Essay on Atonement: Ethics and Briony

Submitted By Shikhar-Darbari
Words: 579
Pages: 3

Atonement which means ‘to compensate or amend’ is a story of lost love which leads to a deliberate lie by a young child that eventually has fatal consequences. The young child Briony has a childish crush on Robbie – who is the son of one of the servants in her mansion. In the first scene of the movie, Briony is bothered because she believes she saw her sister (Cecilia) and Rob have a sexual encounter near the pond. In reality, Briony is mistaken because when the same scene is shown from Cecilia and Rob’s perspective, it turns out to be much more innocent. Hence, right at the starting of the movie, the stage is set for emotional confusion.
After this, she read a letter from Rob which had demeaning language contained for her sister Cecilia. This shocks Briony and she started believing Rob is a sex maniac who is a danger to all women. Further shock is caused to her when she subsequently sees Rob having a sexual encounter with Cecilia in the library. Next, Briony witnesses her cousin Lola being raped in the bushes. This turns out to be the final nail in the coffin. Briony breaks down under the anguish of her shattered romantic aspirations and turns spiteful. She was too young to know how to deal with her rejection and emotions and there was no body there to help her through this phase.
Thus she foolishly took out her emotions by accusing Robbie of a sexual assault ( on Lola) which she knows he did not commit. Briony did not immediately realise the long term implications of her lie. Due to her mistake, Cecilia becomes permanently estranged from her family and both her and Rob end up dying without being able to be with each other. The last scene in the movie shows Briony in her old age giving a television interview about her novel in which she has fictionally given a happier ending to Robbie and Cecelia. She confesses her mistake and reveals that the happy ending in the book is just ‘an atonement’ to Rob and her sister who could not have a future together because of Briony’s mistake.
“So in the book, I wanted to give Robbie and Cecelia what they lost out on in life. I’d like to think