Atonement covers 64 years, which is long enough to do a serious amount of growing up. Everybody who wants to grow up in the book—Lola, who paints her toenails and wears perfume; Briony, who wants to learn all about how adults feel so she can write it down; Robbie, who wants to be free and pursue his own ambitions; Cecilia, who wanders around moping and smoking waiting for her life to start—gets old. Every single one of them—even those who actually died before they had a chance, thanks to Briony's novel.
So does all this growing up and getting old make them happy? Well… that's another question…
Questions About Coming of Age
- How is Cecilia's coming of age in the novel similar to Lola's coming of age? How is it different?
- In what ways is Briony at the end of the novel different from her younger self? In what ways is she the same?
- In novels, men are often presented as becoming adults by going to war. Does the war make Robbie a man? How about Briony and Cecilia?
Chew on This
Atonement shows that being an adult is a dream you have when you're a child, and being a child is a dream you have when you're an adult.
The one person who is stuck in perpetual childhood in the novel is Emily Tallis.