Philippine Women’s University High School Taft Avenue, Manila

“Ian McEwan’s ‘Atonement’” (A Book Review in English 4)

Analyzed by: Stacey Kate M. Posion Section: IV-Integrity

Presented to: Mrs. Editha G. Celis Date:

I. Title: “Atonement”
I think the title suited the story because Briony really recon ciliated on her fault. Her consciences were bugging her that she did personal suffering. “I gave them happiness, but I was not so selfserving as to let them forgive me," Briony says at the end of the novel. Briony recognizes her sin and attempts to atone for it through writing her novel. She does not grant herself forgiveness; rather, she attempts to earn atonement through giving Robbie and Cecilia a life together in her writing.

II. Author’s Profile
Ian McEwan was born on 21 June in 1948 in Aldershot, Hampshire, England. He spent much of his childhood in the Far East, Germany and North Africa where his father, an officer in the army, was posted. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia. He returned to England and read English at Sussex University. After graduating, he became the first student on the MA Creative Writing course established at the University of East Anglia by Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation, Hamburg, in 1999. He was awarded a CBE in 2000. McEwan reiterates the comparison between himself, a writer in reality, and Briony, a writer of fiction in his story. Throughout the novel, McEwan compares himself, an author of literary fiction, to Briony and both her literary fiction and real-life fiction. This comparison draws a relationship between the life of the author and the life of Briony in the story. When he came to write Atonement, his father's stories, with automatic ease, dictated the structure; after he finished the opening

section, set in 1935, Dunkirk would have to be followed by the reconstruction of a 1940 London hospital. It is an eerie, intrusive matter, inserting imaginary characters into actual historical events. A certain freedom is suddenly compromised; as one crosses and recrosses the lines between fantasy and the historical record, one feels a weighty obligation to strict accuracy. In writing about wartime especially, it seems like a form of respect for the suffering of a generation wrenched from their ordinary lives to be conscripted into a nightmare. Many ex-servicemen have found it difficult or impossible to talk about their experiences of war says, Ian . His father never had any such problems. He never tired of telling me, a bored adolescent, and later, an attentive middle-aged son, how his legs were shot up by a machine gun mounted on a German tank; how he teamed up with a fellow who had been wounded in both arms, and how between them they had managed the controls of a motorbike to drive to the beaches of Dunkirk and eventual evacuation.

III. Setting
The story opens in an almost fairy-tale setting on the luscious grounds of the Tallis family estate in Surrey, a county in southeast England. It is a balmy, hot summer day and there seems no urgency in the air. There is an atmosphere of celebration. However, there are signs of distraction. An heirloom vase has been cracked and the dinner meal is too hot for the steamy weather. Briony, the Tallis's daughter, is hoping to put on a play but her cousins are not following directions and are disappointing as actors. Lola has usurped Briony's good will and has stolen the leading role. In 1935 follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of 20th century.

IV. Characters Major Characters Briony Tallis – The Protagonist of the story. The
younger sister of Leon and Cecilia, Briony is an aspiring writer. She is a thirteen year old at the beginning of the novel and takes part in sending Robbie Turner to jail after she finds Robbie and Cecilia making love in the library. Briony is part narrator, part character, and I see her transformation from child to woman as the novel progresses. At the beginning of the novel, there is a tendency to portray Briony as an innocent child, unaware of what she is doing. But as the novel closes, Robbie reveals that Briony might have betrayed Robbie. She had seen that Robbie was more attracted to Cecilia than to her. She was jealous. At the end of the novel, Briony has realized her wrongdoing as a “child” and decides to write the novel to find her atonement. A lot emphasis is put on Briony's imagination and her confusion. Frequently, Briony is unable to discern between her real and her fictional worlds. She died because of vascular dementia at age 77.

Cecilia Tallis – The middle child in the Tallis family,
Cecilia has fallen in love with her childhood companion, Robbie Turner. After a tense encounter by the fountain, Robbie and she don't speak until they meet again before a formal dinner. Upset over the loss of her love, to jail and war, she has almost no contact with her family again. She is the total opposite of her younger sister unorganized, messy, and clumsy. Cecilia was killed by a bomb that destroyed the gas and water mains above Balham Underground station.

