Analysis of Atonement by Ian McEwan
The novel Atonement by Ian McEwan is a romantic war tragedy metafiction that follows Cecilia and Robbie’s lives as the protagonist. They experience conflicts trying to fulfill their dream of eternal love and separate, shutting down all their achievements. McEwan intertwines irony and symbolism to explore the theme of love throughout the text and delve further into the thought process. Love is confrontationally expressed from the novel’s beginning in stylistic features to give the reader deep insights and perspective of the narrative’s central theme and characters.
McEwan cleverly develops shuttered and unavailable love through Uncle Clem’s verse. The vase symbolizes the love between Robbie and Cecilia that was mended years back and was bound to break. They break their love the first day they discover it signifying that their love was not meant to last like the vase (Pg.22). Briony supports that the collapsed vase represents the broken relationship when she hints that they both died in the war through the epilogue.
Through the Tallis family, the reader discovers the lost and broken relationships among the members. The author describes them as cracks that begin to show like “three fine meandering lines” (Pg.43). Cecilia cuts communication with her family members and distances herself despite wishing to comfort her sister (Pg. 44). Love is evident when the author describes how Robbie was overjoyed for his newfound love Cecilia and the exemptional academic results. McEwan describes the success of Robbie as other tributaries that swelled his happiness to show his thoughts and how Cecilia adds to his future (Pg.279). The tale Atonement engages the reader via the prism of first and third perspectives, making the theme of love easy to comprehend. When Cecilia reminisces about her children, chapter six uses paragraphs written in the third person.
The irony is widely used in the story to explore the theme of love among the characters. The most salient example is dialogues and direct speeches, including Cecilia’s arguments. When Briony visits her sister Cecilia to apologize for her sins, she states that what she did was terrible and expects no forgiveness, only for Cecilia to reply that she won’t forgive her (Pg.116). This response is ironic since both statements contradict each other, expressing her state of mind and allowing the reader to perceive the bitterness in Cecilia after her separation from Robbie. From this attitude towards Robbie, the audience can deduce that Cecilia prioritizes her love before the family’s affection. This contributes to readers’ understanding of Cecilia’s personal feelings and developing sympathy for the new lovers. The marriage of Lola and Paul is ironic, giving the audience glimpse of distorted love and highlighting the purity in Robbie and Cecilia’s love life.
In conclusion, McEwan successfully conveys the theme of love in Atonement. Symbolism and irony were used with substantial efficacy to develop the different versions of love in the novel. The book prompts the reader to consider their moral compass as they discover life’s journey through love. Different aspects of love, misspent, unavailable, and newfound, are deeply explored, revealing the theme in various stages. This thought is significant in demonstrating human emotions at the highest levels of passion. Through the novel, one can learn that love may heal, comfort, enrage and destroy simultaneously, as is the case between the family and the young couple. The concluding paragraph suspends the reader’s sense of disbelief, which alters the novel’s reception to allow one to reflect on the power of love.