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AS and A Level: Ian McEwan

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  1. Marked by a teacher

    An essay that examines whether Briony ever achieves atonement in 'Atonement' by Ian McEwan

    3 star(s)

    At the beginning of the novel Briony is a girl of thirteen her mind filled with romantic stories containing morally certain scenarios; she views the world around her through the same filters and is over-confident in her ability to judge events. When she observes a strange interaction between her sister, Cecilia, and Robbie, the cleaning lady's son, she misinterprets the situation as threatening for her sister. This impression is reinforced when she later interrupts them in the secluded library having an amorous embrace, which she construes as an assault.

    • Word count: 2142
  2. Peer reviewed

    Consider the significances of innocence in Part One of Atonement.

    4 star(s)

    However, the trust surrounded with the nursery is broken as he sees 'that the girl was almost a young woman' whilst 'watching her closely'. The reader are led to believe by McEwan that Paul Marshall is caressing Lola, and the description of her 'unblemished incisors' highlights this innocence. Through this, McEwan builds sympathy for Lola as the reader begin to question her ability to notice Paul's intentions. It could be argued that this innocence is a facade: as Lola is first assaulted, McEwan has her 'seeming to bite' down a sob, highlighting her ability to appear vulnerable as she simply wants pity from Briony.

    • Word count: 1177
  3. Peer reviewed

    Analysis of the opening chapter of 'Atonement'

    4 star(s)

    Up until this point Briony has lived a relatively protected life, away from the conflict of the outside world, giving Briony a sheltered view on life and relationships. This sheltered view of relationships is shown in this chapter through the characters of her play 'The Trials of Arabella' in which the heroine marries her "medical prince on a 'windy sunlit day in spring.'" To Briony the reality of some relationships, being conflict, heartbreak and possibly divorce, "belonged in the realm of disorder", lost to the idea of a wedding and "a dizzy lifelong union."

    • Word count: 1267
  4. Peer reviewed

    English Literature - Atonement (Essay 2)

    4 star(s)

    you', and her later struggle with remorse - is painfully strong"3, encouraging the idea that she can be considered both a victim and villain in tandem. Select 'villainous' vices of Briony - predominantly naivety - are ultimately responsible for Robbie's downfall. Contrarily, Briony assumes some distinctly 'heroic' roles throughout the novel; most noteworthy, her nursing occupation and the 'redeeming' atonement. Her 'villainous' temperament is inadvertent (and nonetheless a literary construction) that affects both her and the other characters in the novel.

    • Word count: 1798
  5. Peer reviewed

    How does McEwan capture a sense of desperation in Part 2 of 'Atonement'?

    4 star(s)

    nature of her error, and she greatly wishes to reverse her actions and Part 2 follows her crime's repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II. The emotional trauma of the war and the wounded is developed in a manner that allows us to feel the anguish and despair of those fighting for their country. We feel the futility of war and the assault on the physical and emotional fronts of Robbie, Cecilia and even Briony. The gory intricacies of war which Robbie is experiencing are emphasised by his constant flashbacks to a golden past; where on that oppressively sweltering night, in the library, he and Cecilia awakened their sexual awareness and the vagaries of maturity.

    • Word count: 1013
  6. Peer reviewed

    English Literature - Atonement (Essay 1)

    3 star(s)

    The paradox is that while Briony is attempting to pursue adulthood and convince herself of her maturity - "the day had proved to her that she was not a child"3 - she "had to prove herself worthy of it"4, accordingly reverting to a juvenile mindset. This absurd attitude is put into practice during her encounter with Lola Quincey (pages 118-19). The passage exposes the "controlling demon"5 that governs Briony's behaviour; the transition between the child and adult world being presented by McEwan as one of malevolence and possibly even antagonistic drive.

    • Word count: 1759

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