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Transcript of Atonement
Points of View
Part 1: Chapters 8-14
Ch 8: Robbie - He writes his love/apology note to Cecilia.
Ch 9: Cecilia - Helps twins before dinner, receives letter
Ch 10: Briony - Read letter and thinks Robbie is a "maniac"; witnesses Robbie and Cecilia in the library
Ch 11: Library scene through POV of Robbie/Cecilia + Dinner table.
Ch 12: Emily - She talks about how her husband left the family to work.
Ch 13: Briony - She witnesses Paul Marshall "raping" Lola and assumes it is Robbie.
Ch 14: This chapter focuses on everyone, but it also focuses on Briony's act of "goodness" as she shows a policeman Robbie's letter. As a result, Robbie gets arrested.
Robbie - This part of the book centers on Robbie and his experiences as a soldier and his thoughts/feelings . During his time as a soldier, he constantly recalls the last few moments he had with Cecilia before he left for prison. He uses her last words to him as motivation to survive and make it back home with his record cleared. His main goal is to go back home and marry Cecilia.
“In one pan of the scales, his wound, thirst, the blister, tiredness, the heat, the aching in his feet and legs, the Stukas, the distance, the Channel; in the other, I’ll wait for you, and the memory of when she had said it, which he had come to treat like a sacred site. Also, the fear of capture. His most sensual memories – their few minutes in the library, the kiss in Whitehall – were bleached colorless through overuse. He knew by certain passages from her letters, he had revisited their tussle with the vase by the fountain, he remembered the warmth from her arm at the dinner when the twins went missing. These memories sustained him, but not so easily. Too often they reminded him of where he was when he last summoned them. They lay on the far side of a great divide in time, as significant as B.C. and A.D. Before prison, before the war, before the sight of a corpse became a banality” (page 213).
Briony- She is working as a nurse at a hospital as a form of atonement for committing her "crime." As she is walking to Lola's wedding, she is reminded of her guilt and how she can't possibly expect Robbie and Cecilia to ever forgive her completely. This part is focused on Briony because it shows how she is trying to do penance for her acts. Her initials "BT" placed at the end of Part 3 also reveals that much of the story is fictional, Briony's second form of atonement.
The fourth part is focused on Briony, and at this point, she is 77 years old. It is revealed that Briony has vascular dementia, and thus, she puts together a book called "Two Figures by the Fountain." The readers realize that from this, Briony feels at ease with herself because she is able to redeem herself by altering the reality in her book. Although Cecilia and Robbie do not end up together in real life, Briony realizes that the most she can do is let them be together happily in her book. So, from the happy ending she wrote, Briony is able to die happily as well.
“He knew these last lines by heart and mouthed them now in the darkness. My reason for life. Not living, but life. That was the touch. And she was his reason for life, and why he must survive. He lay on his side, staring at where he thought the barn’s entrance was, waiting for the first signs of light. He was too restless for sleep now. He wanted only to be walking to the coast.” (page 197)
“It was in his clear moments he was troubled. It wasn’t the wound, though it hurt at every step, and it wasn’t the dive-bombers circling over the beach some miles to the north. It was his mind. Periodically, something slipped. Some everyday principle of continuity, the humdrum element that told him where he was in his own story, faded from his use, abandoning him to a waking dream in which there were thoughts, but no sense of who was having them. No responsibility, no memory of the hours before, no idea of what he was about, where he was going, what his plan was. And no curiosity about these matters. He would then find himself in the grip of illogical certainties” (page 232).
"The problem these fifty-nine years has been this: how can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God? There is no one, no entity or higher form that she can appeal to, or be reconciled with, or that can forgive her. There is nothing outside her. In her imagination she has set the limits and the terms. No atonement for God, or novelists, even if they are atheists."
"I like to think that it isn't weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers live and to unite them at the end. I gave them happiness, but I was not so self-serving as to let them forgive me. Not quite, not yet. If I had the power to conjure them at my birthday celebration... Robbie and Cecilia, still alive, still in love, sitting side by side in the library, smiling at The Trials of Arabella? It's not impossible."
Part I: Chapters 1-7
P.O.V. : Third Person Omniscient
"But hidden drawers, lockable diaries and cryptographic systems could not conceal from Briony the simple truth: she had no secrets. Her wish for a harmonious, organ-ized world denied her the reckless possibilities of wrong-doing. Mayhem and destruction were too chaotic for her tastes, and she did not have it in her to be cruel" (5).
"No one was holding Cecelia back, no one would care particularly if she left. It was torpor that kept her--she was often restless to a point of irritability. She simply liked to feel that she was prevented from leaving, that she was needed" (20).
5. Lola (& the twins)
"...in three separate and overlapping memories...then scene could be recast, through Cecilia's eyes, and then Robbie's. But now was not the time to begin. Briony's sense of obligation, as well as her instinct for order, was powerful" (39).
"a tableau mounted for her alone"
"a special moral for her wrapped in a mystery" (37).
"...Cecelia felt a pleasant sicking sensation in her stomach as she contemplated how deliciously self-destructive it would be, almost errotic, to be married to a man so nearly handsome, so hugely rich, so unfathomably stupid" (47).
“She would soothe the household, which seemed to her, from the sickly dimness of the bedroom, like a troubled and sparsely populated continent from whose forested vastness competing elements made claims and counterclaims upon her restless attention” (67).
"It was a construction she must have once overheard, and she had uttered it in blind faith, like an apprentice mouthing the incantation of a magus" (56).
“The cost of oblivious daydreaming was always this moment of return, the realignment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse...Briony has lost her godly power of creation” (72).
1st Person Narrative
"From this new and intimate perspective, she learned a simple, obvious thing she had always known, and everyone knew: that a person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn, not easily mended" (287).
“Briony had her first, weak intimation that for her now it could no longer be fairy-tale castles and princesses, but the strangeness of the here and now, of what passed between people, the ordinary people that she knew, and what power one could have over the other, and how easy it was to get everything wrong, completely wrong” (37).
"The interminable pages about light and stone and water, a narrative split between three different points of view, the hovering stillness of nothing much seeming to happen—none of this could conceal her cowardice. Did she really think she could hide behind some borrowed notions of modern writing, and drown her guilt in a stream—three streams!—of consciousness? The evasions of her little novel were exactly those of her life. Everything she did not wish to confront was also missing from her novella—and was necessary to it. What was she to do now? It was not the backbone of a story that she lacked. It was backbone" (302).