Presentation on theme: "AtonementLife of Pi Atonement and Life of Pi: narrating the Other to renovate the self The Shared Study of Paired Texts."— Presentation transcript:
AtonementLife of Pi Atonement and Life of Pi: narrating the Other to renovate the self The Shared Study of Paired Texts
What does the pairing of these texts reveal? Both: emphasise the tension between different versions of the truth and ask the audience to choose trade heavily upon the emotional engagement enacted upon the audience by the brilliant use of prolepsis (narrative leaps in time) are narrated by ‘survivors’ of families which have fallen apart narrators are caught in the opposing discourses voiced by their parents narrators carry guilt but with quite different dynamics
What does the pairing of these texts reveal? In assessing Briony Tallis’ fictional atonement, Brian Finney concludes that “the attempt to imagine the feelings of others is perhaps the one corrective that we can make in the face of continuing human suffering”. Considered in this light, Pi’s story of Richard Parker is his fictive attempt to reimagine his own darkest feelings by projecting them onto the animal ‘other’, against which in childhood he had been taught to measure his own humanity.
A KEY FEATURE OF THE PAIRED TEXTS STUDY: how effectively does the student compare and contrast texts to evaluate the role of sociocultural and situational contexts? sociocultural situational The sociocultural context of Atonement would account for the influence of the British class system and literary tradition on Ian McEwan’s writing of the novel, whose publication at the end of the millennium anticipated a situational context of intense historical reflection.
A KEY FEATURE OF THE PAIRED TEXTS STUDY: how effectively does the student compare and contrast texts to evaluate the role of sociocultural and situational contexts? situational sociocultural The situational context of Life of Pi would account for its success as the adaptation of an ‘un-filmable’ novel through the cinematic magic of 3D digital technology, while the sociocultural context of its narrative spoke to a desire for religious pluralism and environmental awareness.
Atonement homework! Before Thursday, re-read chapters 2 & 3 (24p.), noting any connections between them & to the rest of the novel
What does the pairing of these texts reveal? The pairing of Atonement with Life of Pi enables us to focus on the themes of guilt and redemption, conflict, coming of age,love, the power of storytelling and the resilience of the human spirit.
The options for establishing links between these paired texts could be: common themes, ideas, or topics narrative truth, guilt, redemption, love, etc. historical or literary periods both early 21 st C. post-modern texts – one inter-textual in literary approach, the other magic-realist using different cultural settings of a nostalgic 20 th C. Britain and a pan-pacific diaspora
The options for establishing a link between these paired texts could be: the same genre or different genres bildungsroman family saga vs. lone survival tale historical romance vs. post-colonial fable social realist novel vs. magic realist film similar or contrasting cultural perspectives English vs. Chinese-American authors European vs. global (multi-cultural Canadian) contexts
At some moments chilling, at others desperately sad, the play told a tale of the heart whose message, conveyed in a rhyming prologue, was that love which did not build a foundation on good sense was doomed. Ian McEwan, Atonement
’Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? …what ideas have you been admitting?’ Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Atonement: the expiation of a fearful symmetry “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 nothing outside her. In her imagination she has set the limits and the terms. No atonement for God, or novelists, even if they are atheists. It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point. The attempt was all.” London, 1999; p. 371 Literary models Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen, 1817); Clarissa (Samuel Richardson, 1748); What Maisie Knew (Henry James, 1897); The Go-Between (L. P. Hartley, 1953); The French Lieutenant’s Woman (John Fowles, 1969) Literary allusions Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare, 1601); Lady Chatterley's Lover (D. H. Lawrence, 1928); “In Memory of W. B. Yeats“ (W. H. Auden, 1940)
Life of Pi allegorises the interplay between reason and faith, which do not necessarily contradict each other, but are, like yin and yang forever swirling around each other, complementary.
Tsimtsum The concept of Tsimtsum is a 16 th century kabbalistic explanation of how God, if infinite and omnipresent, could form a material, physical world separate from himself. If God is everywhere and in everything, how could he create a place where he was not? How could God create a world infused with evil? The kabbalist rabbi Isaac Luria first posited that God vacated a region within himself in order to create the world. Through this act of “shrinking,” “withdrawal,” or “contraction” (the literal meaning of the Hebrew word tsimstum), God brought into being a vacuum in which to create something other than Himself. He could then fill this vacuum or empty space by the simultaneous process of self-revelation and creation. In short, the first act of creation was, according to Luria, a self imposed exile of God from part of Himself. God had descended more deeply into his own being and put a limit upon Himself.