Robbie Turner – Robbie is the son of Mrs. Turner,
who lives on the grounds of the Tallis home. Having grown up with Briony and Cecilia, he knows the family well. He attended Cambridge University with Cecilia

and when they come home on break, they fall in love. He himself made a mistake because of the love letter he wrote for Cecilia that turned into evidence that he is the rapist. He wrote in the letter, “You’d be forgiven for thinking me mad—wandering into your house barefoot or snapping your antique vase. The truth is, I feel rather lightheaded and foolish in your presence, Cee, and I don’t think I can blame the heat! Will you forgive me?Robbie” typing his love for Cecilia and thought of something perverted “In my dreams I kiss your cunt, your sweet wet cunt. In my thoughts I make love with you all day long.” Robbie died before he could be evacuated from Dunkirk and that Cecilia was killed by a bomb three months later. He died of septicemia caused by his injury on the beaches of Dunkirk

Minor Characters

Leon Tallis – The eldest child in the Tallis family,
Leon returns home to visit. He brings his friend Paul Marshall along with him on his trip home.

Emily Tallis – Emily is the mother of Briony, Cecilia,
and Leon. Emily is ill in bed for most of the novel, suffering from severe migraines.

Jack Tallis – Jack is the father of Briony, Cecilia, and Leon. Jack
often works late nights and it is alluded to in the novel that he is having an affair.

Grace. Turner – The mother of Robbie Turner, she
was given permission from Jack Tallis to live on the grounds. She has become the family’s maid and does

laundry for the Tallis’. After the conviction of her son for a crime she doesn’t believe he committed, she leaves the Tallis family.

Lola Quincey – Lola is a 15-year-old girl who is
Briony, Cecilia, and Leon’s cousin. She comes, along with her brothers, to stay with the Tallis' after her parents’ divorce. She is red-headed and fair-skinned with freckles.

Jackson Quincey – Jackson is a young boy (Pierrot's twin) who is
Briony, Cecilia, and Leon’s cousin. He comes, along with his sister and his twin, to stay with the Tallis's after his parents divorce.

Pierrot Quincey – Pierrot is a young boy (Jackson's twin) who is
Briony, Cecilia, and Leon’s cousin. He comes, along with his sister and his twin, to stay with the Tallis's after his parents divorce.

Danny Hardman – Hardman is the handy man for the
Tallis family

Paul Marshall – A friend of Leon's, who rapes Lola
and, some years later, marries her.

Tommy Nettle – Nettle is Robbie's companion during
the Dunkirk evacuation.

Frank.Mace – Mace is Robbie's companion during the
Dunkirk evacuation.

Betty – The Tallis family's servant, described as
"wretched" in personality.

V. Plot/Synopsis/Gist/Summary
In the hot summer of 1935, 13-year-old Briony Tallis is already an ambitious writer. She has written a play for her older brother, Leon, who is supposed to arrive later in the day. The characters are to be played by her cousins, 15-year-old Lola and the nine-year-old twins Jackson and Pierrot. Briony's sister, Cecilia, has returned home from Girton College, Cambridge, and is trying to sort out her confused feelings towards the charlady’s son and her childhood friend, Robbie Turner, who is home from Cambridge University for the summer. His studies were financed by her father, Jack Tallis. Cecilia wants to fill a vase with water at the fountain in front of the Tallis’ house. She meets Robbie and they start talking, but the conversation quickly becomes awkward. When Robbie wants to help Cecilia with the vase, she remains stubborn, the vase breaks and two pieces fall into the fountain. Cecilia strips to her underwear, jumps into the fountain and retrieves the fragments while Robbie only stares at her. Briony witnesses the ensuing moment of sexual tension from an upstairs bedroom and is confused as to its meaning. Leon Tallis arrives with his friend, Paul Marshall. They meet Robbie on their way to the house, and Leon invites him to dinner. Cecilia is irritated at Robbie’s coming, but does not know why he bothers her so much. Meanwhile, Robbie wants to write a letter to Cecilia to apologise for his behaviour at the fountain. He indicates that he also feels

