Atonement is a book that I’ve wanted to read for a long, long time. Mainly because when I was last at Universal Studios in California, Kiera Knightly’s dress was on display from the movie that had come out the year before. It was probably one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen. Ahh, that emerald green. And who could forget that absolutely amazing love scene? Who hasn’t seen it?
Anyways. Back to the book. I loved it, to be short. I thought it was a lovely blend of meta narrative, with the author commenting on that cheesy tendency in all of us to write moralistically or over-romanticized ideals. And he did that, didn’t he? Briony does indeed over-romanticize the relationship of her sister Cecelia and Robbie, in order to try to make up for her mistake.
I feel like we all do that a lot in life. We make a mistake, so we hide, cover it up, do anything we can to try and avoid talking about it, denying it, blowing it out of proportion, blaming other people, or lying. Like me, Briony does it through her writing. And what better outlet for your guilt than the words on the page? Like my blog about my new book, there’s just something that is so different and beautiful about having a concrete representation of abstract thought. McEwan uses this book as a physical outlet for himself as the character of Briony (which means a type of vine with white flowers; ironic in that white is usually representative of innocence and purity, and Briony is the most guilty of all of them). As Briony states herself at the end of the novel however, how can a writer find peace and atonement through writing? When we have absolute power over the story; how can we truly be forgiven? Of course, if you’ve finished the novel, Cecilia and Robbie never have the romantic reunion that Briony gave to us. She wrote it to give them a sense of final happiness, when in fact they died alone and apart. But she couldn’t just write the story, could she? How could she write the tragedy without the redemption? A writer usually finds that a work, in itself, is redeeming enough. Maybe that’s why God is perfect, and never apologizes. He’s the writer of the world apparently, and like Briony, how can one find atonement if one is writing the story?
And if we are all writing our own stories, than how do we find atonement? Are we supposed to at all?