Development of Characters in Atonement

Categories: Atonement Ian McEwan

In Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, McEwan almost writes, with his developed characters, through third person point of view and since the characters do not tell their stories, McEwan writes a considerable and compound descriptions to embellish their personalities. McEwan describes the atmosphere that goes from light to dark, signaling that some of the events that will occur in the novel will become unsatisfying in which that description can set the tone for these events, while employing the element of contrast to develop his characters.

With point of view, foreshadowing and contrast in the novel, the author employs the tone of reminiscent.

The novel Atonement focuses on the point of view of three main characters: Briony Tallis, Cecilia Tallis, and Robbie Turner in which their lives turned upside down from a life-changing event that occured. McEwan use point of view with the characters to allow the reader to better understand the viewpoints of these people in which McEwan shifts from one viewpoint to another along the same paragraph.

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For example, “Now there was nothing left…beyond what survived in the memory, in three separate and overlapping memories” (39) in which Briony describes how everybody has their own version of real or fake in their own world in which reminds the characters that they become living in reality in which Briony has her own views of what kind of reality she lives in. Society reminds characters that they live in a real world where everything can change everybody for better or worse. McEwan’s character development that he inputs in the novel does not only add more to the plot of the story, it gives readers an image to understand in which it helps the audience to underline the characters as they go through struggles in their daily lives.

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McEwan’s descriptions supply more depth and reliability to the characters and as a result, they play a huge role in putting up events through complicated physical description. For example, “In the early evening, high-altitude clouds in the western sky formed a thin yellow wash, which became richer over the hour…sky and ground took on a reddish bloom and the swollen trucks of elderly oaks became so black they began to look blue…now the air was still and heavy (73) in which it represents the idea of an old photography in which it holds memories of how their past became to become which illustrates the tone of reminiscent because it, perhaps, makes the characters feel nostalgic of what had happened before.

McEwan continues to have character development by including the element of contrast in which it adds depth to the characters in a way by focusing on the difficulties that every character has gone through. The element of contrast relates to the tone of reminiscent by stating “what she saw must have been shaped in part by what she already knew, or believed she knew” which illustrates how the author shows audiences of how Briony becomes intervened between both worlds of real or fake. She, one way or another, must face the consequences from her actions, however it appears that Briony has her own beliefs in which she believes on her own assumptions rather than common senseness. The tone of reminiscent play with the idea of believing in a fake world can apply to society becoming the only matter that brings characters back into their world of chaos in which McEwan uses the element of contrast to come in terms between reality and with what McEwan’s characters wanted to believe in which they can believe what they want, but they always come back to the real world.

With point of view, foreshadowing and the element of contrast, Atonement tone can become reminiscent in which the characters have their own matters that reminds them of the wonderful days that occured but become stuck with the world that became filled with chaotic and destruction. In the novel, the atmosphere that the setting creates transitions to light from dark in which the tone of reminiscent can reveal what the characters reveal to the audience in which they become vulnerable to the events occuring to them.

“An Untidy Finish”

Samara Ann Cahill, the author of the essay, states that the novel Atonement talks about a person’s social relationship with history and fiction which builds up meaning. The author’s argument concerning about the novel becoming “accurately apprehended,,,by a gothic” can come from his points of Briony’s “guilty consciousness” and becoming “haunted by the ghosts of the pasts” can become agreeable as it reveals the novel as a gothic novel because how in a gothic world, innocence weakens and guilty awakens which can reveal how the idea of a gothic novel can represent the darkness that a character consumes when that can reveal how that character becomes throughout the novel.

In the novel, some of the elements of gothic become noticeable that audiences can identify such as storm, tempest, death, monstrous crimes, and even ghosts. The character of Briony becomes rather a complex person that deals with much matter. Cahill mentions that the novel “ more centrally concerned with the ethical representation of reality through fiction” which relates to Briony becoming the affected one of them all which Briony frames Robbie by writing a story that she created which Robbie raped another person. Atonement, in definition, means reparation for a wrong or injury in which this can make Briony’s atonement of framing Robbie in which she “..always liked to make a tidy finish” and in that case the writing of the story of Cecilia and Robbie’s love. The title of the chapter titled “London, 1999” became narrated by Briony in which she discusses about Cecilia’s and Robbie’s love affair and her attempt to damage the love that they both have can reveal that both of these characters filtered through Briony’s guilt consciousness which can represent how Briony becomes the most weakest one and vulnerable one when destroying lives in which a war already takes Briony place of doing

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Development of Characters in Atonement. (2022, Jan 24). Retrieved from

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