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Rebecca Hyman Mrs. PageAP Language and CompositionOctober 9, 2016The Tone of an Atonement In the novel Atonement by Ian McEwan, Briony faces the confrontation of the lives she has torn apart five years earlier in her young adolescence, when she allowed her naive and warped imagination to take over. In Part III, in 1940 when Briony is eighteen years old, she makes the decision to visit her sister Cecilia and Robbie as an effort to atone for her prior sin of falsely accusing Robbie of raping her cousin Lola. Briony’s unjust and reckless claims resulted in Robbie being sent off to prison and wrenched away from his lover, Cecilia. In this scene, Briony is our speaker and she is using her tone in order to communicate her message of her intervention, and the purpose of her atonement. Throughout Briony’s time with Robbie and Cecilia, Briony’s tone towards Cecilia is fearful and anxious about how she might act towards her, and Briony uses her younger self to display to the readers that she ultimately understands that Cecilia and Robbie will never forgive her. In the final section of the novel, the readers are taken along with Briony as she surprise-visits Cecilia at her home, and begins to recognize the pain that she has inflicted onto Cecilia, as well as Robbie. On page 318, the readers see that Briony “…was feeling sick…Her sister’s confirmation of her crime was terrible to hear…she had never thought of herself as a liar”. This quote displays that Briony’s seventy-year old self is presenting to the readers that Briony finally understands that her actions would never be forgiven by Cecilia and Robbie. Also, Briony now comprehends that what she has done affected Cecilia and Robbie, and that it could never fully be taken back, even with her attempt to atone by taking her accusations back and help create the life she knew Cecilia and Robbie deserved. Briony’s tone towards Cecilia was one of apprehension when the estranged sisters began venturing into dangerous and outright territory of how the extent of Briony’s actions had impacted both Cecilia and Robbie. Briony exhibited her unease when “she stood…unable to meet her sister’s eye, said, ‘What I did was terrible, I don’t expect you to forgive me” (McEwan 318). Briony’s body language and words convey to the readers that she is feeling anxious at the prospects of how Cecilia may react to her, while being able to recognize that repairing their relationship is out of reach. Further on page 318, Cecilia continues conversing with Briony by saying soothingly, “‘don’t worry about that’…Briony flinched as her hopes lifted unreally…’I won’t ever forgive you'”. This is also a quote that goes to show the readers that Briony’s older self fully understands that Cecilia and Robbie will never be able to forgive her, even with her atonement. Throughout the entirety of Briony’s visit with Cecilia and Robbie, her tone towards Cecilia was fearful of what she might say or think about her. Briony’s seventy-year old self displays Cecilia as such an intimidating figure during this scene in order to signal to the readers that she understands that what she has done to Robbie and Cecilia is beyond repair, and will never be able to be taken back. Also on page 318, “Briony realized how frightened she was of Cecilia….Her derision was even harder to confront than her anger”. This quote shows that when Briony drafted this section of Part III, she did not intend to sugarcoat Cecilia’s acceptance of Briony’s atonement, or make herself look better in the eyes of Cecilia, Robbie, and her readers. When Briony visits Cecilia and Robbie in hopes of atoning for her sins at the end of the novel, she uses tone to relay her message to Cecilia. While with Cecilia, the tone Briony indicates is fearful and anxious of Cecilia may react or think of her. Also, Briony’s older self displays to the readers that Briony ultimately recognizes and fully understands that that her accusations against Robbie when she was a young teenager will never be able to be atoned for and caused pain and suffering upon the Cecilia and Robbie, the two lovers in the story.

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