Atonement

How do McEwan and Hartley use acting or theatre in ‘Atonement’ and ‘The Go-Between’? 12th Grade

Theater and acting fundamentally allow people to become something else- to transcend the bounds of their identities and present, or be presented with, a different reality. The process of writing, a theme particularly prominent in ‘Atonement’, is arguably comparable to acting- they both permit a person to gain a new control of themselves and their surroundings, in creating an imagined realm. Theater is overtly used in ‘Atonement’, the novel being framed by Briony’s ‘ The Trials of Arabella’, and in ‘The Go-Between’ can be seen more implicitly, through Leo casting himself in different roles throughout the novel, as well as imposing them on others. The medium of theater reveals much of both narrators- either through their reflections on it, or changes they undergo by it.

Firstly, by beginning his novel with the words, ‘the play’, McEwan immediately signals the emphasis on literature within the text, and invites the reader to be highly conscious, from the beginning, that they are reading fiction- a common quality of post post-modernist texts. This aids in setting up the reader as a ‘judge’ in later parts of the novel. Of equal significance, is the insight into Briony as a character, which McEwan’s descriptions of the play unveil to...

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