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Atonement by Ian McEwan



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    Atonement by Ian McEwan

                At one point of the other throughout the course of a person’s life, he or she may have taken pleasure in his or her ability to control the events just as long as such events are within the confines of false reality.  However, when the separation between falsified world and real life becomes apparent, how can one come to terms with the consequences?  It is along these lines that Ian McEwan’s novel entitled Atonement is revolves around.

    Literary Criticism by Brian Finney

    Atonement utilizes the narrative voice of an old lady and centers on a significant era in the history of Britain beginning from the year 1935 until 1940 (Finney, 2002).  As a substitute to the locked up claustrophobic private confines of the protagonists who have gone before him, the novel spans from the home of the aristocrats set during the pre-war period at the south of England until the instant the British armed forces retreats, and eventually in a hospital during the period of war, then concludes with a coda in the year 1999 (Finney).

    The concentration of this literary criticism lie on the self ill at ease employment of the narrative in the novel, as such feature has been held on by some of critics to comment on what the audience considers to be an fundamentally realist piece of literature which ultimately and inaptly directs toward a modish personal reference (Finney).  Introduced to a pattern of creative writing, Briony is not so old enough to identify the risks which may arise from displaying one’s behavior in such a false reality.  The moment she confesses her uncertainty concerning life and false reality, the costs are disastrous and irrevocable except in the world of fictional invention.  She tries to employ fiction to amend the mistakes that false reality triggered her to perform (Finney).  However, the gap which divides the real word from the realm of fiction guarantees that at most her fake amends will serve as an effort to atone for the times gone by which she can never undo.  Atonement, therefore, is all about the risks of going inside the realm of false reality and the damages as well as restrictions that the world can afford to its writers and their audiences.

    In a manner of speaking, such criticisms are delivered by those who regarded the first section of the novel plainly as a realist narration and criticize the author for falling short in meeting their expectations which he has roused at this part.  This involves a radical misinterpretation McEwan’s work (Finney).

    The author utilizes other narrative devices in order to keep the audience aware of the worth of his writing as a literary artifact (Finney).  For example, he modulated his styles in writing prose.  In the second part, he opted to construct simpler and shorter sentences, resembling the writing style of Hemingway (Finney).

    As seen in the concluding coda, the author makes use of a contemporaneous voice that is quite responsive and self conscious to its personal act of narration (Finney).  The author gives notice to the structured character of the story by using symmetrical or corresponding motifs (Finney).

    One of the other ways wherein fiction brings notice to its fictional character is by means of asserting the distinctiveness of the story it narrates while suggesting the relationship between the private world it is reminiscent of and the public world populated by its audience (Finney). This is evident in the case of works in fiction.  However, meta-fiction leans instead to the exhibit than attempt to conceal the intrinsic inconsistency in the author’s struggle to both convince his readers of the distinctiveness but nevertheless universality of the people and instances depicted.

    Certainly Briony best exemplifies the manner in which art forms the life she leads in so far as she fits that lifestyle into her art (Finney). From the beginning, Briony’s great imagination serves blur the differentiation between reality and fiction. Her examination of life surrounding her is formed by the false reality which confines her. The vivid imagination which she derives from the stories she has read shapes her.

    Briony forces the model of false reality on the certainties of real life. To whine about the meta-fictional aspect in the novel is to fall short in understanding that everything is recounted, coming in at birth to a pre-existing storyline that offers the palimpsest wherein people carve the own life story. The author is centering the meta-fictional aspect to force the audience to confront the degree to which narration affects reality.

    Narration is a form of interpretation. The latter launches the likelihood of misconception.  For Briony, it is fiction which establishes her reality.  However, she is not the only one who has misconceptions regarding the subject of human nature.

    Each instance a character mistakes a particular instance for something else, it verifies to be the result of a prediction on his or her part against another person (Finney). It is especially satirical that Briony grasps for once the importance to afford other people their individual opinion and feelings the moment she initially observed an event which happened by the pond. Pushing life to agree with the visual order of art may generate real disastrous results.

    The Atonement is both a creative and fictional endeavor to carry out what Briony was not able to do at one particular moment in her life.  She ­projects herself into the emotions and views of the characters she creates, to afford them a real life past her personal encounters, to bring into play what must have been the emotions Robbie felt when he took part in the armed forces until its eventual retreat, and how Cecilia felt to be forcibly estranged from Robbie, and in effect from her loved ones.

    Briony’s account is her literary endeavor in atonement for the pains she has caused when she was young. The only way that she could possibly breathe new life to the couple is to utilize her imagination to give life to them in the fictional realm which permits her and the audience to identify their original hope as well as the subsequent misery which Briony earlier poorly envisioned false reality has generated.

    A story told at later part of 20th century could not give in to the simplified aspiration of traditional realist literature. The Second World War which launched the mass cultural refinement, the Cold War as well as the unending danger of nuclear deterrence, seems to have brought forth for the most part visual framework which mirrors the intricacy and terror of living in the second half of century under consideration.

