Ian Mcewan 's The On The Fragile Equilibrium Of Human Existence Essay

Ian Mcewan 's The On The Fragile Equilibrium Of Human Existence Essay

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Alongside a plot that deals with a series of unhappy events, Ian McEwan’s Atonement explores the concept of reality in the fragile equilibrium of human existence. McEwan’s mastery of narration helps to shape his reader’s comprehension that reality is subjective. McEwan’s employment of shifting focalization and presentation of a single event approached from several character perspectives and use of both third and first person narration all contribute to this conclusion.

The first three parts of Atonement are written in third person limited omniscient narration. The focalization of this narration shifts between the characters and the reader is provided with varying perspectives of the story world. The effect of this is that the reader is guided through the text by a multitude of character voices and perspectives, rendering the reader better able to grasp the differing frames of reference through which each character experiences the plot. The fist sections of the text contain narration focalized through several of the novels character’s including Emily Tallis;
Emily let her thoughts move away from her eldest daughter and sent the tendrils of a worrying disposition out towards her youngest. Poor darling Briony, the softest little thing, doing her all to entertain her hard-bitten wiry cousins with the play she had written from her heart. To love her was to be soothed. (McEwan 65)
Here McEwan presents the reader with a detailed account of how Emily Tallis perceives the world around her, particularly when it comes to her children. We learn of Emily’s adoration of Briony. By imparting this information, McEwan demonstrates that Emily Tallis’s perspective of Briony is at odds by the from the “controlling” and “unapologetically dem...


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...the interpretations that we come to from the events that constitute our own lives necessarily explicitly reality. This compounds the idea that reality is an abstract concept, dependent on the individual and the context.

Through these narrative techniques, McEwan teaches of the possibility of many conflicting versions of reality. Our understanding is manipulated through focalization and command of both first and third person narration, leading us to the conclusion that reality and fiction are closely intertwined. The reader is left recognizing that reality is subjective, and thus what is ‘real’ for one individual is not the same as what another discerns as real. “It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you” (40).

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