Richard Parker Edgar Allan Poe's uncompleted adventure novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1837) is the story of four shipwrecked sailors who find themselves facing starvation in a small lifeboat. The four draw lots to see who will be sacrificed and cannibalized by the other three. In this fictional account, a man named Richard Parker draws the short stick and is promptly stabbed and eaten by the surviving trio. Edgar Allan Poe's uncompleted adventure novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1837) is the story of four shipwrecked sailors who find themselves facing starvation in a small lifeboat. The four draw lots to see who will be sacrificed and cannibalized by the other three. In this fictional account, a man named Richard Parker draws the short stick and is promptly stabbed and eaten by the surviving trio. Ironically, in 1884 four survivors of a factual shipwreck stood trial for the murder of their ship's cabin boy, Richard Parker, who was killed and eaten in a true to life version of Poe's story. This real life event occurred some 47 years after Poe wrote his adventure novel. Ironically, in 1884 four survivors of a factual shipwreck stood trial for the murder of their ship's cabin boy, Richard Parker, who was killed and eaten in a true to life version of Poe's story. This real life event occurred some 47 years after Poe wrote his adventure novel. Martel might be also making reference to a third allusion with his use of the name Richard Parker. Clifford Richard Parker, 28, was a clerk from Guernsey who was aboard the Titanic as a second class passenger. He was lost at sea and his body was never identified. Martel might be also making reference to a third allusion with his use of the name Richard Parker. Clifford Richard Parker, 28, was a clerk from Guernsey who was aboard the Titanic as a second class passenger. He was lost at sea and his body was never identified.
Life of Pi: an existentialist allegory of faith reconciled Pi is an existentialist because at all times he adheres to Sartre’s definitive, existentialist proposition: “existence precedes essence”. Pi suffers his existential circumstance, his shipwreck, then, after, and only after this circumstance, he wills his own essence, after he chooses to live and not to die — for it is a tenet of existentialism that one has to confront absurdity to transcend it From the blog posting “Life of Pi: Pi the Existentialist” by sincerefool
Life of Pi: an existentialist allegory of faith reconciled Pi’s essence, his way of adding meaning to his life, is to tell the good story – the truth falls by the wayside, as does religion, as does God, as does Richard Parker when he doesn’t turn around to meet Pi’s gaze, the animal’s story coming to an end, the animal losing its essence-tial function. Pi constructs his essence, in response to his unreasonable existence, in the very trade which Yann Martel practises: not only is Piscine Molitor Patel an existentialist, but quite possibly his talented creator is too. From the blog posting “Life of Pi: Pi the Existentialist” by sincerefool
Components of the self The characters in The Life of Pi – like in any dream, since film is essentially collective dreaming – are all actually components of the self. At a higher level, the Tiger is Pi’s primal self, the orang-utan represents universal love – as demonstrated by a protective mother, the brutal hyena is the malevolent cook who is the shadow, and the timid zebra is a young sailor with a broken leg, which represents the innocence of youth and the first to die. All are essential for becoming who we are. From “Meaning, Faith and the Life of Pi” by Moses Ma in The Tao of Innovation, published on November 26, MaThe Tao of Innovationhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-tao-innovation
Pi’s thirst Richard Parker’s real name – lost due to a clerical error – is “Thirsty”, and where else, beside lost in a life raft in the middle of the ocean, can you be surrounded by water and still die of thirst? In the same way, God is actually all around us, and still, so many of us are unable to receive the manna of heaven. In Hindu culture, water symbolizes the 'ocean of life,' with all living creatures existing as one contiguous body. The sea torments Pi with waves, threatens him with sharks, and even robs him of his family. At the same time, the sea also gives him life. It rains flying fish upon him, it grows a magical garden of algae, and in the end, bestows the gift of wisdom. Even Pi’s proper name, Piscine, is after a swimming pool - an object built to hold water, the water of spirit and God. From “Meaning, Faith and the Life of Pi” by Moses Ma in The Tao of Innovation, published on November 26, MaThe Tao of Innovationhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-tao-innovation
