We have talked great deal about the opening of the novel. We have discussed what McEwan wanted to suggest about Joe as a narrator in terms of his very organised nature. Everyone noted the visual aspects of the beginning and the drama of the balloon incident. The opening is so intense that we can see how Jed’s emotional attachment to Joe came to pass. McEwan has well and truly grabbed our attention and we want to read on.
McEwan used the balloon accident as a device to bring his group of strangers together. He had heard of a German ballooning accident and “what struck me was the dilemma of knowing that if you all hang on, you can bring the balloon to earth. But as soon as anyone breaks rank, then madness follows. The issue is selfishness. And that seems to me to be the underlying basic moral factor about ourselves. We’re descended from generations of people who survived, who acted successfully. But who also cooperated successfully; so we clearly need to save our own skins and look out for our own interests, but we’re social animals and we need other people dearly”.