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"This was her student life now, these four years, this enveloping regime, and she had

no will, no freedom to leave. She was abandoning herself to a life of strictures, rules, obedience, housework, and a constant fear of disapproval. She was one of a batch of probationers--there was intake every few months--and she had no identity beyond her badge." In the opening pages of the novel, Briony fantasises about being a famous writer, a name which is recognized throughout the whole of London for her superb ability at playwriting. Now in London, at the age of 18, she has demoted herself to being a slave, in "a life of strictures, rules, obedience, housework, and a constant fear of disapproval." She lives in a world where her name does not even exist. She hopes that her duties as a nurse during the war will serve as some sort of penance for her sins. Yet the cost of doing so is a complete stripping of her identity - she does not to exist as "Briony."

"From this new and intimate perspective, she learned a simple, obvious thing that she had always known, and everyone knew: that a person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn, not easily mended." The quotation above is a juxtaposition. Briony Tallis "easily tore" the lives of Cecilia and Robbie Turner apart, a crime that is "not easily mended." World War Two is doing the same thing to all of Europe, and mankind for that matter. Nursing during the war and witnessing body parts existing alike to the limbs of trees or broken car parts, Briony enters a new stage of experience; a person is just as easy to destroy physically or mentally as any other object on Earth.

"The problem these fifty-nine years has been this: how can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God? There is no one, no entity or higher form that she can appeal to, or be reconciled with, or that can forgive her. There is nothing outside her. In her imagination she has set the limits and the terms. No atonement for God, or novelists, even if they are atheists. It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point. The attempt was all."

This paragraph is spoken by the 77 year old Briony Tallis in memoir form. She struggles with her story and how to end it. A story that will be her last but should have been her first, and our heroine admits the difficulty she had in deciding what to do with Robbie and Cecilia. As author she has the power to do anything to anyone or any situation. Recognizing this power, Briony concludes that there can be "no atonement for God or novelists," and only the attempt matters.