Study Guide

Atonement Chapter 8

By Ian McEwan

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Chapter 8

  • Robbie Turner sits in his bath obsessively remembering how Cecilia had looked coming out of the pond in her underwear.
  • He remembers how he didn't used to think she was beautiful. Clearly he's gotten over that.
  • How angry is Cecilia? Very angry, he decides. He thinks that she intended to humiliate him.
  • He hopes Cecilia was flirting with him. He knows he should have refused to come to dinner, but he wants to see her even if she hates him.
  • Looking around his room at his books and drawings, Robbie sees a picture of his parents—his mom, Grace, and his dad, Ernest, who disappeared when Robbie was young.
  • He examines the book on Versailles landscapes that Cecilia gave him, and laments having taken his shoes off to come in the house that day. He'd only done so in hopes that Cecilia wouldn't notice how ratty his socks were.
  • Now he sniffs the book because she touched it. He tries hard not to, but just can't seem to help himself.
  • He types a letter apologizing to Cecilia for his odd behavior. But then he accidentally on purpose adds an X-rated bit and ruins the draft. Oops. This guy seriously can't help himself.
  • He writes out another draft in longhand, this time leaving out the dirty parts.
  • As Robbie prepares himself to head over to the main house for dinner, he thinks about how Jack Tallis kept his mother on as a housekeeper, and how he grew up with Cecilia and Leon. Grace thinks Robbie's dad, Ernest, may have died in World War I.
  • Robbie and Grace chat about the client she just saw (Grace has a side hustle as a clairvoyant) and the Tallises' visitors, and Robbie remembers seeing Danny Hardman leering at Lola down at the pool.
  • Heading up to the main house, Robbie is excited to see Cecilia and excited about his own future. He finally feels like his life is his own, and imagines himself in 1962—fifty years old and a doctor. It's pretty warm and fuzzy.
  • At the bridge, Robbie bumps into Briony and decides to give her the letter for Cecilia. He thinks it will be best for Cecilia to receive it before he arrives.
  • Oops—wrong version of the letter. Robbie tries to call Briony back, but she's already run off. Imagine the most embarrassing thing you've ever done in your life. Now double it. That's about how embarrassed Robbie is right now.

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