The raft of faith the raft… is something that [Pi] has to construct by himself, in order to be effective. The through line – i.e. the spine of this remarkable tale – is that it is his raft that never forsakes him. More than any other part of the tale, it is the invisible force that finally brings him to safety and the force that transforms him into the individual he finally becomes. Our challenges are what help to define us; what guides us to becoming more. What greater challenge can there be than trapped with a ferocious tiger? More so, if that tiger is your own fear, anxiety, depression, desolation, and despair. It is our faith that helps us cross the cruel and endless sea. From “Meaning, Faith and the Life of Pi” by Moses Ma in The Tao of Innovation, published on November 26, MaThe Tao of Innovationhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-tao-innovation
Credulity Martel proves, by skilful example, that realism is narrative’s great master, that it schools even its own truants. He reminds us in fact that realism is already magical, an artifice-in-waiting. It is fine to tell contemporary readers that their God is or should really be Story; most of them think that anyway. But who is Pi’s God? That is the deeper, and unanswered question. After all, it is by experiencing Pi’s credulity that our own credulity might have been not only seduced but engaged and challenged. I fear that Yann Martel has only seduced ours and then in effect congratulated himself for doing it so vividly. From James Wood’s review of the novel in London Review of Books Vol. 24 No. 22 · 14 November 2002; pages 24-25
anachrony [an-ak-rôni] A term used in modern narratology to denote a discrepancy between the order in which events of the story occur and the order in which they are presented to us in the plot. Anachronies take two basic forms: ’flashback’ or analepsis and ’flashforward’ or prolepsis.roflcopter lololol Atonement uses a combination of both methods: notably on p.40, when the narration moves forwards (prolepsis) from Briony’s apparent 1930’s present to the recollections of her adult self as a writer in the 1990’s; and on p.229, when the narration moves backwards (analepsis) from Robbie's June 1940 present to a flashback of June 1932
Adjective: anachronic Life of Pi uses an anachronic narrative in the more conventional sense of a ’framing device’ – the Canadian context of the adult Pi recounting his tale to a writer. The opening titles sequence of the Pondicherry zoo reveals itself through the VO to be a flashback (or analepsis) from the present to Pi’s birth, with which he is (chronologically) beginning his life’s story, and the film soon establishes a narrative pattern of movement between 1990’s Montreal and 1960’s India.
focalisation The term used in modern narratology for ’point of view’; that is, for the kind of perspective from which the events of a story are witnessed. Events observed by a traditional omniscient narrator are said to be non-focalised, whereas events witnessed within the story’s world from the constrained perspective of a single character are ’internally focalised’.
focalisation The nature of a given narrative’s focalisation is to be distinguished from its narrative ’voice’, as seeing is from speaking. The events of Atonement are ’internally focalised’ in incredibly subtle ways through the many narrative voices of its characters, particularly Briony, Robbie and Cecilia.
Paired narrative techniques McEwan’s use of focalisation complicates the authorial partiality of a Jane Austen novel, when the ’omniscient narrator’ of the older Briony-as-author, compromised by her need for atonement, can no longer be seen as non- focalised.
Paired narrative techniques While the majority of Lee’s film is told from Pi’s point of view, the focalisation in Atonement has a subtle but significant equivalent in Life of Pi when the relationship at sea with Richard Parker incorporates the tiger’s perspective.
Paired narrative techniques McEwan employs this particular ’modal determination’ for two reasons: to distinguish his narrative from the classic realist novel’s association with an omniscient narrator (Briony’s lie came from positioning herself as such a narrator in her fictionalized scenario of events) to demonstrate Briony’s, the adult narrator’s, attempt to project herself into the thoughts and feelings of her characters, an act crucial to her search for forgiveness.
Metafiction: self-reflexive texts Fiction about fiction; or more especially a kind of fiction that openly comments on its own fictional status. Atonement draws attention to its own construction as a fictional narrative because such an awareness is crucial to its ’truths’ about the human condition.
Metafiction in Atonement Part Three (p.312): Cyril Connolly’s letter is an odd interpolation in the narrative – the first time the novel turns on itself, creating a sense of dislocation that makes us pause to reflect on the process of writing and the whole artificial construct: a product of drafting and redrafting, criticism and adaptation. His recommendation for an ‘underlying pull of simple narrative’ is already there in the vase episode, because Briony’s observation of it does now lead somewhere.