awkward around her, and, like her, does not know why. After finishing it, he unthinkingly adds an obscene suggestion on to the bottom of his letter, using the word “cunt”. Although he then writes another version of it, it is the first that is accidentally delivered to Cecilia via Briony, who reads it. Briony consults with her cousin Lola; Briony is then convinced that Robbie is a “maniac" and that she must protect her sister from him. Upon reading Robbie’s letter, Cecilia realises her love for Robbie, and they end up making love in the library. Briony interrupts them, and interprets their lovemaking as a sexual assault upon her sister. During dinner, the twin cousins run away, leaving a letter. The dinner party divides into groups to go out searching for them. Robbie and Briony are the only ones who leave alone — as Robbie has to acknowledge later, the biggest mistake of his life. In the dark, Briony comes across Lola being raped by an unknown attacker. Briony convinces herself that Robbie is the attacker, as it fits perfectly in her picture of him as a maniac. Lola, afraid of even more humiliation, lets Briony do the talking. The police arrive to investigate, and when Robbie arrives with the rescued twins, he is arrested solely on the basis of Briony's testimony. Apart from Robbie's mother, only Cecilia believes in his innocence. By the time World War II has started, Robbie has spent three years in prison. He is released on the condition of enlistment in the army. Cecilia has become a nurse. She cuts off all contact with her family because of the part they took in sending Robbie to jail. Robbie and Cecilia have only been in contact by letter, since she was not allowed to visit him in prison. Before Robbie has to go to war in France, they meet once for half an hour during Cecilia’s lunch break. Their reunion starts awkwardly, but they share a kiss before leaving each other. In France, the war is going badly and the army is retreating to Dunkirk. As the injured Robbie goes to the safe haven, he thinks about Cecilia and past events like teaching Briony how to swim and reflecting on Briony’s possible reasons for accusing him. His single meeting with Cecilia — the one kiss — is the memory that keeps him walking, his only aim seeing her again. At the end, Robbie falls asleep in Dunkirk, one day before the evacuation.

Briony has refused her place at Cambridge, and instead is a trainee nurse in London. She has realized the full extent of her crime, and now remembers it was Paul Marshall, Leon’s friend, whom she saw raping Lola. Briony still writes, although she does not pursue it with the same recklessness as she did as a child. Briony is called to the bedside of Luc, a young, fatally wounded French soldier. She consoles him in his last moments by speaking with him in her school French, and he mistakes her for an English girl whom his mother wanted him to marry. Just before his death, Luc asks "Do you love me?", to which Briony answers "Yes" — not only because "no other answer was possible" but also because "for the moment, she did. He was a lovely boy far away from his family and about to die." Afterwards, Briony daydreams about the life she might have had if she had married Luc and gone to live with him and his family. (Later, it is briefly mentioned that after the war Briony married a Frenchman named Thierry in Marseille). Briony attends the wedding of her cousin Lola and Paul Marshall before finally visiting Cecilia. Robbie is on leave from the army and Briony meets him unexpectedly at her sister’s place, as well. They both refuse to forgive Briony, who nonetheless tells them she will try and put things right. She promises to begin the legal procedures needed to exonerate Robbie, even though Paul Marshall will never be held responsible for his crime because of his marriage to Lola, his victim. The fourth section, titled "London 1999", is written from Briony's perspective. She is a successful novelist at the age of 77 and dying of vascular dementia. It is revealed that Briony is the author of the preceding sections of the novel. Although Cecilia and Robbie are reunited in Briony’s novel, they were never reunited in reality: Robbie Turner died of septicemia caused by his injury on the beaches of Dunkirk, and Cecilia was killed by the bomb that destroyed the gas and water mains above Balham Underground station. The truth is that Cecilia and Robbie never saw each other again after their half-hour meeting. Though the detail concerning Lola’s marriage to Paul Marshall is true, Briony never visited Cecilia to make amends. Briony explains why she decided to change real events and unite Cecilia and Robbie in her novel, although it was not her intention in

her many previous drafts. She did not see what purpose it would serve if she told the readers the pitiless truth; she reasons that they could not draw any sense of hope or satisfaction from it. But above all, she wanted to give Robbie and Cecilia their happiness by being together. Since they could not have the time together they so much longed for in reality, Briony wanted to give it to them at least in her novel. The novel ends with a meditation on the nature of atonement and authorship. The conclusion that Briony reaches is that an author cannot achieve atonement through a novel; the author plays the role of God in her novel, determining the characters' fates and altering them at will.