    The novel concludes not simply with the disclosure of the demise of Cecilia and Robbie, rather with the findings of Briony’s sickness as well as her rejection to have the couple absolve her even in her fictionalized narrative their continued existence, testimony that in her fictional act of atonement, she has ultimately learned how to put herself in the shoes of other people to know how they would feel given at certain circumstances.

    Is Briony completely acknowledging the inconsistency at the core of the storyline the impracticality of preventing the construction false reality around other people while one is obliged to cross the threshold imaginatively into their lives?  Is the author implying that the efforts is all that is being requested for, an effort which is destined not to succeed, nonetheless that might move closer to or away from the reality of other people?

    The happiness felt by Cecilia and Robbie can not be brought back through the means of remedial fiction (Finney).  Nonetheless, an effort to envision the feelings of other people is possibly the one remedy people do in the midst of lifelong suffering.

    The story concludes in a sense of ambiguity.  Nonetheless, an acknowledgment of such ambiguity is only way which could have warned the main character from accusing Robbie in her initial fictionalized account of such incidents.

    Literary Criticism of Jonathan Cape

    The bends and curves of the novel are shaped around the flair of prolonged fantasy (Cape).  The Atonement’s emotional insight usually originates from their commitment to a quite defined actuality.  Moral uncertainty and reservation are thus improved instead of resolved through the comprehensibility of presentation.  This explains why the novel’s themes, save for the delightfully unremarkable Amsterdam remain and echo further than the flawless orderliness of their organization (Cape).  The author is, in a manner of speaking, a carefully conventional first.

    Different characters appear time and again but the Atonement, at the moment, appears to be populated for the most part by its literary inspirations.  One of which is Virginia Woolf (Cape).  The style is not the flow of realization so much as the unhurried flow of connection, the lingering silence of not as much seems to take place.

    The latter part of the novel even has an analysis of its previous pages or as a minimum of the outline from which they are pattered over in the pretext of a note from Cyril Connolly, who gives an opinion that such text may be of value when there is no concept of forward motion (Cape).  The necessary forward motion is given by the sudden interference, as it were, by two other authors of the interwar periods (Cape).

    Will caring for the casualties of war deliver her from her guilt?  Will Briony’s atonement rely on the continued existence of Robbie?  Can her atonement be made possible by the ultimate realization of her literary aspiration by means of a novel like this?  Who could give atonement to the author whose divine ability to build and change the world implies that no greater power exists to whom such appeal may be directed to?

    The author utilizes his work to illustrate the way on which certain subjective or substandard conversion may then be understood to have worked for the greater development of the history of this century.  John Fowles told himself that this particular piece of literature was not among the ones the Victorian authors forgot to put into writing, rather, it was one of the books they had failed to pen down (Cape).

    The same impulse supports the novel.  The story is a novelist who harks reflectively back to the comforting reservations of the past more than it is a story of imaginatively stretching and transporting a central element of the literary history of Britain until and towards the twenty-first century.

    Literary Criticism of J. Stefan-Cole

    This novel just like the other works of McEwan is fascinating, savvy, and quite disturbing.  Typical of his works, the author has a talent of presenting things as impeccably normal surrounding an incident which seeps into murder or a drastic turn which somewhat does not actually cease to be the norm (Stefan-Cole).

    The disturbing atmosphere surfaces gradually.  The author can very well toss the standard from the inside out.  Just as one of his characters claim, McEwan’s fictionalized reality may simply be identified for its amorality (Stefan-Cole).

    Writing an account on the subject of the war is not exactly an easy task to do.  The British army’s retreat brings war into sharp concentration through the norm.  As the novel imparts, life goes on.  The reader is not all too far from the person portrayed by either Briony or any of the minor characters and that the crime of bearing false witness happens to everyone at one point of the other.

    There is twist at the end of the novel (Stefan-Cole).  The readers are left with Briony as a novelist who is confident that there is even one reader who will be forced to inquire about what actually transpired.

    The crisis lies on how the writer may attain atonement as, with her supreme power of determining results, she is god at the same time.  The author leaves to the imagination of his readers what actually transpired at the same time as they wonder about the authorial voice of the main character.  The Atonement concludes with the author’s signature uneasiness (Stefan-Cole).

    McEwan’s novel has regarded by the majority of reviewers as a work of genius which surprisingly remained at the top of the New York Times best seller list several weeks (Stefan-Cole).  Majority of the American critics of the novel gave the book their utmost praises.  The minority, mainly British critics who have expressed their serious reservations concerning the Atonement invariably concentrates on the final section where it is disclosed that Briony, who turned out to be a successful writer, is actually the author of the whole literary piece and only utilized a novelist license to modify the details to serve her artistic ends.  Lulled by the lengthy section of the novel, which in fact consumes almost half of the total number of pages, to the refuge linked to the typical realist narrative, these critics discards the concluding coda as an example of post modern gimmickry.

    Works Cited

    Cape, Jonathan. “Atonement Ian McEwan.” 22 September 2001. The Guardian. 30

    September 2008 <>.

    Finney, Brian. “Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement. 2002. CSULB.

    30 September 30, 2008 <>.

    Stefan-Cole, J. “Atonement.” 22 September 2002. Free Williamsburg. 30 September 2008


    Atonement by Ian McEwan. (2016, Aug 05). Retrieved from

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