Paired narrative scenes #1 Atonement Part One Ch.7 (p.72-77): ‘The island temple…’ to ‘… until events, real events, not her own fantasies, rose to her challenge, and dispelled her insignificance.’ Life of Pi DVD chapters 4 – 6 (0 h 14 m 20 s to 0 h 25 m 10 s ): From Pi’s account of how he found Christ at age 12, to the after- effects of his father’s cruel lesson in a tiger’s true nature with Richard Parker.
Paired narrative scenes #1 Atonement Part One (Ch.7, p.72-77): McEwan sets the scene for Briony’s first shocking discovery (Robbie’s explicit love letter to Cecilia) of an adult world of experience for which she has been yearning by placing her symbolically on a bridge, between the corrupted past glory of a faux landed gentry, epitomized by the temple folly, and her family home. “Flaying the nettles was becoming a self-purification, and it was childhood she set about now, having no further need for it.”
Paired narrative scenes #1 Life of Pi DVD chapters 4 – 6 (0 h 14 m 20 s to 0 h 25 m 10 s ): Pi’s childhood imagination embraces the wonder and hope of the great faiths, incorporating the monotheisms of Christianity and Islam into the pantheism of the Hindu faith. But his father’s rationalist scepticism destroys Pi’s innocence with a lesson in experience of nature’s raw instinctual cruelty. “Faith is a house with may rooms … [but] doubt is useful. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it’s been tested.”
Paired narrative scenes #2 Atonement Part I, Ch.14 (p. 176 – 187): ‘Word came down that Lola, sedated by the doctor, was at last asleep…’ to ‘…and finally vanished into the whiteness.’ Life of Pi DVD chapters 13 – 17 (0 h 54 m 57 s to 1 h 10 m 32 s ): From Pi’s SOS in a can, through consulting the Survival at Sea handbook to the Blue Whale upsetting his raft full of the lifeboat’s provisions.
Paired narrative scenes #2 Atonement Part I, Ch.14 (p. 173 – 187): Briony’s key role in the tragedy of Robbie’s arrest is ironically played out from her naïve perspective, believing in “a joyful feeling of blameless self-love” that everything she does is directed at saving her sister Cecilia. The blank whiteness that ends the chapter and part one of the novel becomes the task of her adult life: to fill it with a truer story atoning for the lies she ingenuously committed here. “Cecilia remained where she was, facing down the drive, tranquilly watching the car as it receded, but the tremors along the line of her shoulders confided she was crying, and Briony knew she had never loved her sister more than now.”
Paired narrative scenes #2 Life of Pi DVD chapters 13 – 17 (0 h 54 m 57 s to 1 h 10 m 32 s ): Pi’s first rational attempts at survival on the open ocean with a Bengal tiger are thwarted in increasingly derisory ways, from the pathetic message-in-a-bottle, through Richard Parker’s urination on his circus act to the blue whale’s sublime destruction of his life raft. In the process, Pi commits his first act of murderous violence for which he seeks to atone with prayer. “Thank you Lord Vishnu. Thank you for coming in the form of a fish to save our lives…”
Paired narrative scenes #3 Atonement Part II (p.226 – 234): ‘The road no longer had the protection of the plane trees’ to ‘That was the lasting damage.’ Life of Pi DVD chapters 19 – 21 (1 h 17 m 25 s to 1 h 22 m 55 s ): From Pi’s acknowledgement that Richard Parker gives his life purpose to his hallucination of the Tsimtsum on the ocean floor.
Paired narrative scenes #3 Atonement Part II (p.226 – 234):. “.”
Paired narrative scenes #3 Life of Pi DVD chapters 19 – 21 (1 h 17 m 25 s to 1 h 22 m 55 s ): Hope; reflecting on events; ‘words are all I have to hold onto”; writing as a means of survival. “”
Paired narrative scenes #4 Atonement London, 1999 (p ): ‘Now it is five in the morning…’ to ‘But now I must sleep.’ Life of Pi DVD chapters 26 – 27 (1 h 45 m 15 s to 1 h 55 m 10 s ): The closing scenes of Pi telling the writer his alternative account of surviving at sea that he gave the Japanese insurance investigators in Mexico.
Paired narrative scenes #4 Atonement London, 1999 (p ): Being god brings no atonement. “No atonement for God, or novelists, even if they are atheists. It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point. The attempt was all.”
