The Social Position of Women in Atonement - Free Essay Sample

Published: 2022-12-13
The Social Position of Women in Atonement - Free Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  English literature Gender in literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 916 words
8 min read


The novel presents a narration which revolves around the activities of Bryony, who is the main character in the story. Most of her behaviors lead to negative results in which she involves and as a result, her relationships with most of her close associates worsen, mostly the family members. There is, therefore, the need to restore the initial condition, and which introduces the aspect of the atonement. Cecilia Tallis, besides her younger sister Bryony, grows to a mature woman plays the major role of atonement. Cecilia; however, did not mess like her sister but would immediately realize the need to in intervening to situations which would hurt others. Although Bryony feels for her evil deeds, in the end, the problems already caused are so much that a reconciling exercise is the need to restore the situation. "The new woman" is a character seen in Bryony when the truth dawns on her make significant steps to involve her sister in accomplishing the mission of atonement. The efforts of the Bryony to accomplish the common goal of atonement reveal the position of women in the same, which manifests as a result. Women have the ability to fix broken relationships in the social context even if the situation seems impossible to restore.

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Bryony demonstrated her willingness to restore her relationship with Cecilia and her lover after having contributed to their separation. Bryony played a malicious role in the separation between her sister and Robbie Turner when she accused him of raping Lola. Bryony being loved by almost all the members of the family, everybody except Cecilia believed her claims and felt convinced that Turner committed the crime. Bryony, for a long time, could not see the sense in regarding the level of harm she could have caused to the two. According to McEwan (2003); however, she argues that working towards her relationship with the two is a great aspect of atonement and not a weakness as she must have believed before; "I like to think that it isn't a weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers live and unite them at the end" (p. 351). Duffus (2017) realized that towards the end of the novel, she is featured to be a changed woman who realizes her mistake asks for forgiveness. She strives to ensure that the two finally relate to each other as lovers and stay together for ages. This had a great role to contribute to the occurrence of atonement.

Bryony changed from her initially spoiled character of alienation from the family to a good woman is willing to look for the siblings and ask for forgiveness. Bryony's evil deeds were the force behind Cecilia's exile to London following the imprisonment of Turner. Bryony never bothered to look for her sister and know her whereabouts and how she was faring on. McEwan (2003) observed that she was neither interested in staying connected with other family members at home and nobody knew that the whole story was just as a result of her antisocial behavior; "She was the one who had cut herself off from home" (p. 263). However, surprisingly, Bryony is a changed girl who expresses her willingness to be practically part of her family. The most significant part of this move was demonstrated when she writes to show the family that she realizes her mistake and let them knows of her intention to reconcile with everyone including Cecilia who also broke with the family (Duffus, 2017). Even though Cecilia was hesitant towards accepting her request for reconciliation, her effort was so significant that everyone realized that she was willing to make them happy again after a long time of unstable social relationships. The family members are finally in good terms only after Bryony stands out to fix the social problems.

Bryony seeks nursing as a way of justifying that she needs the family members to forgive her. She initially abandoned her education at the university which was quite against the expectations of the siblings. She later chooses to pursue Nursing as a way of punishing herself to reveal her repentance to the family members. "The first surprise is that Briony isn't at Cambridge. She didn't go up last autumn, she didn't take her place/ But I get the impression she's taken on nursing as a sort of penance" (McEwan, 2003:199). She, therefore, does this as she seeks redemption for herself and forgiveness for the continuity of social existence in the family.


Atonement is a novel which portrays women like those who have the capability of fixing situations that were initially corrupted. The whole context of atonement does not feature any man playing a role; women have set to establish and oversee atonement. Atonement in this context is a concept which refers to restoring the broken relationships in the society and trying to effect forgiveness in the course. The change in Bryony helps in restoring her relationship with the family after having annoyed them with malicious plans. She succeeds in her pans to bring back the relationship after persuading them. It, therefore, follows that women have the ability to fix broken relationships in social context even if the situation seems impossible to restore.


Duffus, M. (2017). In Search of the "Telling Detail": Ian McEwan, Briony Tallis, and the Demands of Authorship. A Journal Of Interdisciplinary Studies And Thought, 6(1). Retrieved from

McEwan, I. (2003). Atonement (1st ed., pp. 199-359). New York: Anchor Books.

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