Ian McEwan's Atonement by Julie Ellam

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By Julie Ellam

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The descriptions of this retreat refuse to justify a blind patriotism, and also implicitly criticize the self-enclosed bourgeois that fails to see the guilt of the privileged and wealthy as represented by Paul Marshall. The theme of war encompasses wider conflicts such as class difference, as the intolerance of difference is the reason why many of the Tallises are so quick to assume Robbie is guilty of the crime he is accused of committing. Guilt, forgiveness and atonement Taking the lead from the title and Briony’s declaration that this novel is her last attempt at atoning for her sin of lying, the related themes of guilt, atonement and forgiveness are used ambiguously as it is never made entirely certain whether she is atoning for her sins or is using the sovereignty of the author, which she aligns with God, to construct this ordered world.

It is in this way, he suggests, that literature can make things happen, and not always for the good’ 36 Ian McEwan’s Atonement (MacFarlane, 2001, p. 23). To this end, McEwan’s use of structuralist and poststructuralist thinking is an influence on the narrative to make this a twenty-first-century country house novel rather than a rewrite of a work by Jane Austen. This is because the possibility that language shapes us, rather than the liberal humanist belief that we control language, is made apparent in the way words have shaped the narratives of Robbie, Briony, Cecilia and McEwan.

The Tallises The distance from the reader that is maintained in Part One also captures an identifiable representation of a 1930s English bourgeoisie family as they suffer from the heat on a rare hot summer’s day. Although Leon says it is acceptable to break the rules on a day such as this, this idea is seen to be as insubstantial as he is always implied to be. John Mullan points out the dramatic irony behind his conversation, as Briony has already seen Robbie in the library with Cecilia, which confirmed he was the maniac she had imagined (Mullan, 2003c, p.

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