Perspectives and Functions
Tomasz Dobrogoszcz - “Entering an Arena of Adult Emotion:” Briony’s Recognition of Otherness in Ian McEwan’s Atonement
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University of Łódź
“Entering an Arena of Adult Emotion:” Briony’s Recognition of Otherness in Ian McEwan’s Atonement
Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel Atonement still continues to be his most widely read and critically discussed work. It is an example of the novelist’s finest and most accomplished writing, exhibiting a highly elaborate structure and touching weighty ethical issues. The novel is openly self-reflexive: the short Coda, following the three major parts, frames the bulk of the text as a fictitious narrative weaved by Briony Tallis, an aging novelist who, on a verge of plunging into the abyss of vascular dementia, wishes to atone for her childhood error. In summer 1935, the thirteen-year-old Briony, still a sensitive and naïve child, barely entering her adolescence, misrecognises the sexual tension between her older sister, Cecilia, and her beloved, Robbie. Guided by the unconscious structures that impose an idealistic but uninformed order on her perception of reality, the girl mistakenly accuses Robbie of raping her under-age cousin, Lola, which devastates his and Cecilia’s lives. This paper attempts to analyse the novel with the theoretical apparatus provided by Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory. It endeavours to demonstrate that Briony’s inception of the writer’s ego might be interpreted as the ‘second mirror stage’. Still, the language, which is for her, as for anybody, the bedrock of the implementation in the Other, is also the guarantor of the incomprehension of the Other. Estranged within the maze of misleading...
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