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Atonement: Symbolism & Imagery

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Halena Ngo

on 3 August 2014

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Transcript of Atonement: Symbolism & Imagery

The Fountain Scene
“frail white nymph” “startling whiteness”, “deep curve of her waist”, and “strawberry mark, a scar… adornments”
imagery example four
"farmhouses burning", "dozen or so dead English soldiers in the road" some "mutilated bodies", "a child's limb in a tree", a "crater where the smell of cordite was strong", "night sounds they had grown used to-the rumble of artillery, stray shots in the distance, a booming far-off explosion" (186-187), and "gun flashes" in the sky while travelling on the road
The Hospital Scene
On his thigh his battle dress was mangled into a wound. She thought she could see the white protuberance of bone. Each step they took gave him pain. His eyes were shut tight, but he opened and closed his mouth in silent agony.
McEwan plays with light a lot to place emphasis on certain scenes of significance. He also tends to focus on the human body -- specifically between Cecilia and Robbie. Later, when war becomes a predominant subject, there is increased focus on liquids: water and blood. And while the former brings cleansing and purification, the latter is an ugly result of war.
symbolism and imagery
1.) Which scene really stood out to you in terms of sensory details?

2.) Which symbols do you remember from the story?

3.) Do you even remember what imagery and symbols are?
words and phrases that appeal to the senses
by Kimberly Nguyen, Huy Do, Mary Ngo, and Halena Ngo
The vase represents order and regularity in the Tallis household, which in their case at the initial of the novel, means luxury.
"With a sound like a dry twig snapping, a section of the lip of the vase came away in his hand...

Her dead uncle, her father's dear brother, the wasteful war, the treacherous crossing of the river... and beyond him to the mastery of the arcanists who had reinvented porcelain."
p. 28
"Wretched Betty dropped Uncle Clem's vase carrying it down and it shattered on the steps....

Reading these letters at the end of an exhausting day, Briony felt a dreamy nostalgia, a vague yearning for a long-lost life."
The stories are never just stories in Atonement. For example, The Trials of Arabella mirrors events in Briony’s own life. This play, as well as her other works of writing, represent her innate need to control the world around her
Like Arabella, Cecilia “ran off with an extrinsic fellow” in pursuit of love and caused her family grief “to see their firstborn evanesce from her home.”
Water is known as the universal solvent, and is precisely used so in Atonement as it cleanses their problems, whether they be hidden or apparent. It is through water that suppressed feelings are dissolved and openly expressed.
The moment Briony “came away from the swimming pool” was the moment that the “fairy stories were behind her” and the “drama of life beyond the nursery” begins.
Throughout the war, Robbie “only thought was of water” to alleviate his pains. To him, a “paradise” was anywhere with “streams and waterfalls and lakes.” In a bigger picture, Robbie also needs to reach Dunkirk and cross the body of water in order to totally cleanse himself of the war.
Water also serves the same purpose for Briony, who finds comfort near the lake after her complications with family and writing. Here, she is “feeling all the more relaxed,” and finds that “flaying the nettles was becoming a self-purification.”
imagery example one
The War Scene
The Dinner Scene
The Library Scene
p. 15-16
"Cecilia had not spoken to her parents, brother or sister since November 1935 when Robbie was sentenced. She would not write to them, nor would she let them know her address.... He could never return, but it troubled him to think that she was destroying a part of herself for his sake."
p. 196
enhances Robbie's emotional development
"four dolphins whose tails supported the shell on which the Triton squatted wide-open mouth stopped with moss and algae"
"spherical stone eyeballs, as big as apples, were iridescent green. The whole statue had acquired around its northerly surfaces a bluish-green patina,"
reflects the artistry of the scene (Briony describes it vividly in her story later
p. 26
imagery #2
“nauseated by the prospect of a roast dinner… and would have been content with a glass of cool water

”Have you done something bad today on account of the terrible heat? Have you broken any rules? Please tell us you have.
increases tension
dramatic irony
imagery #3
"She whispered his name with the deliberation of a child trying out the distinct sounds. When he replied with her name, it sounded like a new word-the syllables remained the same, the meaning was different. Finally he spoke the three simple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can ever quite cheapen. She repeated them, with exactly the same slight emphasis on the second word, as though she had been the one to say them first."
depicts their transition from friends to lovers
"There was nothing but obliterating sensation, thrilling and swelling, and the sound of fabric on fabric and skin on fabric
portray their romantic feelin
depict the horrors of war (and Robbie's new life)
evoke sympathy and horror from readers
“Using a pair of surgical tongs, she began carefully pulling away the sodden, congealed lengths of ribbon gauze from the cavity in the side of his face... This was all ruin, crimson and raw” (284).
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