The Horrors Of War In Atonement By Ian Mcewan

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The book Atonement by Ian McEwan tells the stories of the lives of Briony, Robbie, and Cecilia throughout the prelude and duration of World War 2. Throughout the book the horrors of war change both the characters in the book and the reader causing them to view life in a different light having had their views altered by their experiences from the war. However, the reason why the war shapes the novel in such a significant way is due to the fact that the book is “written” by Briony, who having experienced the world war first-hand wishes to impart to the reader with her reality of its horrors.
While Robbie and Briony definitely experience the war more than the other characters of the book they both are involved in the war in different ways, while
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Robbie instead grows to become a more rightous man as the war goes on, trying to save those around him and himself from their grim lives. The first time the horrors of war are seen in the book are in part two during Robbie’s time in France, he sees a torn off leg in a tree. Robbie describes the scene as “The leg was twenty feet up, wedged in the first forking of the trunk, bare, served cleanly above the knee. From where they stood, there was no sign of blood or torn flesh.” (180) While the mere fact of finding a leg in a tree is a horrific experience of war the language of the passage and the tone it conveys, does not make this bit of gruesome carnage seem like the worst possible thing to come from this war. The book, in fact, does quite the contrary by downplaying the effects of the leg by describing it as almost as just another branch of the tree. However, while the tone of the text seems to express that this encounter doesn’t affect Robbie too much, aside from a little vomiting, it later becomes evident that finding the leg in the tree changes Robbie causing him to transition from a boy to a man. The effects of this transition are manifested when Robbie later attempts to save a mother and child during a bombing and again when he and his fellow soldiers save a member of the RAF from some angry men. These selfless actions are a result of the finding the leg in the tree because in that moment Robbie comes to face with his own mortality, he realizes that the world around him will continue to go on even if he dies. This comprehension of his existence and the world around him, is due both to his wrongful tenure in jail as well as his time in the war, this leads him to try to save those around him, because he was unable to be saved, instead of trying to exact revenge on the

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