Landscape and Growing Up in Atonement and The Go-Between 11th Grade

Both Briony Tallis, of Atonement, and Leo Colston, of The Go-Between, spend significant periods of their adolescence in large country homes, both of which are surrounded by large estates. Hartley and McEwan use the landscapes which are present throughout much of these books to explore key themes such as that of growing up. There are several aspects of landscapes which mean that they lend themselves as a symbol for exploring growing up: the presence of boundaries, both natural and man-made, the existence of the visible and the hidden, and the fact that landscapes change over time.

One key difference between the landscapes in the two novels is the fact that Briony is very familiar with hers, calling the bridge ‘an ornament so familiar as to be invisible’. In contrast, Leo was a guest to Brandham Hall, and is unaccustomed to the landscape. This could be reflective of the comparative confidence with which Briony faces adulthood, declaring that ‘her childhood had ended’, though later admits that she may have only gained a ‘wiser grasp of her own ignorance’; this confidence could perhaps stem from her relationship with her mother, who is quite present in her life as well as the advice of her...

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