Briony has the capability to create another world with just a pen in her hand. Her innocence is derived from her child-like imagination and passion to fabricate stories in which she is in control of the character’s future. Because of Briony’s inexperience with the actuality of the world and how it truly occurs, she is convinced that all stories must conclude in a bliss ending. Ironically when trying to pursue in her own happy ending with Robbie, she is rejected which results in her constant theme of romance when creating plays.
“Now there was nothing left of the dumb show by the fountain beyond what survived in memory, in three separate and overlapping memories” (45).
After witnessing Robbie and Cecelia’s argument by the fountain regarding the cracked vase, Briony realizes how difficult it is for one to attain valid proof of an event. After the vase fell into the fountain, Robbie and Cecelia quickly stripped their clothing to jump and seize it. While climbing out of the fountain, their bodies left a damp patch on the gravel which was all that remained from their incident. As Briony observes the faint patch of water, she begins to grasp how the only proof of the event is slowly fading and soon there will be no evidence to validate the scene. Ironically this clashes with Briony’s accusation towards Robbie for little evidence was needed to persuade to others that Robbie was guilty.
"The very complexity of her feelings confirmed Briony in her view that she was entering an arena of adult emotion and dissembling from which her writing was bound to benefit. What fairy tale ever had so much by way of contradiction" (104).
After examining Robbie’s letter addressed to Cecelia, Briony is left with a loss of innocence for she is exposed to desire and lust. Briony’s perspective is altered for her life in which all is pure, is introduced to unfamiliar emotions. Briony’s discovery of the “adult emotion” results in her repugnance towards Robbie and her accusation that he has committed a sin.
"How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime” (154).
Briony’s accusation of Robbie when she was 13 years old impacts her life tremendously. She leans towards self-torture later in her life for she considers it as a compensation for all the misfortunes she put Robbie through. Therefore by constantly reminding herself that she is accountable for the the irrefutable burdens Robbie has to face, Briony’s guilt is a constant inescapable cycle. By Ian McEwan relating Briony’s endless guilt to a rosary, he displays a religious connection. Religions tend to utilize shame to persecute desire, create fear, and preserve discipline. In this quote, McEwan is comparing the eternal loop to the beads on a rosary to further emphasize Briony’s continuous guilt.
"But it was a tranquil sea, and now that he himself was calm, of course he saw how fine it really was that she was waiting. Arithmetic be damned. I'll wait for you was elemental. It was the reason he had survived. It was the ordinary way of saying she would refuse all other men. Only you. Come back" (229).
Ian McEwan employs Cecilia’s words of “come back” as a motif of her love. By Robbie consistently musing over these words, he has a motive to survive and reunite with Cecilia so they can pursue in their forbidden love. McEwan also arrays Cecilia’s words as her atonement to Robbie by displaying her constant desire to be with him. Additionally, these two words are what Cecelia said to Briony when she had nightmares…