In for disaster, and another as a path

In Atonement,
Ian McEwan uses imagination in two ways. McEwan uses it in one way almost like
a path for disaster, and another as a path for redemption. It can be argued
that because of the imagination the series of what could be described as
‘catastrophic’ events in the novel occur.

The main way
that McEwan shows this theme is through the character of Briony Tallis. When
the novel begins she is only thirteen years old. When she was younger she
discovered a passion for words and secrets, although she herself had none
because ‘her wish for a harmonious, organized world denied her the reckless
possibilities of wrongdoing’. She wrote a play called ‘The Trails of Arabella’
in which she also attempted to star in and direct. It is clear to the reader
that Briony has an extended and vivid imagination. Her reality compared to her
high-demanded vision of life, is referred to nothing but “dreams and
frustrations”. She has a high amount of self-pity when she doesn’t get what she
wants and expects too much from the people and the world around her. The other
characters in the novel also see this and Cecelia, Briony’s older sister even
calls her ‘fanciful’ as a way of saying that she has a tendency to make things
up, and then present them as the truth, which she does when she accuses Robbie
of raping Lola. Briony’s imagination is therefore responsible for the novels
central conflict and events. The separation of Robbie and Cecelia for something
that was not their fault or that they were a part of. Briony claims that she
sees Robbie attacking Lola which results in Robbie going to prison and then off
to war as a way to leave prison and also for Cecelia to refuse and acknowledge
her. The fantasy she created of Robbie raping Lola was likely because she did
not want to think of him as anything other than a ‘sex manic’ as it would mean
that he preferred Cecelia to her, and it was Robbie’s scolding of her when she
jumped into the water that made Briony, who was harboring a sort-of schoolgirl
crush, feel rejected.

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