This study guide will help you analyze the novel Atonement (2001) by Ian McEwan. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Presentation of the text

Title: Atonement (2001)
Author: Ian McEwan
Genre: Novel

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) is a British author and screenwriter. He is widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary British writers and has received numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for the novel Amsterdam (1998). His most well-known novels include Atonement (2001), On Chesil Beach (2007), and The Children Act (2014). Many of his novels have been adapted into films, including the award-winning adaptation of Atonement starring Keira Knightly and James McAvoy. 

The novel Atonement tells the story of Briony, a writer who is haunted by a serious mistake made during her childhood years. The novel takes place in three time periods and deals with themes such as: the power of storytelling, forgiveness, and loss of innocence, focusing also on the importance of social class. Atonement was very well received and publications such as The Guardian, Time, and The Telegraph included it in their lists of the 100 best novels of all time.

Excerpt from the study guide:

Briony’s failure to understand the scene highlights both her immaturity and her overactive imagination which, seeking to make sense of things she does not understand, fits them into childish scenarios. Robbie is first likened to a prince when Briony witnesses the scene by the fountain and later to a villain when she reads his letter to Cecilia (Chapter 10, 0%). Though Briony has a superficial idea that the adult world is more complex than she can understand through stories – “But wasn’t she […] supposed to be so worldly now as to be above such nursery-tale ideas as good and evil?” (Chapter 10, 18%) ...

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