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Reading Report - Atonement - Hermione's Children

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Read the passage in Atonement beginning: " That Lola, who was fifteen, and the nine-year-old twins" (8), and ending: "and she knew at once that she could not ask Lola to play the prince" (11). (This is about 6 pages into Chapter 1 if your edition of Atonement has a different pagination.)

Summarise the story in this passage. How does the representation of the sequence of events in the narrative discourse differ from the order in which they occur in the story? Comment on the significance of these differences.


The narrator of Atonement summarizes the arrivals and the settling of Hermione's children into the Tallis house, describing Briony as impatiently awaiting them to settle to allow her to forward 'The Trials of Arabella'. The sequence of events in the story of this passage mainly focuses on Briony's desires to get her play in motion, and describes her as she attempts to get everyone involved in rehersal. The narrative discourse of the passage is mainly focused more on the arrival of the children and less on the play.

In the narrative discourse of this passage, we know from the information given to us in the story through Briony, that a lot of things happen in between the times of Briony's first introduction of the children and the start of her casting. In the narrative discourse, the children do not go straight into rehearsal for the trials of Arabella, and instead are taken by Emily Tallis for a succession of events designed to welcome the children, including the swim in the pool for the twins, followed by lunch in the south garden. In the story, these events are all described in a couple of sentences, when in the discourse it takes the full length of the day, taking us from the time of the children's arrival to late afternoon in a short matter of text. These events take place in the narrative discourse, but are not fully described like other sections of the text, in depth as a part of the story from the narrator's perspective. Briony Tallis, the narrator, sees these events as only supplementary to her story, the one she is telling from the future in a reflective manor, and skips rather quickly over them, yet they are still important factors of the narrative discourse.

The representation of events in the story of this passage differs greatly from the events representations in the narrative discourse. In the story, we are told only of the twin's arrival, Briony's failed attempt to start work on her play immediately, the interjections by both Cecilia and Emily, and finally Briony's thoughts on her casting choices and the decisions she eventually comes to. The story is a lot quicker in action happening, and does not contain all of the information that we have taken in already from the narrative



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