The Quest for Atonement in Ian McEwan's Atonement Essay

The Quest for Atonement in Ian McEwan's Atonement Essay

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Ian McEwan illustrates a profound theme that builds details throughout the novel Atonement, the use of guilt and the quest for atonement are used with in the novel to convey the central dynamic aspect in the novel. McEwan constructs the emotion of guilt that is explored through the main character, Briony Tallis. The transition of child and entering the adult world, focus on the behavior and motivation of the young narrator Briony. Briony writes passages that entail her attempt to wash away her guilt as well find forgiveness for her sins. In which Briony ruined the lives and the happiness of her sister, Cecilia, and her lover Robbie. The reality of the events, attempts to achieve forgiveness for her actions. She is unable to understand the consequences of the actions as a child but grows to develop the understanding of the consequence with age. McEwan exemplifies an emotional novel that alters reality as he amplifies the creative acts of literature. In this essay I will be arguing that, the power of guilt prevents people from moving on from obstacles that hold them in the past.
McEwan embodies the guilt illustrated throughout the novel with the element of symbolic references: “how guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime” (162). The literature critic, Brain Finney expresses McEwan’s “fascination with evil or illicit behavior [that]…‘projected [a] sense of evil in [his] stories…one tires to imagine the worst thing possible in order to get hold of the good’” (69). McEwan makes the reference to a rosary, which is a religious symbol that corresponds to the novel’s title, suggesting Briony may not only carry her guilt forever, but that there ...


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...he theme of guilt that builds within Briony character and writing. The structure of limitations provided by McEwan’s highlights the emotions of Briony herself. As the critic Finney addresses the narrative form, McEwan presents the corruption of the negative appearance displayed in the writing of the narrator her self. Briony uses the novel to atone for her sins, in a way to make up for the foolish acts she as committed, giving the readers sympathy to forgiver for her actions. The inability to achieve atonement is demonstrated within the novel continuously highlights the element of guilt. The attempt at atonement helped Briony, which alludes the over all theme that the ability to achieve atonement is in the hands of the beholder. Untimely, the consequences amplified the writing style that conveyed the understanding of the selfish actions that tore apart two lovers.

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