The narrowed focus shows just what happened with no attempt to tease out the significant events or explore how they might have a future life – the future is no longer important as the novel revolves around the false accusation. The ponderous consideration of events in part one has given way, like so much else that characterised the novel, to a stark narration of what happened . The war is too enormous for the task of analysis to have any hope of success, and is the ultimate lesson in the senselessness of what happens.
World War Two, that introduced the world to mass ethnic cleansing, the Cold War and the permanent threat of nuclear deterrence, appears to have brought forth mainly aesthetic structures that reflect the complexity and horror of life in the second half of that century. It is a time in history when the Marshalls, who, equally guilty, lack Briony’s conscience, use the War to make their fortune and are then treated as public benefactors. Compared to Briony, they “have no remorse, no need for atonement“ (McEwan, 2002 interview). • Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002) • http://www.csulb.edu/~bhfinney/McEwan.html
‘Who could ever describe this confusion…No one would ever know what it was like to be here’ Again it is revealed that the truth is subjective, and what you know inside your mind is meaningless if it cannot be proven. Briony develops Robbie’s experiences, guided by the letters and an old colonel. Does it matter that it isn’t ‘truth’? How does Part Two impact the reader? What is McEwan’s purpose? Consider his idea about developing compassion and empathy through literature.
There is a greater loss of innocence at play here as well. War rips the entire country apart, and eventually the world. The bliss of innocence that was being enjoyed by Europe following "the war to end all wars" (WWI) is about to be stripped away in force. This innocence is represented in Leon Tallis, a character who lives for the weekends in London, doesn't think there will be a war, and feels all people are primitively good-natured.
There is an irony that Robbie Turner must fight in the war to exonerate himself from a crime he did not commit. This highlights the injustices of any war. As much as the story is a fictional tale, the scenes that involve the war, both in France in Part Two and in the hospitals in London in Part Three, are historically accurate. In particular, the horrors that the British Army faced as they awaited evacuation on the beaches of Dunkirk and the German planes continued their assault, is captured in extraordinary detail in "Atonement." Also, McEwan acknowledges a book he read in 1977 called "No Time For Romance" written by Lucilla Andrews that was the personal account of a nurse who served in the hospitals in London during the war. Briony's experiences in Part Three are directly inspired from that reading
The two world wars that took place in Europe in the first half of the 20th century are events that changed the course of human history. Ian McEwan's "Atonement" draws focus on the lasting effects these events had on the British psyche in hopes of assisting in the prevention of it from ever happening again.
Pg. 202 – Robbie war/prison Pg. 208 – Robbie – character Pg. 209 – Cecilia – character Pg. 211 – 212 Briony – wanting to atone 216, 227 – every day compared with the horrors of war 219 – writing style – compared to content – rhythm/beat of writing/walking 264 – writing style - referring to literature 229 – misunderstanding of other’s minds/actions 233 – 234 – Robbie’s thoughts on Briony – unable to forgive 208 – structure – Robbie - past 226 – 227 – structure – thinking of future 261 – guilt – McEwan’s views/values 246 – Robbie’s mind – losing reality and perspective due to fever 251/258 – RAF man fight/hotel man with broken back
Some more references… 220 – desperation 222 – contrast to nature 224 - Caring for the dead 226 – death as banality 227 – the past, lack of witnesses to make it real, blame and guilt 228 – forgiveness 229 – misinterpretation of a single event – link to fountain scene 246 – decay of the mind 261-2 – guilt – links to the past 264 – literature – loss of hope
In memory of W.B Yeats - Auden The poem is an elegy - traditionally all nature is represented as mourning death – in contrast in this elegy nature is represented as going on its course, indifferent and unaffected. The great poet’s death goes unnoticed by man and nature; life goes on. How does this link to McEwan’s ideas about events and their afterlife? Who remembers them? Epilogue. Auden does not idealise Yeats, but embodies certain general reflections on the art of a poet and the place of poetry in the flux of events which constitute human history. Auden’s idea is that a poet’s work becomes independent of him because he has no control over the interpretation which time will give it. He becomes what his readers make him.
The uniqueness of poetry lies in the manner in which it objectifies the human condition Auden compares death to an invading army that takes over Yeats. He uses a cluster of geographic terms to illustrate the personal world of Yeats being shut down. Links to Robbie’s and Briony’s mind shutting down. The seven syllable lines of the last section move formally, like a funeral march, with a balance in each line between two major and minor stresses; the rise and fall of the slow marching soldiers ‘feat’.
Writing about passages in Part Two • Robbie’s character – are there changes? How are they portrayed? • Importance of the narrative voice. How does McEwan use this? Links between Part 1 and 2. How was Part 2 constructed? • What are the contrasts between Part 1 and 2? Language, characterisation, pace of plot, tone? • Style of language throughout Part 2. How does this mirror the content? What is being described? How is it being described? • Juxtaposition of the descriptions of the horrors of war and the images of everyday life. • Key ideas explored – what are the views/values of McEwan? • Reader response to Robbie? How is the reader positioned to respond to Robbie?
Some key ideas of Part Two Desperation in war Death in war becoming banal The every day juxtaposed to the horrors of war The past, blame, guilt, forgiveness, truth Misinterpretation Power of the mind Moral, emotional and physical destruction of man