A.THEME: The novel bears the name of its primary theme.
Briony atoned for her sin and never forgive herself even if Cecilia and Robbie might forgive her. First there is the deceit of Lola and Paul Marshall. Although it is not totally explored, Lola must have known the identity of her assailant. Paul had attacked her in the children's room in the Tallis family manor before dinner. Later, he rapes her (or that is what Lola claims). But Paul keeps silent while Robbie is taken to prison. Later Lola and Paul are married, and they never confess their lie. Briony too is deceitful. One could argue that she is shaken by what she witnessed.

B.MOOD/TONE: The mood of the story is sad. The tone of
the story is tragic, sorrowful, and deceitful. Self suffering but still unable to forgive herself.

C.CONFLICT: Briony made a big mistake in her life that
made Cecilia and Robbie apart when they finally realize their love for each other. She accused Robbie even though she knew who really the rapist was. The Internal Conflict is in Briony as a child it is understandable there are many things that she needs to learn even though she’s already smart and a good writer. Briony is lost in her reality world and her fictional world that made her confused on deciding and the fact that she also loves Robbie but he can not return her feelings because Robbie loves her sister, Cecilia. She is jealous of her sister that she lied and made them part.

The External Conflict in the story is that Lola and Paul Marshall did not confess their lie even though it passed for so many years and until they got married. This is when Briony felt so guilty about what she did because she really knew and saw that Paul Marshall was the one who raped Lola and in the end, they got married. She realized that she betrayed Robbie and made him suffer for her selfish jealousy even though his innocent.

The Climax point in the novel arises when; an unknown rapist raped Lola. The police investigate them all. As what Briony saw in the library before the dinner, she marked in her that Robbie is a maniac that attacked her sister earlier. She pointed out and promised in front of the police that she really saw in her own two eyes that Robbie is the rapist. The deciding point is hard on her because she is confused and even though she knows, the right thing to do her jealousy is the one that urged her to lie and made them apart.

The story ended tragically in truth but happily in Briony’s novel. She did not intended the story to end happily but she made it end with a happy ending at least in her novel even though the truth is opposite. That is all at least she can do for them for making them apart until the end.

The author created an impact by using stream of consciousness. Briony is the one who wrote the novel she is the narrator too. The narration of Briony is in the 1st person point of view, she wrote it detailed and organized. The flow of the story was that she wrote the after happenings before the beginning of situation. It is narrated backwardly.

The dominant element of the novel is the Theme as a teenager myself it is hard to have a sinful memories and a nagging conscience in your heart. I find it most interesting is when Lola married the man who raped her. Maybe she already loves him when she was still a child.

VI. Standard Values Factual Value:
The factual value in the story is that you will know some extra knowledge about history and the happenings and sufferings of the people in World War II. The places and hospitals where the soldiers were sent to when injured and dying.

Psychological Value:
Briony grew up getting everything she wants. She’s a spoiled brat because she’s the youngest child. Even in love she wants to pursue it but she already know that her sister Cecilia already have what she wants. Jealous, and rage in her heart unable to get what she wants. Instead of still wanting to get it she made them tear apart.

Symbolical Value:
The symbolism in the story is the vase that got broken in to two pieces. It symbolizes that the trust between Briony and Cecilia got broken and can not be mend in to one piece again.

Ethical Value:
It has always been like this until now it is now like a tradition that rich belongs to rich people only and poor people belongs to poor people. The Tallis family is rich they have big house and many servants. One of the servants is the mother of Robbie Turner. Robbie is also a servant of the Tallis family.

VII. Reaction and Suggestion
Actually, this novel was made into a movie. I saw the trailer and it caught my interest. The movie won so many awards and it’s really interesting. I watched the movie and I love it and when the story is backwardly shown and narrated. I like the setting because it’s back in the old times and it’s in the middle of World War II. It’s like Briony became the God and she manipulate the life of her sister and her love Robbie. Well she’s the author of the story. I don’t want to change the ending I’ll leave as it is because it’s appropriate for this amazing tragic novel. The two lover’s story ended tragically but their love story in Briony’s novel ended happily. I really recommend this to all the people especially to the people who love to read books. It’s really knowledgeable, fun, interesting, heart wrenching, eyes watering. And to all the aspiring writers in the world you will learn so many things. Ian McEwan’s writing skills are really outstanding. I love this twisted complicated story.

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