Symptoms of love Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 5 July 2017

Symptoms of love

Robert grave’s poem ‘Symptoms of love’ was written in a period when Graves had a volatile relationship with Laura Riding after leaving his wife. It can be suggested that his experience of relationships may have influenced his views on the concept of love. ‘Symptoms of love’ being the title holds strong imagery and connotations of love are conveyed by his negative views. The poem begins “Love is a universal migraine”82 capturing the poet’s techniques to compare an emotion to a medical condition mirroring the ways McEwan unveils the danger of the DeClembarauts syndrome; a syndrome which portrays an emotion as a medical condition.

Love being expressed as a universal migraine metaphorically presents a factual tone although views may be argued against this idea. A ‘migraine’ is a severe headache its use in the poem symbolises the intensity of the poet’s feelings not only suggesting but also demonstrating with examples that ‘love is to suffer’. This tone is continued to the following line “bright stain on the vision//blotting out reason. ”83 This suggests that love has distorted the vision of the persona and has affected their state of mind.

The third and fourth verses list the symptoms as “leanness, jealousy//laggard dawns. ”85 The use of words Graves uses creates a semantic field of darkness and conjures an image of suffering and torment. Furthermore this suggests that love comes with inevitable anxiety and foreboding “omens and nightmares” reluctantly “listening” and “waiting” expressing fears and paranoia. The persona in ‘Symptoms of love’ however urges “take courage, lover! ” the exclamation mark signifies the urgency of the command.

Cynically the poem ends, with the questioning voice of the poet “can you endure such grief//at any hand but hers? ”86 forming a twist in the recent informative structure as it now creates a sense of realisation that people’s perceptions of love differ, depending on the actions expressed by characters. McEwan’s close thoughts of the actions performed by characters increases the ways we view there characteristics. “Clarissa put her hand on Jeans arm”72,showing signs of comfort and assurance.

However McEwan creates Jeans character as a woman who prepares herself for the worst as “her ferocious gaze was suddenly on the girl”73 accused, Jeans grief then becomes anger and we are pulled into believe her judgements as her certainty becomes an “extra pain”74. Eagerness increases due to McEwan’s structure, his intended delays and use of ellipses creates anxiety, then the sudden request to “get this over with”75 is later followed by a series of short sentences which increase the suspense but slows the process of finding out the answer to her suspicions.

We then find out that Bonnie- the accused woman and her companion James Reid were in fact “in love”76. McEwan causes “such distress” to Jean through the love of another couple which caused suffering of the unknown; Rupert Brooke’s ‘Sonnet’ reinforces this idea as the narrator speaks of the “Dead” stirring and the “unknowing” which causes the narrator to “tremble”77. The omniscient narrator describes Jean’s reactions in a form of shock as “her left hand was across her mouth” rather than a “sigh”78 of relief.

The realisation that she was suffering the unknown and carrying a heavier burden on top of the grief she already faced led to “tears in her eyes” Jean then questions “who’s going to forgive [her]”79. Although there is a sematic field of closure McEwan allows her suffering to remain as “the only person who can” forgive her “is dead”. McEwan binds three different love stories in this novel, Joe and Clarissa, Jean and Logan and Jed and Joe.

Each love story with contrasting endings, one captures Jeans character, placing her in a realm of suffering by disallowing any chance of redemption now that her husband is “dead”, the second also shows an “enduring” suffering, the difference being that this one can only end when parry is “dead” McEwan therefore closes the whole novel when parry is still alive, The last, being the fairytale ending of hope and love for Clarissa and Joe. This is of great significance in the book as it concludes with McEwan’s use of denouement allowing the reader to have unanswered questions resolved, but leaves the characters with a lack of hope.

After Joe shot Parry, there were no “kisses and tears and conciliatory murmurs and words of forgiveness and love”, Clarissa did not jump into his arms and forget about everything that had happened and Joe was left in acceptance that “perhaps [they] really were finished”. If that was how the story ended, the readers’ would not be satisfied by the ending, after following the lives of these two contrasting characters and identifying with them, that sort of ending would have been bad for the novel.

Appendix 2 outlines the theme of enduring love so provides the perfect ending to the novel, the same way it begun, with love that is enduring. (tieing it up with a outstanding way to conclude all narratives and poems linking back to the task focus linking to question how poets contrast, resulting with my view) resembling the ways Elizabeth Browning hyperbolically states “I love thee with the breath, smiles and tears of all my life”18 in ‘Sonnet XLIII’. Rossetti’s poem ‘song’ ,using alliteration to present the persona’s will is to “sing no sad song”16 her poem ‘Remember’ instructs her loved ones “do not grieve”17.

The poem starts “Remember when I am gone away”, this paradoxical line intertwines the themes of life and death. (100) this can be compared to his poem ‘The foreboding’ which also expresses fears “would it be tomorrow, would it be next year? ”


McEwan,I-(1997)- Enduring Love Schlink,B-(1997)- The Reader The New penguin Book of Love Poetry (1973)-Edited by Jon Stallworthy Childs,P-(2007) Ian McEwans -Enduring Love Gibson,J-(2003) Ian McEwans, Enduring Love-A level book of notes

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