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Atonement | Epigraph | Summary



As an introduction to Atonement, McEwan cites a passage from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1817). In it, Catherine Moreland's boyfriend, Mr. Tilney, admonishes her for dreaming up a fantastical scenario in which his father has either murdered or imprisoned his wife. Mr. Tilney finds Catherine's suspicions improbable within the close-knit, upper-class community to which they all belong. "Remember that we are English: that we are Christians."


By quoting from Northanger Abbey, McEwan's epigraph prepares the reader for a novel about mistaken suspicions within the upper-class community of British society. Briony Tallis is similar to Catherine in that she is prone to fabricating melodramatic fantasies about the people around her.

McEwan alludes to Northanger Abbey again in Part 4 of Atonement. The name of the hotel the Tallis house becomes is Tilney's Hotel.

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