Study Guide

Atonement Dreams, Hopes and Plans

By Ian McEwan

Dreams, Hopes and Plans

Expressing a dream or a hope or a plan in Atonement is a pretty sure way to have the novel drop a heap of misery in your lap. Briony sets out to stage an awesome play; Robbie decides to head off to medical school; Cecilia tells Robbie to come back to her—and what are the results? Pffft, nyah-nyah, and argh. The only person who manages to have all his dreams come true is Paul Marshall—and that's hardly a feel-good outcome.

Oh, yeah. Briony seems to be on the money when she says she's going to sink into dementia and death at the end of the novel. So that's cheery, though probably not the end of life she's originally hoped for.

Questions About Dreams, Hopes and Plans

  1. Briony hopes to be a writer, and her dream comes true. How are her fulfilled dreams related to the dreams she has that don't come true?
  2. Grace Turner tells fortunes on the side to make extra money. Do her predictions about her own life ever work out?
  3. How are dreams related to class in the novel? Do rich people have better success in fulfilling their dreams? Provide evidence from the novel for your answer.

Chew on This

In the novel, memories of the past—such as when Robbie remembers Cecilia in the fountain, or when Briony remembers her childhood—are also in some ways hopes for the future.

If Briony was really sorry for what she'd done, she should have given up storytelling and her dreams of being a writer.