Misinterpretation in Ian McEwan's 'Atonement'

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INTRODUCTION Ian McEwan's novel Atonement addresses the issues of social class, sexuality and the true status of women in pre-World War II Britain, where concepts of morality had not really emerged from the Victorian Era. In this broader social and political context, the malicious actions and misinterpretations of a young girl, the hero Robbie is falsely convicted of rape and sent to prison, and in the end this was the cause not only of his separation from Cecilia but also his death. Cecilia Tallis is from the upper middle class and is a university graduate, who ends up working as a nurse, and her lover Ronnie Turner also graduated from Cambridge, although this was still uncommon for someone from a working class background. He too had aspirations to rise into the professional class and become a physician, and perhaps even to marry Cecilia. Law and society had changed sufficiently by 1935 to permit women and men to make such choices, although Cecilia's family would most certainly have disapproved. Yet women were still not equal to men in 1935, and still possessed less sexual freedom and social and economic power, particularly in a society that was still highly uncomfortable discussing such issues openly. Over 300 years of time separate the settings of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Atonement, and naturally the role and status of women changed considerably during that time. Italy in the 17th Century stood much closer in time and culture to the ancient and
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