How Does Mcewan Depict the Breakdown in Joe and Clarissa’s?

How does McEwan depict the breakdown in Joe and Clarissa’s relationship in the middle section of the novel? McEwan initially portrays Clarissa and Joe as the ideal couple, capturing the seemingly stable love affair between two academics. However, McEwan seeks to explore the disintegration of the ‘superior’ middle-class romance, to emphasise how nothing is safe. To the unknowing reader, everything about the relationship is calm and admirable. Yet difficulties begin to surface early in the novel.
The reader learns how Clarissa is unable to bear children; something which the reader can see is hidden from daily life, but obviously has a profound effect on the relationship. To add to this, Joe is unhappy about his status in the scientific community. He feels his work as a lecturer is not enough, and this causes his self-worth to diminish over time. Joe longs for a perfect life, with a perfect career and for his interests to be satisfied. Everything down to the expensive wine at the picnic suggests Joe seeks perfection.
Similarly, Clarissa also seeks perfection but instead, strives for the ideal romance, idealised by her literary idol, John Keats. McEwan focuses on a breakdown of communication throughout the middle section of the novel. Any conversations between the couple are brief and rushed, without consideration for the other’s words. Chapter 9 is significant for the development of Joe and Clarissa’s relationships collapse as the reader is invited to witness the events from Clarissa’s perspective.

Through McEwan’s technique, the reader can view the hardships of Clarissa’s day, to recognise the daily stresses of her personal and professional life. We see Clarissa’s confusion at Joe’s apparent manic state, the communication issues, ‘All this talking and listening that’s supposed to be good for couples’. Joe simply cannot leave Clarissa alone; he is dependent on her for mental support and he fails to recognise when she needs time to herself.
Throughout Chapter 9, we learn that Joe is trusting Clarissa and coming on rather strongly, ‘but his intensity is inhibiting her’. However, it is at this point where we recognise that Clarissa is being told the whole story, despite claims later in the novel that she isn’t, she simply doesn’t take the correct amount of interest. The three obvious milestones of the breakdown are the balloon incident, Jed Parry’s intervention and Joe’s evident depression. Parry appears as the main catalyst, as he highlights the couple’s flaws.
Trust is a huge issue between Joe and Clarissa, as made obvious when Joe fails to tell Clarissa of Parry’s late night phone call, ‘I know I made my first serious mistake when I turned on my side and I said to her “It was nothing. Wrong number. ”’ His actions could suggest he simply didn’t want to worry Clarissa at such a time, but also could ring early alarm bells for problems of trust. Trust issues are also evident when Joe raids Clarissa’s study, frantically searching for evidence of an affair. Shortly after this, they begin to sleep in separate beds, ceasing the late night discussions and passionate love-making.

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