Full title - Atonement
Author - Ian McEwan
Type of work - Literary
Genre - Fiction
Dunkerque (France), Battle of, 1940-- Fiction
Country life-- Fiction
Language - Narrative-style, memoir
Time and place written - Britain
Date of first publication - 2001
Publisher - Anchor Books/ Jonathan Cape
Narrator - Briony Tallis
Point of view - Third Person Omniscient
Tone - Reflective
Tense - Present
Setting (time and place) -
Part One: One summer day in 1935 (Britain)
Part Two: During the British evacuation of France in World War II
Part Three: 1940 (London)
Epilogue: 1999 (London)
Protagonist - Briony Tallis and Robbie Turner
Major conflict - Briony Tallis is growing up and everything is changing. When she misinterprets the scene by the fountain, she realizes her need to look at other perspectives through the lens of an adult and not an adolescent, fiction loving girl... which doesn't actually happen...
Rising action -
Part One: At the dinner table, Briony Tallis has a fit when she notices that the twins, after being excused from dinner, have on her socks, then she dramatically reveals Lola Quincy's bruises, and finds a letter from Pierce and Jackson Quincy stating that they had run away.
Part Two: Robbie and the corporals are on their way to Dunkirk when they see a fighter plane shooting at them. They make it out alive, so don't worry about that.
Part Three: As a nurse, Briony helps and fixes the soldiers wounds. At one point, she talks to a young soldier named Luc Cornet, who is about to die. She lets him tell her about his love for her (even though they just met) and said she would indeed marry him (after his proposal). Then as he dies, she says her name is Briony (though she isn't supposed to).
Epilogue: Briony is diagnosed with dementia and she sees Lola and Paul Marshall before going into the library.
Part One: Briony Tallis accuses Robbie Turner of committing rape against Lola Quincy, when in fact she knew had been Paul Marshall.
Part Two: Turner and his gang finally reach Dunkirk.
Part Three: Briony goes to speak to Cecilia about the false accusation of Robbie raping Lola.
Epilogue: Briony reveals that she is the actual writer of the story.
Falling action -
Part One: Robbie Turner Is driven off to jail.
Part Two: Robbie has to overnight in Dunkirk for the boats to arrive (when instead he dies).
Part Three: Robbie and Cecilia Tallis, after speaking to her, send Briony off to atone for her actions (legally through the police by changing her statement).
Epilogue: Briony tells the reader that writing the story was the only way to atone for her actions (since fiction was what got her in the crime)
Atonement/ Guilt - Briony seeks forgiveness for the unforgivable crime she has committed. The entire novel revolves around this theme, and if Briony should be able to receive atonement for what she has done.
Perception/ Misunderstanding - One act of wrong perception can change the life of so many people. Briony was too young to understand the things that were happening all around her and her inability to take control over her life overpowered her mind. She didn't see things the same way as anyone else would. The problem was only that she wasn't mature to understand. In most cases of misunderstanding, Briony was restricted to only one of her senses. She could only see the fountain scene, not hear. She can only hear Lola's rape, not see it. The novel does that to the reader too. We can only read about the story, we can experience what actually happened.
Adolescence/ Innocence - The changing shift adolescence to adulthood. However, when did Briony lose her innocence?The letter? The library scene? The rape? In any case, Briony goes from a sheltered child and in an instant is morphed into the world of adulthood.
Social class - How social class played a role in determining various outcomes of the story. Briony was originally in fear that Cecilia was going to fall "beneath her class." Rather than being her own person and desiring to live independently. Once Robbie is convicted of the crime, Cecilia decides to leave her family and her class to live in London in a flat. In another note, the only two possible assailants of the crime were seen as Robbie and Danny Hardman, two servants of the Tallis house. Never did they think it could be Paul Marshall, the rich, guest of the home.
Power of the author - One of the more obvious themes, we see Briony's desire for control throughout all of Part 1. She's an aspiring author. To be an author, she has all the control of her novel. Because Briony sees the world as her own story, she feels helpless without the control. When it is discovered that Briony is the author of the story, it is questionable how "real" the story is. Briony, who is searching for her own atonement, is the creator of the story. She has the ability to change any parts of the story that she wants. It is revealed that she changed the entire ending of Robbie and Cecilia. She could have changed any part of it that can either make her look better or worse, as a person.
Wealth - The life that the Tallis family lives in part 1 is picture-esque. The have wealth, an enormous estate, a good family. Everything they have is the ideal life, at the time. Also, the lack of wealth shown throughout the rest of the novel, experience by Briony, Cecilia, and Robbie. Their lives were the opposite of the life they had once lived, except for Robbie. Robbie had the shift of being an almost-equal-to of the Tallis family to a prisoner and soldier.
Misconception - Everything that the Tallis had, prior to the crime, was all shattered because of Briony's lie. This lie is the center of all the terrible things that happen to Cecilia and Robbie. If it never happened, both of them could still be living at the homes in Surrey instead of London and France. The result of Briony's lie is that both Cecilia and Robbie both within the next 6 years, and it all could have been avoided.
Secrets - Briony has a desire for secrets. Just in part one when Briony reads the note between Robbie and Cecilia, we become aware that Briony isn't one that should be well trusted. Also, she plans on keeping the secret of Robbie and Cecilia away from the her book's audience. It's only until the epilogue (which is not featured in Briony's Atonement) where we find out their truth.
"Come back" - Cecilia's famous line. First used as Cecilia's phrase to comfort Briony from her nightmares, the phrase is mostly seen between her and Robbie. She ends all of her letters with that -or similarly, "I'll wait for you."- The phrase is also Robbie's trick to bring himself back after rethinking parts of the war. In part three, Cecilia uses "Come back" to calm Robbie as he is enraged at Briony. Of course, that part of the book never existed.
Revision - This is often seen in the book. Briony is constantly changing parts of the story. For example, "at the double" vs. "on the double." However, this is also very prominent in the fact that Briony tried to revise the lives of the people around her. She felt she had to protect Cecilia from what she might become (also seen in social class). She also felt she could change Leon with her story The Trials of Arabella.
The Trials of Arabella - The original play, written by Briony Tallis, that was to performed for the homecoming of Leon. The play is the ultimate showing of fictionalization for the relationship of Robbie and Cecilia. The story of love she wrote as a child is now the story of love she has experienced and desired-for to happen.
Uncle Clem's vase - The vase was a relic of the Tallis house and it was broken by Cecilia and Robbie. This can symbolize that the moment of the fountain scene is the beginning of the end for the Tallis house. Everything would soon be shattered.
Steeple - Both Paul Marshall and Cecila make the gesture that forms a "steeple" with their hands. After the action of the gesture, the story follows with sex. The steeple can also be related to the temple, near where Lola was found after her rape.
- Nice work here, again, in dividing up the parts of the novel.
- Really complete, too.