Essay on Atonement: Theme and Motifs essay

Atonement, written by Ian McEwan, is a 2001 novel about a girl named Briony Tallis’s terrible mistake and how this mistake dictates her life and the destiny of two young lovers, Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner. The novel’s theme revolves around its title. The characters continue to seek atonement to right what is wrong. Briony, who writes the novel, tries to atone herself by telling the story of her sister and her lover having a life together despite what happened.

But she claims that she accepts not to be forgiven. The novel blurs the voice of the true author, McEwan, and Briony. Through out the novel, McEwan draws attention to his similarity with Briony as an author of literary fiction and real-life fiction. Though the novel’s main three parts are told in the third person, the reader has to rely on characters interpretation of events and even this does not allow the reader to have a definite grasp of the scenes.

Briony is a very imaginative girl and for her, fact and fiction are inseparable. At the end of the novel, more intrigue is expected whether the novel itself is sent to Horizon as a final act of Briony’s atonement besides her other efforts to clear Robbie’s name. This is the way McEwan displays her authority as the novelist who can play God in his writings. Peace is also at the center of the novel. At the beginning of the story, the family enjoys the peace that the Tallis estate brings to them and those that came to visit.

Even the telling of Robbie’s war experience highlights the importance of peace. How he longs to comeback to Cecilia’s arms and experience the tranquility of the old days. Briony’s time working at the hospital, a chaos, where she seems out of place. Her quiet time during the night are spent writing where she feels she belongs. Finally, the novel is about love. Though the chance is ruined for Cecilia and Robbie in real life, Briony finds a way to get them together even if they are no longer around to claim it.