The rigidity of the English class system is the root of tragedy in both novels. Discuss how far and in what ways do you agree or disagree with this? In both novels the rigidity of the social class system is the main cause of the tragedy although there are other aspects in each novel that add to the tragedy such as forbidden love, childhood innocence and jealousy. All these factors lead to Robbie Turner being falsely accused and later imprisoned for the rape of Lola due to Briony’s jealousy of the love that Robbie has for her sister Cecilia, in ‘Atonement’. They also contribute to Ted Burgess suicide as a result of his shame due to his social class and also Leo’s jealousy and childhood innocence, all this played a role in Marian Trimingham and Ted Burgess being caught and the subsequent tragedy that occurred such as Leo Colston’s physiological trauma in ‘The go between’. The social divide in ‘Atonement’ was very obvious; Robbie was accepted into the Tallis family but was never equal to them.
Cecilia almost feared the relationship she had with Robbie because of his class and the repercussions it could have for her and her family within the upper class sociality “Why don’t you talk to Robbie anymore?” “I do. We just move in different circles, that’s all.” The social divide is also obvious after Lola’s rape in the way that it is only the men of a lower class that are questioned throwing aside the reputations that Robbie Turner and Danny Hardman had with the family and honest, hardworking men. The final thing that shows the class divide is when Cecilia finally confesses her love for Robbie her family disown her and she is force to live a lower class life because the Tallis family are scared of how their reputation would be affected if they gave their blessing for their daughter to marry not only a lower class but one that had been convicted of rape The social divide in ‘The go between’ is clear because of the fact that Ted comes from a much lower class than Marian meaning there can be no possible future for the relationship because of the social taboos involved “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
Another way in which social divide is evident in this novel is when Leo decides that he is not comfortable to continue being the go between Marian and Ted but Marian pressures him into doing it with the help the power that comes with her higher class. Although social class in the root of all the tragedy’s that happen in the novel there are sub tragedies such as jealousy, childhood naivety and forbidden love. Jealousy is the second biggest factor that adds to the tragedy in ‘Atonement’ because if Briorny had not been jalousie of the clear affection Robbie had for Cecilia she would not have opened the letter thus she would not have been so bias when she saw Lola was being raped. Although it also seems that Briony may have been trying to seek revenge on Robbie as age was hurt by the fact he loved Cecilia more than her and this came to a head when Briony walked in on Robbie and Cecilia in the library. This factor of jealousy also links in closely with childhood innocence as later on in the novel Briony realises her naivety as a child “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.”
The fact she did not truly understand what was going on and what the consequences of her actions would lead to and the dire consequences it would hold for everyone involved. Childhood innocence is the second biggest contributor to the tragedy in the novel ‘The go between’ as when Leo begins to read the letters he is taking between Marian and ted he becomes uncomfortable with the contents of them due to his childhood innocence and nativity towards life. Also when he tries to stop being the go between for Maria and Ted he is put under psychological pressure and is forced to continue “Grown-ups didn’t seem to realize that for me, as for most other schoolboys, it was easier to keep silent than to speak. I was a natural oyster.” . Ultimately, Leo’s involvement as messenger between the lovers has disastrous consequences.
The trauma which results when Maria’s family discover what are going on leads directly to Ted’s suicide. The third most important factor that influenced the tragedy in the novel ‘Atonement’ would be childhood innocence this affects how the novel ends up greatly as it is clear that Briony is in love with Robbie and from the way she talks of him you can see even though she feels as if she has matured she is still very childish in her ways “The very complexity of her feelings confirmed Briony in her view that she was entering an arena of adult emotion” and if she cannot have him then nobody can. Although she may have not intended for the events to become tragic as they did. “Yes. I saw him. I saw him with my own eyes.” It was clear that it was not just Robbie but Cecilia that she was punishing as well for the fact she has stolen Robbie from her in her eyes “I wouldn’t necessarily believe everything Briony tells you. She’s rather fanciful”.
