrative discourse could suggest that the narrator is
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Joe who often
reconstructs the narrative and fills in gaps.
The key aspect of the structure of this chapter, is the use of Clarissa's point of view. However,
the fact that it is reported from Joe makes it clear it isn't a trustworthy account of events.
Joe's use of blunt sexual discussion and empirical language give the reader strong inference
that not only does Joe not understand Clarissa there are seemingly no common denominators
between them.…read more