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Atonement - English Literature McEwan

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McEwan enables us to ‘see’ the war in parts two and three through his graphic depiction. It is through McEwan’s ‘unexpected detail’ that the reader is able to fully understand the ‘horrors’ of the war. It is important for McEwan to enable the reader to see the war as he tried to do ‘justice’ to his fathers ‘experience of the war’.

One of the ways McEwan presents the experience of war is through the aspect of isolation. McEwan highlights Robbie’s isolation during the war through his use of nouns. McEwan writes ‘Turner and the corporals’ it is through the use of the plural noun ‘corporals’ that is revealed to the reader the extent of Robbie’s isolation. As McEwan groups the corporals together it suggests unity and camaraderie. Then with juxtaposition of the single noun ‘Turner’ McEwan’s creates a sense of disassociation, as literally, Robbie is separate from “both men” as he doesn’t “care whether they tagged along” Robbie’s only focus is “to survive. Additionally, the separation of the two nouns is significant as Robbie, now “Turner” becomes the context, he embodies it. That context being the class that Robbie’s from, as his name holds the weight of the of his past, even though Robbie is now a “private soldier” who speaks “like a toff”. He is unable to escape his past and the moment where Briony ultimately condemned by using his name to declare him as the rapist. McEwan demonstrated this by revealing to the reader that even though Robbie acts “like an officer” he has no stripes and it’s in McEwan’s use of the simile that it is shown to reader that can only ever be “like” or similar to an officer but just like a simile, he will never fully be. Therefore, Robbie is isolated in Dunkirk from reaching his full potential.

McEwan also offers a different perspective of the war through Briony. McEwan depicts Briony’s experience of the war as part of her atonement by using graphically detailed imagery when Briony comes across the wounded soldier Luc. The bandage on Luc’s head was ‘soaked to crimson and black’, his ‘battledress mangled into wound’ McEwan’s vivid description is done with the intent to cause disgust within the reader, so they may see exactly what Briony is going through, all the ‘pain’ she sees. With the use of the adjective ‘black’ it’s through the connotations being death and dismay that the reader can understand that these moments are Briony completing her atonement, as her life is in parallel with Robbie’s. The depiction of the raw details that McEwan uses of the ‘protuberance of bone’ that Briony witnesses are not dissimilar to that of what Robbie witnesses with ‘the disembodied leg’. McEwan highlights the similarities of Briony’s and Robbie’s experience to display to the reader the journey Briony is taking on her atonement, Cecilia comments that Briony has become a nurse as ‘penance’ , he suggests that for Briony to fully atone, she like Robbie must be ‘horrified’ at the ‘pain’ that the war brings. He further links their experience with the mention of the ‘amo bars’ in both narratives, a reminder to the reader why both of them are in their individual, yet alike, situations. For Briony to atone she must have an experience like Robbie’s to fully understand what she has done.

McEwan also focus’ on sacrifice to depict the war in parts two and three. Cecilia experiences sacrifice when she has ‘broken away’ from her family as they ‘chose to believe’ Briony The use of ‘broken’ suggesting just how serious the sever between them is, as once something is broke, it can never truly be fixed again, so the effects of Cecilia’s decision is permanent Cecilia separates from her family out of love for Robbie her ‘dearest one’. Corollary to this separation,

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