Atonement | Study Guide

Ian McEwan

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Ian McEwan

Year Published





Drama, Historical Fiction, Tragedy

Perspective and Narrator

The events of Parts 1–3 of Atonement are narrated from a third-person limited point of view. In Part 4, Briony Tallis takes over as the first-person narrator, and it is revealed that she's been the narrator of the entire novel. It is also revealed in Part 4 that Briony is an unreliable narrator as she sometimes lies.


Atonement is written in the past tense.

About the Title

An atonement is a reparation for a wrong, and Atonement is Briony Tallis's attempt to apologize for sabotaging Robbie Turner and ruining his future with her sister, Cecilia Tallis. Briony eventually asks whether a novelist can "achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God?" She concludes there is "no atonement for God, or novelists," despite her noble attempt at it.


This study guide and infographic for Ian McEwan's Atonement offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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