The Role of Guilt in Ian McEwan’s Atonement

  • Jayantika Chakraborty
Keywords: Ian McEwan, Joe Wright, Briony Tallis, Atonement, Guilt, Jayantika Chakraborty

Abstract

The term “atonement” connotes the action of making amends for a wrong or sin. In Christian theology, it refers to the reconciliation of God and mankind through Jesus Christ. The movie Atonement is one of cumulative power, reflecting on the unfinished, unmoored mind of a vulnerable young woman, Briony Tallis, who is seemingly trapped by unimaginable guilt in a life of suspended animation. The denouement of the film siphons off with Briony atoning for her guilt that has, since her adolescence, tainted her life with treacherous effects. Her atonement comes off as a corrosively elegiac way of reconciling with the past, and is filmed beautifully, with pyrotechnic complexity, displaying adequately the scalding moral vision of war as a backdrop. With a luminous juxtaposition of the stream of consciousness mode of narration and multiple voices, montage and flashbacks, Joe Wright unilaterally weaves a tale of self-discovery and the retelling of a story that centers around guilt. Guilt, therefore, features as an inalienable poetry of experience in the film, coming off almost as apparent, real, and firm to the touch. In an interdisciplinary approach of psychological study of artistic work, this project illustrates the dynamics of guilt and atoning for it after over half a lifetime to reach psychological transcendence and attain a cohesiveness of the fragmented concept of “self”.

Author Biography

Jayantika Chakraborty

Jayantika Chakraborty is a third year student of Psychology Honours at Loreto College, Kolkata.

References

1. McEwan, Ian. (2001). Atonement. New York : A division of Random House, Inc.
2. Atonement. (2007) Dir. Joe Wright. Screenplay by Christopher Hampton. Perf. James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, and Vanessa Redgrave. Focus Features. [DVD 2008]
3. Genette, Gerard (1972). Narrative Discourse. An Essay in Method. Oxford: Blackwell.
4. Freud, Sigmund (1922). A General Introduction To Psychoanalysis. New York: Boni and Liveright.
5. Hidalgo, Pilar (2005). “Memory and Storytelling in Ian McEwan’s Atonement”. In: Critique 46.2, Pp 82-91.
6. Han, J. and Wang, P. (2015) The experimental techniques in Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 163-166.
7. Buss, Arnold H., (1980). Self-Consciousness and Social Anxiety. W.H. Freeman & Co Ltd.
8. Mosher, D.L., (1965). Interaction of fear and guilt in inhibiting unacceptable behavior, in Journal of Consulting Psychology, 29: 161-167.
9. Trivers, Robert L., (1985). Social Evolution. Benjamin-Cummings Pub Co.
10. Carr, A. (2011). Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Human Strengths. London: Routledge. Pp 285.
11. Cross, F.L., ed. “Atonement.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
12. Nelson, M. (2013). “The interplay of Authorial Control and Readerly Judgem.
Published
2018-08-05
How to Cite
Chakraborty, J. “The Role of Guilt in Ian McEwan’s Atonement”. Contemporary Literary Review India, Vol. 5, no. 3, Aug. 2018, pp. 54-64, http://literaryjournal.in/index.php/clri/article/view/15.
Section
Research Papers