Free Essay Sample on Guilt and Innocence in Atonement

Published: 2022-12-13
Free Essay Sample on Guilt and Innocence in Atonement
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  English literature Literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 908 words
8 min read


Upon realizing the damage that her heartless testimony has produced, Briony devotes his lifetime troubled by her guilt and attempting to expiate for her misdemeanors. Rather than enrolling in university, she turn out to be a nurse, possibly sensing a calling to assist soldiers like Robbie. Her worries regarding whether Robbie would be injured while on duty is endless, aware that any damage he undergoes would be in somewhat her fault. Besides, she is troubled by the pain she has made her sister undergo by vilifying her much-loved and causing the separation of the two. But what was guilt in these days? This essay will analyze guilt and innocence in Atonement. The essay will look at the issues that have been portrayed as having caused guilt and loss of innocence to the characters.

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McEwan portrays guilt as a powerful and universal human sentiment and hence it is worth noting that the wartime experience that Robbie was subjected to compelled him to sacrifice guilt feelings for self-protection. In this manner, the author has shown that Robbie has been dehumanized as a result of childish misdeeds of Briony. Since Robbie's own destiny has been based mostly on factors beyond his control, a part of his ability for guilt appears to have been relocated to the individual who occasioned his adversities: Briony (McEwan & Messud, Atonement, 2017). Likewise, Lola actually marries her rapist Paul Marshal at the end, and the consequences are that in taking that decision these two characters are both capable of hiding or escaping their guilt in exchange for having Lola, a divorcee's daughter wealthy by marrying her.

It was not only scheming and wickedness that resulted to unhappiness to the people, but it was also misunderstanding and confusion, and above all, it was the inability to hold the simple truth that other people as equally as real as you. That it is only in the narrative that you could enter these different minds and demonstrate how they have an equivalent value. (Part 1, Chapter 3).

As the character of Atonement develops through the course of the novel and are trained to the miseries of the adult world, they develop increasingly less innocent. The general loss of innocence is mainly catalyzed by the false testimony of Briony and Lola's rape (McEwan & Messud, Atonement, 2017). Briony, a 13-year old innocently believes that she understands virtue and love and can perfectly interpret her surroundings. However, her inaccurate interpretations have ruinous consequences.

The false testimony of Briony against Robbie is innocent in the sense that she is totally unable to completely understand the damage it will cause, but after maligning him, she is deeply changed. She will never be able to reclaim the naive perception she held as the start of the play. As her innocence is shaken by additional experience to an intolerant world, mainly her experience nursing wounded soldiers back to health, she grows less and less assured in her own perception and more open in understanding the opinion of others.

Lola innocence is also lost when she is rapped by Paul. This incidence does not only leave her traumatically presented to an unsafe, violent world, consequently she lets herself to become complicit in Briony's lie. This collusion compounds itself more when Lola decides to marry her rapist, Paul. From this point, she must take into consideration her ill-treatment from a coldly rational perspective; to let the truth to the surface would be akin to undermining her husband, and her own social class which she attained through the marriage. In this manner, Lola's rape hastens far-reaching emotional changes that make it difficult for her to regain the youthful perception she held previously.

Cecilia and Robbie are the two people that are mostly directly affected by Briony's false testimony. These two people also end up losing their innocence as a result. Robbie, a promising medical student is forced by the prison time and wartime to dedicate his effort and attention on his personal survival. As opposed to nurturing his intellect and learning to treat wounded people, he has to ignore other sufferings so as to make sure his escape from France is safe. In few hour time, the testimony of Briony changes Cecilia's naive fascination with Robbie into bitter umbrage of her own family (Novel, Atonement: , 2001). Most notably, upon losing this innocence, it can never be replaced. Briony is unable to change his transgressions with her writing, nor can't she lawfully vindicate Robbie by reviewing her testimony.

It would have fitted Cecilia better if Briony cried and permitted herself to be consoled on the silk chaise longue in the drawing room. That kind of comforting and stroking murmurs would act as a release for Cecilia, addressing the problems of Briony with kind words and strokes would have returned a sense of control. Nevertheless, there was an aspect of the unhappiness of the younger girl (Part 1, chapter 4).


In conclusion, the essay has clearly explored and analyzed guilt and innocence in those days. In particular, the essay has discussed incidences that Cecilia and Robbie end up losing their innocence as a result of Briony's false testimony (McEwan & Messud, Atonement, 2017). On the hand, upon realizing the damage that her heartless testimony has produced, Briony devotes his lifetime troubled by her guilt and attempting to expiate for her misdemeanors.


McEwan, I. (2001). Novel, Atonement: . New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday.

McEwan, I., & Messud, C. (2017). Atonement. London : Everyman's Library ; New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.

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