Paired narrative scenes #4 Life of Pi DVD chapters 26 – 27 (1 h 45 m 15 s to 1 h 55 m 10 s ):. “The one with the tiger, that’s the better story” … “And so it goes with God.”
“Grounds“ for comparison… What you notice in the Atonement passage What you notice in Life of Pi passage What does the comparison reveal? Narrative POV Revelations Tone Stylistic features Narrative context where does it appear in the plot &/or narrative structure? References to other works, ideas or images literary; political; artistic Worksheet for Comparative Analysis of Paired Texts
Against Oblivion No late twentieth century text can subscribe to the simplified wish fulfilments of classic realist fiction. ’The development of nuclear weapons,’ McEwan has said, ’shows the dissociation of science from feelings,’ of outer and inner worlds we inhabit. Interview with John Haffenden (1985), quoted in Brian Finney’s essay “Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement“ (2002)
Against Oblivion – Atonement World War Two, that introduced the world to mass ethnic cleansing, the Cold War and the permanent threat of nuclear deterrence, appears to have brought forth mainly aesthetic structures that reflect the complexity and horror of life in the second half of that century. It is a time in history when the Marshalls, who, equally guilty, lack Briony’s conscience, use the War to make their fortune and are then treated as public benefactors. Compared to Briony, they “have no remorse, no need for atonement“ (McEwan, 2002 interview). Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Against Oblivion – Atonement Atonement ends not just with the revelation of the deaths of Robbie and Cecilia, but with the diagnosis of Briony’s vascular dementia and her refusal to have the lovers forgive her even in her fictional account of their survival - proof that in her literary act of atonement Briony has finally learned how to imagine herself into the feelings of others. Responding to the criticism that his endings are too pessimistic, McEwan has said, “I never did trust those novels where, for all their dark insights, or that they ended in a funeral, there was always someone walking away and bending to pick up a flower“ (2001 interview). Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Yet, as McEwan admits, Part Three “has about it both an act of cowardice [...] but also it’s her stand against oblivion she’s seventy seven years old, her tide is running out very fast [...] She does not have the courage of her pessimism. [...] She knows that when this novel is finally published [...] she herself will only become a character“ (McEwan, Silverblatt). Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Is Briony’s work of fiction an evasion or an act of atonement or both? What exactly does she mean when she says that atonement “was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point” (351)? Is she implicitly recognizing the contradiction at the heart of her narrative – the impossibility of avoiding constructing false fictions around others at the same time as one is required to enter imaginatively into their lives? Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Or is McEwan suggesting that the attempt is all we can ask for, an attempt that is bound to fail, but that can come closer to or stray further from the reality of others? Robbie’s and Cecilia’s happiness cannot be restored to them by an act of corrective fiction. Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Nevertheless the attempt to imagine the feelings of others is perhaps the one corrective that we can make in the face of continuing human suffering. The novel ends on a note of ambiguity. Yet an appreciation of ambiguity is just what would have prevented Briony from indicting Robbie in her first fictionalized narration of these events. Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
What is really wrong with the classic realist novel? In classic realist fiction the events seem to narrate themselves, thus removing any sense of the literary work as a product of a controlling voice. Discourse – language that draws attention to its production – assumes a speaker and a hearer, thus opening itself to resistance, dispute, critical questioning.
