Denise, how she irritated me; she was the one who always had to be in control, and was always right. She seemed to always get her way. Denise was the most popular kid in my fifth grade class and everyone seemed to follow what she said. She controlled the other kids, and even the teachers. No matter what school, or age group, there is always one person that has to be in control of everything. The world revolves around them, and anything or anyone that does not agree, is not a part of their world. However, no one expects someone that is only thirteen years old to possess that kind of power over adults. I was shocked while watching Atonement to discover the amount of influence that young Briony Tallis’ actions have over the lives of the people around her. In Joe Wright’s film adaptation of the novel Atonement, Briony symbolizes control.
Briony is established as a symbol of control in the beginning of the film by the arrangement of the toy animals, and her act of beating nettles. In the very first scene of the movie, the audience see’s a neatly ordered parade of animals lined up past a model of the Tallis estate. The animals are arranged in a neat, ordered line, leading to Briony as she sits at her desk typing the end of her play. This scene takes place in Briony’s room, and the animals undoubtedly have been arranged by her. The animals are representations of the characters in Briony’s fictitious world, but they are also representative of real people who are in Briony’s life. Everything in Briony’s life is orderly, just as the line of animals. The animals are facing her since she is the controller of their fate; this mirrors the adoration that every other character shows Briony at the beginning of the film as she is going to unveil h…
…aged world. Interestingly, her attempt to mend her lie’s unfortunate consequences is to once again retreat into her world of fiction. What better place is there to fix a wrong that cannot be undone, than in a world where you have control, where you can grant life after death? After all of the characters depicted in the novel have died, the only remaining account will be the novel itself. None of the other significant characters of the novel are alive to contradict her new reality, and Briony herself will soon forget the truth since she is dying from Vascular Dementia. Briony, as the author of Atonement, is not God, but she is portrayed as a symbol of this ultimate power and control over the lives of other people.
Atonement. Dir. Joe Wright. Perf. James McAvoy, Kiera Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, and Vanessa Redgrave. Universal, 2007. Film.