Identity In Atonement

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Dickens and McEwan poignantly condemn their characters to lives of lost identities to evoke suffering, but in doing so enable these characters to transcend the confines of traditional character arcs to achieve didactic enlightenment. Dickens’ reduction of his characters to inescapable, rigid archetypes highlights the inevitability of suffering as it becomes an integral aspect of their lives. Lucie Manette, metaphorically referred to as “The Golden Thread” that titles Book the Second, finds herself trapped, “ever busily winding the golden thread… sat in the still house in the tranquilly resounding corner, listening to the echoing footsteps of years”. This reflects Lucie’s characterisation as the Jungian archetype of The Innocent, known for faith and optimism, as she is surrounded in a safe, “tranquil” environment. However, her…show more content…
Lucie’s originally diminishing characterisation as the ideal Victorian female is now contradicted and transformed as she becomes essential in connecting all characters together, allowing the survival of not only herself and her family, but of the entire plot. Similarly to Dickens, McEwan also uses the loss of identity to portray suffering in the characterisation of Briony Tallis. Throughout Atonement, Briony is presented as having several identities e.g. a writer, a criminal, a nurse and is arguably used by McEwan to force the reader to question their own definitions of morality as they must decide whether Briony is a child who made a mistake or a motivated liar. The inability to find her identity is furthered by Briony’s rampant imagination forcing her to live dual realities – one where she is a nurse and one in “a ghostly parallel life in which she was at Girton, reading Milton. She could have been at her sister’s college, rather than her sister’s hospital”. A mysterious tone created by the gothic “dark” and supernatural “ghost” suggesting that Briony’s real identity is shadowy i.e. without

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