Atonement Analysis by Mahir BARUT




The Atonement starts  -in tune with its original book-  with the completion of “The trials of Arabella”, Briony’s first play. In the immidiate opening, this play gives us a significant hint about the beliefs and attitudes of the narrator in a form of brief critique. In this first part of the Atonement, our narrator is the hetero diegetic narrator and point of view is the 3rd. Person and Godlike omniscient narrator however this will not a permanent posturing throughout both movie and novel. At the same manner the movie also keeps the same perspective  without changing the point of view. As I mentioned above, The Trials of Arabella plays a key role as it opens a gate from the Auto diegetic narrator to the hetero diegetic narrator. This happens via the voice of the narrator and meanwhile we are becoming inadvertantly secondary readers or we can call it “side reader” but it is too early for any acknowledgement of this hidden frame. But this critique , at first reading, if you have not watched the movie yet may have been misinterpreted trough the first part of the novel. Our hetero diegetic narrator is presumablely absent from the narration but there is an obivous inteference in the psychological implications of the failure in Briony’s tentative attempt to act out her first play.

   In the movie, this is presented to the audience by means of the voice of the typewriter in accordance with particular moments of tension. But the scene in which Robbie typed a pathetic excuse for Cecilia, with a cunning addition  what Director of the movie ,Joe Wright skillfully added in, disperses the focus on Briony’s writing and helps the conjuncture of the story with springing out a suprise for the audience at the last part of the movie in a way which will be congruent with the original book. It is for this reason in the movie to comprehend this fact- the connection and the gate between the two different narrator- is really hard. But in the novel, we are facing with deep insights which directly implies a strong emotional turmoil in a non-specific point that is reflected from a remote future with the sudden state of impulses to interfere with the internal feelings and motives of the characters by adding strong arguments upon realism which seems to be irrelevant to the simplicities of most scenes. For example this paragraphe cited from Part-1, chapter three is a perfect testimonial to the fact how a hidden auto diegetic narrator interferes in the narrtation of an hetero diegetic narrator


               “ A story was direct and simple, allowing nothing come between herself and her reader – no intermediaries with their private ambitions or incompetence, no pressure of time, no limits on resources. In a story you only had to wish, you only had to write it down and you could have the world;…”  

         Needless to say, of course this is not a premature confession of a regretable mistake or a preposterous attribute because she is solely the narrator of her own world in her own book, and it is not… because she is herself also in the third part who will join to the narration and identifies herself as a narrator and writer. Thus as a natural consequence we are also losing our narrative voice as our story teller voice suddenly metamorphoses into a protoganist who tells the story from a first person point of view. Therefore these inteferences are not premature but are utulized to form the groundwork for a logical transition but also they have a more remarkable functions in rationalization and jutstification of her mistakes and ignorance before making amends in front of the audiences. All these answers can be shown with the realms of the possibility. Now lets turn back to Arabella’s story the movie, the scenes in relation to the play  Arabella omit some vital fragments which will show the audiences the strong aspirational perspectives at the frontiers of imagination what a little girl put into action with play in which she aspires to participate  both an author and actress in a uncompromising manner. But when the book was reread after watching the movie and witnesses all climaxical moments, each disriminating reading easliy makes the reader got a gripped  on an exquisite retrospetic rework on her advent of writing talents by means of The Trials of Arabella.

“ the whole thing’s a mistake. It’s the wrong…”   “ Its the wrong genre! ” 

She is sulking and Cecilia seems pretty indiferent and busy with her own affair.  If she is able to externilize so emphatically there must be really something amiss with the play or writerness. And if so what may infuriate her to the point of making her a malicious, undesirable and unwelcomed girl?


She is desribing the play as her first excursion into drama what was written for Leon’s homecoming. Of course first of all we have to grasp the story of the real “Arabella” which is a lyric comedy in 3 acts and was first performed on 1 July 1933. We can easily deduce that in her play there are plagiarisms in light of many such as this fragment below cited from part 1, chapter one

    “at the age of eleven she wrote her first story- a foolish affair, imitative of half a dozen folktales and lacking, she realized later,…”

      But the gravity of the problem is not confined into this specimen of facsimile. We do not have a complete text of her play but we have a chance to take the “Arabella” as a point of departure to clarify the alterations and implications of these changes on her authorship career. Arabella also fits to the plot with its timing of  first performing – 11 july 1933- which coincides with a time unsprisingly –stupendously–  in which Briony finishes The Trials of Arabella” two years later.. deceptions, misunderstandings, marriage affairs.


The most stark evidence  which establishes a link between Arabella and Briony is presented with the three playlets in part 1, chapter one;   In first, he, Leon, prince suffers  in grief as Arabella sank in lounliness and despair. In second, he is boasting of his younger sister, “Briony Tallis the writer, you must surely have heard of her.” In a third she dreams that he punches the air in exultation as the final curtain fell. She should and has to be Arabella because; she was an incurable conrol and harmonious freak. In her room, for example animals on the window ledge, all of them was angled to face their owner and even hens were delicately enclosed. Another detail she has a notebook written in a special code which is invented by herself although she has nothing to keep it secret and and she has no one to learn about it. When Lola asked her about her role, she can not resist Lola’s implicit demand and she let her be Arabella but with a sulk and grudge in her mind which is echod that she herself could only be Arabella because her thoughts were Briony’s thoughts. As it is understood she was completely closed to the realities of the others- she was living in self-imposed –deception-inflicted and always self-righteous in the isolation of Tallis house with no pears who can play together and remains one option to prove herself in the adult world was that she had to invent the other minds in order to bear the idea of other minds were also equally alive. So her insufficiency on creating specific plays and acting out  leads her to overcompensate for her delusions by adopting a sagacious posture what she will able to understand years after scarcely that impartiality was imperative for a moral point of view. So her desire to become both writer and Arabella was extremely preposterous just as it was the case of her last novel “Atnonement” she had to conceal herself.

     “she could write a scene like the one by the fountain and she could include a hidden observer like herself” ,cited page 38.

     “If her cousin was not able to command the truth, then she would do it for her. I can. And I will.”  Cited from page 158

     Until she finished and published her last novel “ Atonement” she skillfully manages to conceal herself from the reader but unfortunately also the truth.  Final revelation proves the impartial psychological realism ends with a calamity. The saga what starts with the substitution of the roles for Arabella between the Lola and Briony preceeded with conceling herself and finished skillfully with rendering herself back as a writer to us and as a hidden observer to her own reader in anticipation of … still in impartial point of view- incapable of sensing the beauty and the truth.

     “Self-exposure was inevitable the moment she described a character’s weakness; the reader was bound to speculate that she was describing herself” cited from page 6

     Whereas Arabella finishes with happy ending the trials of Arabella was full of ugliness in infinitive variation.

    It ıs for this reason – cos of the prospect of being speculated, being revealed- is still the point where she reached at is not beyond the impartial point of view but far way from a moral point of view.

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