Study Guide

Atonement Chapter 9

By Ian McEwan

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Chapter 9

  • Cecilia is having trouble choosing a dress before going down to see her brother.
  • She puts on a black dress, but decides that she looks like she's going to a funeral.
  • So she puts on a frilly dress, but now she thinks she looks like Shirley Temple. Is it just us, or is this starting to sound a little like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"?
  • Finally Cecilia tries on her favorite dress, a backless green number. She can't figure out why she's working so hard to look good. Surely, surely, it has nothing to do with Robbie… Keep telling yourself that, Cecilia.
  • She opens her door and finds Jackson about to knock.
  • The kids have been ordered down to tea, but they only have one pair of socks between them. Lola isn't speaking to the twins at the moment, so they've come to Cecilia for help.
  • Cecilia goes to their room to sort out the sock situation, finds it's a huge mess, and cleans up. The twins tell her that they want to go home and that Briony has abandoned the play and disappeared.
  • So Cecilia explains to the twins that they can't go home, and then she gets them socks from Briony's room, and sends them off to tea and Betty.
  • Following behind the twins, Cecilia catches her reflection in the mirror again. She cares less than she did earlier about her appearance, and realizes it's because somewhere in the process of helping the twins she committed herself to getting away from the house and her family.
  • Cecilia resigns herself to having to be the hostess for the evening. Jack Tallis is staying late, and Emily is never much use.
  • Sure enough, when Cecilia walks into the kitchen Emily is there already, trying to convince Betty to prepare a salad for dinner instead of the roast she and her assistant have been working on all day.
  • Cecilia convinces Emily that Leon wants a roast, much to Betty's relief.
  • Finally we get out to Leon. Or should we say finally Cecilia gets out to Leon and away from the heaping pile of people she mothers. With a drink and a cigarette in hand, Cecilia and Leon stroll and chat. Cecilia enjoys talking to him because he is ambitious-less and kind; he sees the best in everyone and avoids confrontation.
  • Cecilia tries to match his tone and outlook, but sounds bitter and mean-spirited and dissatisfied despite her efforts. Leon tells her to come to London with him.
  • Briony is waiting on the terrace to meet Leon. She gives Cecilia the letter.
  • X-rated bit and all, Cecilia reads the note and suddenly realizes that she's in love with Robbie. Duh and finally.
  • Briony is busy making a huge fuss over her brother, though, and doesn't answer when Cecilia repeatedly asks whether she read the letter.
  • Paul Marshall shows up and insists Cecilia try some chocolate mixed drink because, you know, he's the chocolate guy and that's kind of his thing.

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