Another thing is that if Briony had not been a child at the time she would have taken a much different perspective on the many events that led her to thinking that Robbie was a “sex maniac” The third most important factor that contributed to the tragedy in ‘The go between’ was the forbidden love between Marian and Ted because if it had not been for the love that they had for each other Leo would not have become the go between and later on being forced to carry on and t would also not have led to Ted’s tragic suicide. There was also the forbidden love between Leo held for Marian that eventually led to Leo being put under immense psychological pressure “Not Adam and Eve, after eating the apple, could have been more upset than I was.”
The Feminist view on the use of it in ‘Atonement’ would be, Feminism adds greatly to the tragedy caused by the social class because women in the novel are portrayed as weak and fluttery in the way that they cannot stick to one thing and follow their hearts over their head “What do you say, Cecilia? Does the hot weather make you behave badly? Good heavens, you’re blushing.” wseaA good example of this is when Cecilia is adamant of Robbie’s innocence but nobody listens to her as they all think she is just a silly woman that has fallen in love with a man below her class “I’ll wait for you was elemental. It was the reason he had survived. It was the ordinary way of saying she would refuse all other men.
Only you. Come back”. The fact that only men are conscripted into the army and women where simply not allowed to join splints Robbie and Cecilia up again and exacerbates the clear line between peoples thoughts on women at that time. The other instance that feminism affects this novel is when Lola is raped in the way that Paul Marshall believes women as objects and that they are only there to satisfy men. This gives a clear view of how women where objectified in this time A Feminist view of the use of it in ‘The go between’ would be, the reason that the love between Marian and Ted is forbidden because Marian is the higher class person in the relationship at the time, whereas if the man had been the upper class he probably would have been commended for having a mistress “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”. This is because at that time women were thought to be led by their hearts rather than their heads which in most circumstances lead to dire consequences and are patronised by men when they make a mistake “It’s better to write about things you feel than about things you know about.” .
The other instance of Feminism in this novel is A Marxist opinion on the use of it in the novel ‘Atonement’ is that, Marxism and the class system are closely related in the way that there is a huge amount of social inequalities in the novel that led to Robbie’s imprisonment. This is shown when the police only question Robbie Turner and Danny Hardman about the rape of Lola and even though the family have known Robbie the whole of his life once he is accused of the rape they quickly turn on him and do not for a second believe him when he pleads his innocence “what is the point now they just want the hideous thing to be forgotten” as they believe that nobody from the upper class could ever commit such a heinous crime. This enhances the idea that reader has of the adults and even though they are supposed to be mature and have a more even outlook on life they are still very childish on their outlook on the class system and the way that it affects a person.
They also believe that it is only people of a lower class that would ever commit a crime. Marxism applied to another factor that caused the tragedy could be when the Talli’s family take Robbie in out of pity because he is from not only a lower class but from a broken family as well. They then pay for his education which puts emphasises on the distance between the classes. A Marxist opinion on the use of it in ‘The go between’ is that, Marxism and the class system are closely related in the novel in the way that there is a huge amount of social inequalities in the novel that led to not only Ted’s suicide, but the physiological damage that is done to Leo in the process “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
Marxism applied to another factor that causes tragedy could be when the Maudsley family take Leo in out of pity, showing the clear division of classes at that time and even though they treat his well he is always clearly an outsider. A good example of this is when Marian pressures him into carry on delivering messages between Ted and her even though it is clearly making him feel uncomfortable. In conclusion of both ‘The go between’ and ‘Atonement’ the key causes of the main tragedy is the social divide between the classes and that the upper class are all too happy to use the lower class for their benefit and then disown them as soon as they become a hassle. The 2 novels also share the sub causes to the main tragedy’s which are forbidden love, childhood innocence and jealousy. Although in each of the novels the sub causes did affect the main tragedy in different amounts.
Courtney from Study Moose
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