The Dangers of the Imagination in Atonement College

In Atonement, Ian McEwan suggests the dangers of confusing our fantasies with reality; that we have become so accustomed to choosing to see what we wish to see rather than reality and this leads to destruction in our lives. Our refusal to accept or want to see reality creates a cycle in which we become alienated from others, just as Briony, Robbie and Cecelia did. Briony lives in her stories, Cecelia lives in her mind, and Robbie lives in his memories. Eventually they each end up alone and longing for a happy ending that is never given to them. As human beings we have a fundamental need for an answer. Even when we have limited information and perspective, we use our imagination to fill in the blanks in order to obtain an answer. Through gothic allusions and interchanging viewpoints McEwan emphasizes the detrimental effects of getting lost in what we wish or hope to see while seeking an answer and ignoring reality. Imagination is wonderful to an extent – we must be able to recognize and accept reality or else we will end up disappointed in situations with permanent consequences.

To begin, McEwan creates gothic allusions, particularly with Briony, in which he reiterates the dangers of denying reality and always expecting a life...

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