‘McEwan suggests that true atonement for ones crimes can never be possible.’ To what extent do you agree with this view? Remember to include in your answer relevant detailed exploration of McEwan’s methods
The novel itself serves as a palimpsest to the truth of Briony’s crime, which demonstrates the artificiality of Briony’s attempt of atonement. Ultimately due to the fact resolution and atonement are only depicted in the ‘novels’ with in the book which are written purely for an audience suggests that McEwan believes, similarly to the ‘hairline cracks’ of the vase- that repenting for ones crimes is impossible. So, instead of the notion that McEwan is suggesting that atonement in itself is impossible, he provokes the idea that, authors use literature to demonstrate their own art rather than pose questions on morality; this is shown by the fact that at the end of the book, Briony feels accomplished in the fact she ‘finally put her pen down,’ despite the fact none of her actual crimes have been repented for- this mirrors her childhood glee upon the acknowledgement of her ‘own handwriting’ covering loads of pieces of paper, when she first wrote the ‘Tales of Arabella’. It is the reuccurance of this play towards the end of Briony’s life that introduces the notion that by attempting this atonement Briony has instead found herself in a purgatory in which she is incapable of escaping her mistakes and her conceit as a writer.
When considering the notion that ‘true atonement for ones crimes can never be possible,’ one is also reminded of the other crimes McEwan depicts in the novel, namely those committed by Lord and Lady Marshal- the rapist and his silent victim. Lola in not speaking out perpetrates her crime so atonement is inherently impossible, this is because even the only victim to the crime who in capable of speaking out deliberately chooses not to. And by marrying the villain she demonstrates her knowledge of the ‘right side to butter her bread’- which explicitly establishes justice as impossible. Further more through the couple’s marriage in a Christian church, Lola and marshal are rendered ‘immune’ because sacraments of Christianity prevent: Lola being able to testify against her newly wed, and justice from being achieved. This reiterates the notion that atonement is impossible as McEwan suggests that victims to crimes are in fact capable of perpetrating the crimes committed by the villain, so therefore no efforts of atonement can restore the world.
The unjust nature of the world is emphasised in the contrast between Marshal and Briony’s fate. McEwan demonstrates implicit sympathy for Briony and the crime of deception she commits as a child, especially compared with the adult Paul Marshall who is the rapist and who is never punished- this is shown in the fact Briony has lived a copiously unfulfilling life forever held back by the remorse for her childhood crimes and on the brink of...