Study Guide

Atonement Chapter 10

By Ian McEwan

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Chapter 10

  • Briony has read the letter, and is absolutely thrilled to be privy to adult emotions. She thinks it's going to really help her writing along.
  • And then comes a really long paragraph devoted solely to Briony's musings on the word cunt. For real.
  • Briony has shifted her feelings toward Robbie and now identifies him as an ominous male presence that threatens the order of the house. She charges herself with the responsibility of saving her sister. It's all pretty melodramatic and high stakes, but so it goes with Briony.
  • Briony begins to write, but is interrupted by the arrival of Lola.
  • Lola says that the twins have been torturing her, and she has a scratch on her shoulder and burns on her wrists.
  • Briony moves to sit next to her cousin and comfort her, and when she does Lola tears up before trying very hard not to cry harder.
  • Briony closes her bedroom door so no one will hear, returns to Lola, and Lola beings to cry in earnest. Briony is amazed that two nine-year-olds could bring down Lola and relishes a sense of her own power.
  • Lola tells Briony that she was getting ready for a bath when the twins tackled her to the floor and held her down. Sharing this brings a giant sob into Lola's throat.
  • When Briony asks why the twins would do such a thing, Lola explains that they blame her for not being able to go home. It makes perfect sense to Briony.
  • Feeling suddenly close to her cousin and desperately wanting to change the topic, Briony tells Lola about the letter.
  • Lola is satisfyingly appalled and calls Robbie a "maniac," which Briony thinks sounds just right.
  • Briony leaves out the fact that she's afraid to go near Cecilia, who is probably going to be pretty unahppy about having her letter read.
  • Lola suggests going to the police and showing them the letter, but Briony doesn't think Cecilia will want to.
  • Lola warns that "Maniacs can attack anyone," and it seems like she's about to tell Briony something more, but stops herself.
  • Mrs. Tallis calls them to dinner, and Lola hurries off to get ready.
  • On her way down, Briony thinks about how she wishes her father were home sitting in the library. Life seems to be much calmer when he's around.
  • She slows as she comes upon the closed library door, and hears the sound of dishes and such in the kitchen and the twins arguing about how to spell a word.
  • And then, unfortunately, she opens the library door.
  • When she does, Briony sees Robbie and Cecilia crammed into a corner of the library. She thinks Robbie is attacking her sister.
  • They break apart and, when they do, Briony is surprised to realize that Cecilia doesn't appear grateful.
  • All three of them leave the library, with Cecilia rushing off before Briony can talk to her.

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