Only Love and Then Oblivion

This study guide will help you analyze Ian McEwan's article “Only Love and Then Oblivion”. In addition to help for your analysis, you can find a summary of the text and background information.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Only Love and Then Oblivion” (2011)
Author: Ian McEwan
Genre: Article

Ian McEwan is an English fiction writer. His novels and screenplays have sometimes been adapted into films. “Only Love and Then Oblivion” appeared in The Guardian, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on World Trade Center in New York.


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Persuade readers of the importance of empathy and human connections

Through “Only Love and Then Oblivion”, Ian McEwan attempts to convince readers of the importance of human connections and of empathy. McEwan uses antithesis to show the difference between the victims and the attackers and to highlight the attackers’ complete lack of empathy. The article considers the victims’ final calls to their loved ones as acts of “defiance”. They used their love and set it “against the hatred of their murderers”. Therefore, the victims’ final calls to their loved ones are considered almost heroic, as they remind people of the importance of human connections and of the fact that love can be more powerful and universal than hatred.

By using direct address, McEwan invites readers to see themselves in the victim’s situation and realize that they, too, would be worried about their loved ones and would like to connect with them one last time. This highlights the importance of empathy, as those that can see themselves in someone else’s place are less capable of cruelty. This is in contrast with the attackers who could not feel empathy and dehumanized their victims.

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Only Love and Then Oblivion

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