SPOILER ALERTS for Atonement by Ian McEwan
I thought I would include one of my many diagrams for this favorite of mine.
Assignment B: Outline for Atonement
Scene one: Briony Tallis has written a play. She sees herself as the model of perfection, as well as has “no secrets.” Ideas of “rich” class, as they have a library, are well-educated, the tone of the writing, etc.
Scene two: The Quinceys, the cousins, arrive. Have servants to help carry in luggage. Trying to convince cousins to be in her play. Lola will play the part of Arabella—the part Briony saw herself playing.
Scene one: Cecilia outside sees Robbie Turner—“childhood friend and university acquaintance” (18). More details to fill in the background as she walks around the mansion. She goes inside, thinks of how Briony is obsessed with writing. Knows Robbie has affection for her, which “exasperates her” (21). Uncle Clem had served as lieutenant in Great War—clues to time setting.
Scene two: Cecelia wonders about approaching Robbie before her leave. In discussion, Leon is bringing Paul Marshall. Accidently break vase together, as it falls into the pond. When Robbie is about to go after it, Cecelia beats him to it. Char. Development / their relationship.
Rehearsing for play. Lola / Briony clash. Lola being a little condescending: “Did you make that all by yourself?” (32). Showing Briony’s egocentric stance (as she is a child); Briony wondering if her “sister was just as alive as she was” (34). She spies on Cecilia with Robbie, and the classist stance on page 36. Also shows her wild imagination—how she “reads” them. The vase incident, seen through Briony’s eyes. She gets the idea of writing from three different points of view (38).
As readers, we realize these chapters are switching back and forth between Briony’s and Cecelia’s points of view.
Fixed vase, sees Briony upset. Briony hesitant to say something. She walks outside. Leon and Paul arrive, as Danny Hardman is helping them in. Paul staring at Cecelia (foreshadow of his creepiness) (45). More setting via Marshall’s talking, getting forces together if Mr. Hitler doesn’t pipe down (46). Paul touches her forearm.
Curious to why Briony left rehearsals. Paul peeking in on the children. A little insight to the parents, the Quinceys, being in the paper. Supplying soldiers with chocolate, as well as gives some to the children.
Scene one: Worried about Cecelia marrying and Briony’s failure up against Lola. Imagining the house as she dozed through the afternoon.
Scene two: Listening to discussion from last chapter. Reader gets the sense of POV more, how the novel works to show POV. She is organizing in her mind, figuring out who is with whom in the house. She will get up.
Imagining cutting Lola down, using trees. Done with playwriting, pride, and seeking mother’s approval. Daydream vs. reality.
Thinking of Cecelia going after the vase. Background of writing poems, college plays, interests in pursuing career. Note: “In the years to come he would often think back to this time,” sets up idea of Golden Years. Something tragic is going to happen. Dreams of the future. Gives Briony the note to give to Cecelia, but it is the wrong note.
Getting ready for dinner. Helps to dress the twins, whom no one is watching after. Find Briony outside, who gives her the letter she has read.
Scene one: “The very complexity of her feelings confirmed Briony in her view that she was entering an arena of adult emotion and dissembling from which her writing was bound to benefit” (106). Shows she is still a child in her own world. She wants to write, but is distracted by thinking of Robbie—how disgusting he is. Briony and Lola befriending. Tells Lola about Robbie.
Scene two: She catches Robbie and Cecilia together in a room.
Scene one: Dinnertime with everyone, POV established after a few pages. p121 Robbie still thinks of Briony as a child. Briony hints that, based on what Robbie knows, that she caught them together.
Scene two: Robbie tells Cecelia that Briony read the wrong version of the letter. They are enraptured, kissing.
Scene three: Dinner table, letter. From the boys, saying they want to run away. Robbie decides to search alone, like others, which “would change his life.”
Scene one: Thinks about the twins running away, and how Lola undermined Briony’s play. Thinks of Jack in London, not wanting to know why. Clues to the upcoming war, as she recollects letters about mass evacuation, etc. Ghosts of her childhood.
Scene two: Leon returns without the twins.
Scene one: Her crime—building suspense. She knows a “maniac” is on the prowl, as people are searching for the twins. Hints of seeing this event from the future. Comes across Lola and attacker, who runs off, and Briony places the words in Lola’s mouth, as Lola is in shock.
Scene two: As they are returning, Lola is unsure who it is.
Scene one: Looking back from the future, the testimonies, summary. Tears were proof, too. She is “in triumph” of being a witness to finally catch Robbie. Reading the letter, even when Cecilia is in protest. Briony’s testimony muddled, by her certainty. Robbie taken away by constables.
Scene one: In the middle of the war in France. Find dinner with the Bonnets. To set the tone of the war they’re in.
Scene two: Writing back and forth to each other while in prison. Now he had the letters. Thinking of the conversations they didn’t have.
Scene three: We find out through the letter from Cee that Briony wants to meet with her, to ask for some kind of forgiveness. Briony became a nurse in training, skipping Cambridge.
Scene four: Families walking with soldiers. Passing dead bodies. Orders to head to Dunkirk.
Scene five: Sees dead bodies around. Robbie thinks of how Briony put him there.
Scene six: Flashback: R thinking of what might have caused Briony to turn on him. She wanted to be saved from drowning, testing him. She was “in love” with him. Thinks there might have been stranger signs there.
Scene seven: Flashback: meeting on the bridge at dusk. Maybe she would clear him now.
Scene eight: In the middle of battle. Stuka attack.
Scene nine: heading towards city, determined to find Cecelia.
Scene ten: More danger approaching the city seven miles away.
Scene eleven: Reach the beach where men are organizing. The sea, the beach, the front. Take off to avoid a fight.
Scene twelve: Retrieve a pig for someone. Look for shelter and food.
Scene thirteen: Thinking of Cecelia waiting. Turner is not looking well.
Scene fourteen: Robbie thinking of Cecelia, going to sleep.
Scene one: Briony training at the hospital. “An abomination” as a nurse, Sister Drummond said. She thinks of the years as her “student life.”
Scene two: She writes letters to home. Sees her mother’s letters as a reminiscence of a lost life. Writing stories after changing the names. Wonders if Cecelia is ignoring her letters.
Scene three: Wishing to speak with her father. Life in London, reading about the war.
Scene four: Thought about Robbie being captured in France. Soldiers coming in injured. Forms a bond with Private Lattimer. Uses her French to converse with French soldiers. Rejection letter for Two Figures by a Fountain. (This is the clue to what we are reading.) We see she has used the past for her book.
Scene five: Sees the demise of London.
Scene six: Visiting the church where Lola and Todd are getting married. We find out it was him—that all three of them had sent Robbie to prison. She knows Lola saw her.
Scene seven: She is going to visit Cecelia. Cecelia knows Lola won’t speak up, and Hardman could be a witness but is dead. Briony is an unreliable witness. Robbie comes out. He’s angry, but she tries to tell him she is coming out with the truth, that she is growing up. She tells them about Paul. The scene ends with “BT,” the clue that Briony has written this. Maybe the book itself?
Briony has vascular dementia. Has corrections for her book. We are reading the words found in the story. She could not publish while they were alive—Lola and Todd. We find out Robbie died (the end of Act Two) and Cecelia died in a bombing—that she never did see them (scene seven).