Linguistics and Literature Studies Vol. 8(2), pp. 64 - 71
DOI: 10.13189/lls.2020.080205
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The Function of Time Figuration in Reading Atonement

Zhong Ying *
Foreign Languages Studies School, Soochow University, China


This study investigates the relationship between time and memory in McEwan's novel Atonement and the role the three different kinds of time figuration play in constructing the harmony among characters, authors and readers. Atonement is another masterpiece after First Love, Last Rites and Amsterdam, for it gains several literary prizes: the Smith Award, the National Book Critics Circle and Santiago European novel Award. In Atonement, McEwan describes the protagonist Briony's memory dilemma through disrupting the linearity and stability of narrative and readers are often caught in a Foucault-like maze in reading. Ricoeur's interpretative theory of mimesis and figuration provides a new hermeneutic dimension to the interpretation of the text and an alternative perspective to the reader. In fact, the understanding of the novel can be helped by the dynamic cycle of figuration chains including prefiguration, configuration and refiguration. In prefiguration, the underlying reasons for the central event in Briony's memory are introduced. The key links between historical and individual events, the past and the present, the main and messy plots scattered throughout the novel could be organized by emplotment in configuration. In refiguration, Briony's reconstruction of the same events is achieved by meta-narrative strategy. To sum up, the time figuration model contributes to the interpretation of Atonement and the analysis of the figuration strategy provides possible spiritual sustenance for the child who experiences traumatic events in the early stages.

Ian McEwan, Atonement, Prefiguration, Configuration, Refiguration

Cite This Paper in IEEE or APA Citation Styles
(a). IEEE Format:
[1] Zhong Ying , "The Function of Time Figuration in Reading Atonement," Linguistics and Literature Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 64 - 71, 2020. DOI: 10.13189/lls.2020.080205.

(b). APA Format:
Zhong Ying (2020). The Function of Time Figuration in Reading Atonement. Linguistics and Literature Studies, 8(2), 64 - 71. DOI: 10.13189/lls.2020.080205.