Literature Study GuidesAtonementPart 1 Chapter 12 Summary

Atonement | Study Guide

Ian McEwan

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Atonement | Part 1, Chapter 12 | Summary



Emily dreads calling the police to assist in finding the twins, and instead fusses over Lola. Emily muses about having once been a "wronged child," neglected in favor of her sister, Hermione. She is now a "wronged wife," neglected by Jack in favor of his work, his mistresses, and his obsession with bettering Robbie's life.

While everyone is out searching, she waits in the house. She receives the expected call from Jack saying he will be late. Then the search parties return, and Leon breaks the news that Lola has been raped.


As discussed in Part 1, Chapter 6, Emily has a motive for not liking Robbie—her unfaithful husband is keenly interested in assuring the young man's future. When Emily speaks to Jack about Robbie's elevation, she likes to say "Nothing good will come of it," and so Briony's accusation of Robbie is a vindication for Emily.

At dinner she saw "something manic and glazed" about Robbie's look. In comparison, she thinks "how artfully Mr. Marshall had put everyone at ease." This is her class bias coming into play, and it blinds her from acknowledging the truth.

She also compares Cecilia's "useless" education in literature and the classics to Paul's skill as a chemist and his invention of fake chocolate. It is vulgar, she admits, but "what untroubled years might flow from these cheap vats." Paul indeed prospers from his falsehoods.

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