From the very first part, the reader is introduced to literary work of the thirteen year-old Briony, and through it, the reader can see how she tends to use literature to affect others’ lives. She believes that the fictive world of literature can affect the real world. Also, Briony views people around her as characters. As she imagines her brother’s reaction to the play she wrote for him. She imagines:
…little playlets in themselves, every one of which featured Leon. In one, his big, good-natured face buckled in grief as Arabella sank in loneliness and despair. In another, there he was, cocktail in hand at some fashionable city watering hole, overheard boasting to a group of friends: Yes, my younger sister, Briony Tallis the writer,…show more content… And, being the attention seeker that she is, she demands that the story be built around her. When she sees her sister’s encounter with Robbie at the fountain, she misinterprets what is before her. At first, she thinks it is just like a fairy-tale where the poor boy proposes to the rich girl. But when he raises his hand suddenly and Cecilia strips out of her clothes to jump into the fountain, the fairy-tale image is shattered in Briony’s head. She thinks that he is threatening Cecilia and she is helplessly doing as she told. As her cousins from the north appear into the scene, she feels that she is losing the attention slowly. It starts when the elder cousin, Lola, asks her to take the role of Arabella in her play; the role that she thought of for herself. Grudgingly, she agrees. When the wrong version of Robbie’s apology letter (meant for Cecilia) falls in Briony’s hand, she reads it and is horrified (or is she jealous to know that, her once crush, is in love with her sister instead of her?!) to know how he thinks of her sister and she feels the urge to protect her. Again, at the dinner table, all the attention is directed towards Lola’s bruised arm. When she witnesses the attack on Lola she assumes that she saw the attacker, even though it is dark. She gives Lola no chance to say who she thinks it might be. Briony does not lie when she insists that…show more content… As postmodern thinking puts into question the concept of reality and truth blurring the line between fiction and reality, “McEwan uses Briony’s lie and her ambivalent relationship to versions of truth to demonstrate the necessity of ethics.” (Ellam; 60)
Briony is so taken by her writing abilities that she perceives everything around her as a story. When she witnesses what happens between Robbie and Cecilia at the fountain, she is probably old enough to acknowledge how complex is what she is witnessing and yet too young to be able to acknowledge it as a reality, not as story. She immediately puts them in the context of her story and she contemplates how she can write it from three different points of view (Claire Messud) :
She could write the scene three times over, from three points of view; her excitement was in the prospect of freedom, of being delivered from the cumbrous struggle between good and bad, heroes and villains. None of these three was bad, nor were they particularly good. She need not judge. There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive.