Atonement and ‘in Memory of W. B Yeats’ Analysis

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This essay discusses the impact of W. H. Auden’s poem ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’ on the tone and foreshadowing of the plotline in Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement. The poem’s themes of elegy, mourning, and loss are mirrored successfully in the novel’s crucial themes. The inclusion of the poem before the deaths of the characters Robbie and Cecilia sets the tone of elegy within the novel, bringing a sense of impending doom. The transferable nature of literature and constant re-interpretation also mirrors the nature of Atonement. The poem appears twice in the novel, first preceding Robbie’s spiral into desolation and secondly after his determination to start anew. The poem introduces the themes of mourning and loss to Atonement, which is an elaborate eulogy celebrating and lessening the loss of the lovers.

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‘In Memory of C. Tallish and R. Turner’

In this essay, I will discuss the effects of W. H. Addend’s poem ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’ upon the tone, and the foreshadowing of the plotline of Ian Means’s novel Atonement. The poem and the novel are both elegiac- it is the contribution of the poem to Atonement at the crucial point before the deaths of the characters Robbie and Cecilia that begins to set the tone of elegy within the novel. This acknowledgment of death and mourning brings a sense of impending doom; the love expressed from Cecilia to Robbie by the inclusion of lines from ‘In Memory of W.

B. Yeats’ is matched by the element of tragic loss it also insinuates. The poem, set at a time of great impending disaster within Europe (Norton) brings this sense of inescapable tragedy to the novel. If the poem in whole is taken as an addition to the novel, its themes of elegy, mourning, and loss mirror successfully the crucial themes of Atonement. Atonement in itself an elaborate eulogy, and in introducing this poem prior to the novel’s conclusion, the poem foreshadows the ending of the book.

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Bryony, as the narrator and perpetrator, suffer the loss of Robbie and Cecilia intensely, in agonizing clarity through her guilt. The entire novel is spent in concealed mourning, and the purpose of the novel is to celebrate and lessen the loss of the lovers. The lines ‘The words of a dead man / Are modified in the guts of the living from ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’ refer to the transferable nature of literature and its constant re-interpretation as it is received by a new audience. This again mirrors the nature of Atonement; Robbie and Cecilia will live forever in Britons literature, as W.

B. Yeats will live forever in his poetry (Norton). The tone of the novel at the section of inclusion of the poem is already glum – Robbie is at war and injured. The first quote from the poem in the novel is ‘In the nightmare of the dark / All the dogs of Europe bark,’ (page 203), introduced at a period where Robbie is sequestered in a French barn contemplating the prospect of their loss at war, and subsequently his own eternal incarceration. The line precedes Robber’s spiral into desolation; contributes to it.

The line refers to imminent war, and, in Atonement, the descent into a conflict that precludes war is mirrored in Robber’s thoughts. ‘At best, it would be prison again. Prison camp. This time, he wouldn’t last. No letters from her, and no way back. (203) He goes on to discuss the lifelessness of incarceration ‘sleeplessly turning over the past, waiting for his life to resume, wondering if it ever would’ (203). The poem appears again at page two hundred and forty-two of Atonement, in the line ‘In the deserts of the heart / Let the healing fountain start. ‘(242).

This line succeeds more positive thoughts from Robbie, where he determines to start anew, to find his father, and to find Cecilia. Robbie Dreamed of sharing a little house somewhere, of an ordinary life, a family line, connection. ‘, and these wishes are cemented in the line from the poem. War and incarceration have left him barren hearted, but Robbie eager to heal, and it is lined from Cilia’s letters, and Cilia’s own words to him that keep him going and lend him a promise of healing. However, the poem again introduces the themes of mourning and loss to Atonement.

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Atonement and ‘in Memory of W. B Yeats’ Analysis. (2017, Oct 03). Retrieved from

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