What is really wrong with the classic realist novel? From his earliest collections of short stories Ian McEwan has consistently drawn attention to the status of his fiction as discourse by alluding to or parodying traditional literary genres, thereby forcing the reader to take note of the presence of a self conscious narrator. Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel McEwan consciously modelled Atonement on the work of “Elizabeth Bowen of The Heat of the Day, with a dash of Rosamund Lehmann of Dusty Answer, and, in [Briony’s] first attempts, a sprinkling of Virginia Woolf” (McEwan, Begley 56). At least one reviewer has seen a parallel between Atonement and Bowen’s The Last September (1929) “with its restive teenage girl in the big house” (Lee 16). Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel Elizabeth Bowen also directly influences the form the final novel takes. After reading Briony’s first neo-modernist attempt to give fictional shape to the events of 1935 submitted to Cyril Connolly at Horizon, Bowen reacts by first thinking the prose “ ‘too full, too cloying,’” but with “‘redeeming shades of Dusty Answer’” (Rosamund Lehmann’s first novel of 1927 about a young girl’s growing up). Cyril Connolly voices Bowen’s final criticism of the modernist obsession with consciousness at the expense of plot by reminding Briony that even her most sophisticated readers “retain a childlike desire to be told a story” (296). Briony’s rewritten Part One owes its mounting tension to Bowen’s criticism passed on to Cyril Connolly and the example offered by Bowen’s earlier novel. Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel The numerous allusions to other texts warn the reader not to treat Atonement as a classic realist text. … Atonement offers particularly clear instances of … the different ways in which a text, in relating to other texts, becomes productive of further meanings, ways such as rereading and displacement. McEwan’s novel is most obviously a rereading of the classic realist novel of the nineteenth century, just as it is a displacement of the modernist novel, particularly as instanced in the fiction of Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence. Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel: Clarissa Atonement makes an ironic literary allusion to the early English epistolary novel Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson. Arabella, the melodramatic heroine of the thirteen-year-old Briony’s playlet, shares Clarissa’s sister’s name and thereby places “The Trials of Arabella“ within a literary tradition of sentimentality and sensationalism, while inevitably lacking the psychological complexity of the original. Cecilia is spending the vacation after graduating at Cambridge by reading Clarissa, which Robbie considers psychologically subtle and she boring. Their disagreement over this text helps determine the reader’s response to the rape which takes place later the same day and which is sprung on the reader with none of the lengthy preparation that Richardson provides. Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Intertextuality as antidote to the classic realist novel: Clarissa This example appears to incorporate the two kinds of intertextual productivity – rereading and displacement. Seen in the perspective of the novel as a whole, Lola’s rape, unlike that of Clarissa, which leads to her death and Lovelace’s damnation, is the prelude to a long and socially successful marriage cemented by Lola’s and Marshall’s determination to keep the identity of the rapist a secret while either of them is alive. Lola’s worldly manipulation of the advantage the rape has given her over her rapist acts as a form of social intertextuality, anticipating the laxer sexual morality of the later twentieth century. An additional effect that such ironic references to other literary texts have in McEwan’s novel is to act as a continuous reminder that the entire book is the final literary artifact of Briony, a professional author. Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Paired narrative motifs Alongside the metafiction of his intertextuality, McEwan also draws attention to the constructed nature of his narrative by employing parallel or symmetrical motifs: Marshall’s rape of Lola takes place by the eighteenth century, crumbling, stuccoed Greek temple in the Tallis grounds with its ’row of pillars and the pediment above them’ (68). The wedding of Marshall and Lola turns out to be at a London church that looks ’like a Greek temple,’ especially its ’low portico with white columns beneath a clock tower of harmonious proportions’ (304). Separated by five years, the rape and marriage are brought into shocking juxtaposition by purely narrative means. The last occasion on which Briony encounters the Marshalls at the end of the book takes place outside the Imperial War Museum which echoes the other two buildings in being based on Greek temple design and featuring columns and a portico. Behind the neo-classical facades that come to represent the ’mausoleum of their marriage’ (307) lurk respectively ruin, a joint lie, and the destructive memories of a war from which Marshall made his fortune. [NB: Blake’s ’marriage hearse’] Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Brian Finney (2002)
Chiswick House and Gardens motifs Paired architectural motifs McEwan uses very particular references to architectural & landscape design in his characterisation of the Tallis family estate as a setting for the novel (p.18 & pp ). In her blog, architectural writer Elizabeth Hornbeck comments that McEwan’s elaborate description of the island temple advances his work by: 1. describing the scene where the novel’s central crime(s) will take place on the night the twins run away and managing in passing to associate it with delinquent behavior; 2. using architectural history to position the Tallis family within the landed aristocracy, the 18 th century patrons for these Adam style houses (though only one half of the family is aristocratic; the other belongs to the nouveau riche, descended from a grandfather “who made the family fortune with a series of patents on padlocks, bolts, latches and hasps“ – a subtle gesture towards Briony’s fallible desire for secrets and obsessive tidiness; 3. creating a metaphor for the Tallis family’s descent, being a time-honored theme in British literature: the degeneracy of Britain’s aristocracy; 4. alluding to the situation of the children in the novel, who suffer because of the adults’ neglect, much like this temple has been abandoned by its parent, the vanished Adam house. Stationary Nomad: Journeys in Visual Culture, Elizabeth Hornbeck (2002)