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Transcript of Atonement
read Robbie's letter, couldn't comprehend it
"The long afternoons she spent browsing through the dictionary and thesaurus made for constructions that were inept, but hauntingly so: the coins a villain concealed in his pocket were 'esoteric,' a hoodlum caught stealing a car wept in 'shameless auto-exculpation,' the heroine on her thoroughbred stallion made a 'cursory' journey through the night, the king's furrowed brow was the 'hieroglyph' of his displeasure” (6).
trying to grow up quickly
"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).
"She had lolled about for three years at Girton with the kind of books she could equally have read at home--Jane Austen, Dickens, Conrad, all in the library downstairs, in complete sets. How had that pursuit, reading the novels that others took as their leisure, let her think she was superior to anyone else?” (143)
Robbie narrates the library scene
"Yes, she was a child at the time, and he did not forgive her. He would never forgive her. That was the lasting damage" (220).
“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. It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point. The attempt was all” (350).
Different perspectives can lead to misunderstandings.
"She could write the scene three times over from three points of view" (38).
"Now there was nothing left of the dumb show by the fountain beyond what survived in memory, in three separate and overlapping memories" (39).
Nursery scene with Lola and Paul Marshall
The chocolate bar that Paul gave to Lola
Briony's first encounter with blood and war
Part 1 of the book is divided into chapters - real
Part 2 and 3 separate each story with spaces - fiction
Part 4 is a letter -real
Housman: poet [wrote Shopshire Lad (youths' death and morality in England)]
The Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"Come back. It's only a dream. Come back." (41)
"Might she come between them in some disastrous fashion?" (302)
the letters of Cecilia and Robbie
"The temple was the orphan of a grand society lady, and now, with no one to care for it, no one to look up to, the child had grown old before its time, and let itself go" (69).
"The truth instructed her eyes" (59).
Atonement is a possibility for those with guilt
Social classes cause prejudices and assumptions.
Briony's intentions were to atone for what she'd done to Robbie. Even though she realizes that forgiveness from him and Cecelia is impossible, her motivation to "alter" the past through her novel reveals her eternal guilt and that she is obviously willing to spend her entire life trying to prove that she does feel extreme regret and remorse for her crime.
Her sorrow contrasts with Lola and Paul Marshall's lack of guilt for their role in the ruining of Robbie's life. Instead, the couple seemed to live in glory for a long time and basked in the grandeur of their lives. Although Briony and readers do not truly know what went on in Lola and Paul's minds, their lifestyle did not display any signs of sorrow and shame as Briony's.
Each chapter in part one is narrated by a different person
Stays in 3rd person most of the time, until Part 3, it shifts to 1st person
Adult encounters causes a loss of innocence
"the pages BOUND-" (35)
It symbolizes how Briony gets bound to her stories and can't undo what she has told.
War is horrible and atrocious.
"From this new and intimate perspective, she learned a simple, obvious thing that she had always known, and everyone knew: that a person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn, not easily mended" (287).
"He folded the map away, and as he straightened from picking up the coat and was slinging it around his shoulders, he saw it. The others, sensing his movement, turned round, and followed his gaze. It was a leg in a tree. A mature plane tree, only just in leaf. The leg was twenty feet up, wedged in the first forking of the trunk, bare, severed cleanly above the knee. From where they stood there was no sign of blood or torn flesh. It was a perfect leg, pale, smooth, small enough to be a child’s. The way it was angled in the fork, it seemed to be on display, for their benefit or enlightenment: this is a leg" (180).
“At a dinner in Cambridge once, during a sudden silence round the table, someone who dislike Robbie asked loudly about his parents. Robbie held the man's eye and answered pleasantly that his father had walked out long ago and that his mother was a charlady who supplemented her income as an occasional clairvoyant. His tone was of easygoing tolerance of his questionaer's ignorance. Robbie elaborated upon his circumstances, then ended by asking politely about the parents of the other fellow.” (81).