A moment in time; most people can pinpoint one or two times in their lives when the choices they made had long term repercussions. Such is the case for Briony Tallis in Ian McEwanâ€™s book, Atonement. In the book, the concept of maturity is treated masterfully by the shift of a characterâ€™s perceptions, belief systems and social realities.
Bryony Tallis is the younger sister whose literary skills are often belittled by her older sister Celia. As the book opens, she creates a play for her cousins and herself to perform. The familyâ€™s dynamics are at once set as the reader finds the mother remote and as distant as the father, who seems to spend most of his nights in London, rather then at home.
As the eveningâ€™s events unwind, the small details and insignificant happenings of the day are spoken about, but the undercurrent of tension is building. Later, one of the cousins is assaulted on the grounds of the house and Briony, still stinging from an insult earlier, tells the authorities that it was Robbie, their childhood friend and Ceciliaâ€™s boyfriend.
Briony witnesses her sister strip down to her undergarments and dive into a family fountain with Robbie looking on. Not comprehending what was going on between the two, she goes down to the fountain after the two have left. It is at this point that she begins to glimpse a bit of her future, and cleverly, McEwen foretells the tale.
Briony had her first, weak intimation that for her now, it could no longer be fairy-tale castles and princesses, but the strangeness of the here and now, of what passed between the people, the ordinary people that she knew , and what power one could have over the other, and how easy it was to get over everything wrong, completely wrong.
Though she does not understand what has happened, her imagination fills in what she supposes to be the gaps. It is this assumption that leads to the terrible culmination of events which destroys them all.