Atonement Atonement discussion


268 views
Atonement and Christianity

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jon (last edited Jan 04, 2009 10:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jon Knowing that McEwan is a self-proclaimed atheist and a supporter of Christopher Hitchen's anti-religious efforts, I believe the central argument in Atonement is that all atonements (Christ's included) are merely a comforting fiction, that reality dictates only that we die.

We can comfort ourselves all we want with religion and fiction, the novel seems to say, but ultimately there is nothing beyond death.

"Who would want to believe that, except in the service of the bleakest realism?"


message 2: by Heather (new)

Heather I haven't read the book, but it sure sounds depressing!

Heather


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Jon wrote: "Knowing that McEwan is a self-proclaimed atheist and a supporter of Christopher Hitchen's anti-religious efforts, I believe the central argument in Atonement is that all atonements (Christ's includ..."

I find the concept of having to pay for my sins a bit worrying! Not sure what I believe - I'll have to wait and find out. I do like the thought that people I loved who have died are watching over me.


Kathryn Jon wrote: "Knowing that McEwan is a self-proclaimed atheist and a supporter of Christopher Hitchen's anti-religious efforts, I believe the central argument in Atonement is that all atonements (Christ's includ..."

This is something I didn't even consider while reading the book, but it sounds like a great interpretation.


Richard i found it more that Brionny wants atonement but cannot help self agrandising in the process, she writes herself into everything and makes her own character the lead in a far grander and deeper story. Brionny is a wonderfully flawed character

mcewans athiesm adds a nice lean towards the lunacy of faith if you want to read it that way


message 6: by Victoria (last edited Aug 07, 2011 03:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Victoria I can't say I picked up on a very strong religious statement in this story. I'm not sure that McEwan was necessarily saying that forgiveness and atonement is impossible for everyone- it was in Brionny's case simply because the only parties who could forgive had died premature deaths.

There's also an element (I think) of unnecessary self-flagellation because Brionny has carried this tremendous burden all her life for a 'crime' she committed as a child. It was quite an innocent, naive mistake to make, and though it resulted in tragedy it's difficult to hold a even a precocious child culpable for it. This connects quite nicely to Sandyboy's comment about Brionny's self-aggrandization- she always ascribes a greater role for herself, even though the wheel of 20th century history is what really crushed Cecilia and Robbie's relationship.

And yes, while Brionny's re-writing of Cecilia and Robbie's history can be seen as a hollow sort of comfort, it's also a beautiful act of atonement in itself. World events deprived her of the opportunity to earn forgiveness and the only way she could express her pentinence was to give the memory of Cecilia and Robbie the kind of ending she would have wanted for them.


message 7: by Marie (last edited Nov 05, 2012 12:28AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Marie It's an interpretation. For me, a lot of the questions brought up by Atonement seem to be metaphysical, but as far as religions such as Christianity go, idk, I can't really see it.

I think it does question ideas of what is 'reality' though. Robbie and Cecilia are alive throughout most of the book, but at the end we realise this is just Briony's fiction and that Robbie and Cecilia are actually dead. But if we don't believe that characters can be brought to life through fiction, then Robbie and Cecilia never could die because they were never really alive. However, if fiction can be reality, then Briony was successful in making them living again. I suppose if it was a metaphor for religion it doesn't really do a good job in saying it's false in that regard.


Vanessa Stone To me, it was thematically about guilt, that we all have it, what we take responsibility for and how one makes amends in an individual way. Whether or not you bring God and Christianity into the mix, it touches on the notion that we all suffer for mistakes and sins. To take the the approach that atonement is unnecessary and that we don't feel guilt, takes away the human element and leaves us as socio-paths. Whether morality is a sliding scale or not, as humans we agree on some basic concepts of right and wrong, otherwise, we wouldn't feel the tragedy of situations. There would be no passion, crime, love, etc. We all must atone for something in various degrees. I don't understand how one can leap from a disbelief in Christianity to a disbelief in human nature. If you dislike Christianity as a false teaching, can't you then argue that people created the Atonement of Christ to satisfy their own natural guilt? Of course, I believe in all that nonsense (Christ, forgiveness, love), as it seems most people on this thread would describe it. To each his own, but I don't think we can deny that we still assign right and wrong to things. I don't see the novel is making an argument against atonement, but rather a need for it.


Gordon Paisley I didn't see it as making a case about Christ's atonement for people as much as it was about a need for atonement--a recognition that there is some form of justice we will all ultimately face.
I think Briony's attempt at atonement as falling way short because it was half-hearted and too late. I think it shows that the price of atonement is high and costly.
I found Robbie's defense--at real risk to his own life--of the RAF chap in the pub at Dunkirk to be profound. While he himself had been wronged and paid a horrible price for a crime he didn't commit--and thus, could have easily self-justified avoiding 'getting involved' in the fight--he instead chose to take the risk when there was no guarantee of success. (Incidentally, while I think the movie version of this book was one of the better adaptations I have seen, I was very disapponited that this scene was not included since I think it was so profound and important.)

I would actually go so far as to say that if anything, the book actually pointed to Christ for atonement, since it is clear that even with her position as the author, Briony could have written a perfect atonement for herself in the story. The fact that she didn't--even though she could have--to me reflects that she (and perhaps even McEwan himself) realize that atonement is not that easay. Briony never really 'paid' much in her attempt to atone.....

I agree with Vanessa that the story is about the need to atone, and how we may--or may not--achieve it. I don't think Briony acheived it. I believe Robbie did.


message 10: by Kenneth (last edited May 30, 2013 01:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kenneth Jon wrote: "Knowing that McEwan is a self-proclaimed atheist and a supporter of Christopher Hitchen's anti-religious efforts, I believe the central argument in Atonement is that all atonements (Christ's includ..."

I think you saw in the book what you wanted to see.

Briony was doomed to suffer a horrible death, and she also had to live with the fact that the real guilty party got off scot free because of her lies and imagination.

Her attonement was writing the story that would bring it all into the open as soon as she died.


back to top