Guilt/Atonement

Lizzie Glover
Mind Map by Lizzie Glover, updated more than 1 year ago
Lizzie Glover
Created by Lizzie Glover almost 6 years ago
106
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AS - Level English Literature (Atonement (crime)) Mind Map on Guilt/Atonement, created by Lizzie Glover on 01/11/2016.

Resource summary

Guilt/Atonement
  1. The entire plot of the novel centers on a woman who devotes her entire life repenting a crime she committed while still a young girl. But is Briony the only person who should feel guilty? Who else is at fault for the crime committed on that hot summer night in 1935?
    1. Paul Marshall does not own up to the crime, knowing he will get away with it due to his status and higher class. This is an element explored within the theme that the class warfare is also to blame as the family are all too ready to blame Robbie, who is of a lower class, than Paul Marshall.
      1. Mama T is all too willing to selfishly make things easier for herself by accepting Robbie as the culprit because it is less hassle for her to prove, given she is dealing with her own problems of her adulterous husband and poor health.
      2. The second layer to the guilt theme has to do with the history of literature. Aside from the crime she committed as a child, Briony feels guilty for her powers as a writer. She knows she has the autonomy to write whatever story she so chooses. Just like she could send Robbie to prison, she can make him survive the war. The reliance readers put in Briony to tell them "what really happened" leaves her feeling guilty about her life's work, and she projects that guilt onto the history of the English literature canon.
        1. Briony can "make a world...in as little as five pages."
          1. "The problem these fifty-nine years has been this: how can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God? There is no one, no entity or higher form that she can appeal to, or be reconciled with, or that can forgive her. There is nothing outside her. In her imagination she has set the limits and the terms."
          2. "How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime."
            1. An allegory to religion: the rosary is a string of beads used in both Catholicism and Islam. Religions in general use shame and guilt to oppress human desire, invoke fear, and maintain order. By comparing Briony's guilt to the beads on a rosary and a "loop" (a shape with no beginning or end), the author is able emphasize the eternity of Briony's guilt.
            2. Briony makes a big dramatic deal of feeling guilt, however, this is undermined by her numerous efforts to justify her behaviour subtly throughout the novel.
              1. In Robbie's account she has him imaging her "on the end of his bayonet" but going on to say he can't really blame her because she was in love with him and was only 13.
                1. Cecelia reinforces this through knowing that Briony was jealous of her and acted in such a way to try and compete with a sibling that was 10 years her senior, as seen in how Cecelia calls out Briony for being "a tiresome little prima donna" so knows she is an attention seeker.
              2. As a self punishment, Briony decides to give up all the luxuries of an upper-class life. No Cambridge, no fancy flat to live in, no traveling, no job at the ministry. Briony hopes that her duties as a nurse during the war will serve as some sort of penance towards her.
                1. "I get the impression she's taking on nursing as some sort of penance"
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