An act of self-mortification or devotion performed voluntarily to show sorrow for a sin or other wrongdoing. This act can be seen through both the novel The Reader by Bernhard Schlink and the film Atonement directed by Joe Wright.
Guilt is a prevailing theme in both Atonement and The Reader. In The Reader, guilt is persistently explored as a reoccurring theme. ‘and when I feel guilty, the feelings of guilt return; if I yearn for something today, or feel homesick, I feel the yearnings and homesickness from back then.’ (pp. 215) This quote highlights the principle to the reader that feelings of guilt, while not always prevalent, are reoccurring and illuminates the idea that individuals cannot retreat into deniability for very long. At some point, there has to be a reckoning of what they know is right and until then, the guilt will always come back. This principle foreshadows the death of Hanna, as once she begins to read about the atrocities that she took part in, she begins to feel such an overpowering sense of guilt that becomes so overwhelming she commits suicide. Similarly, throughout Atonement, as Briony begins to realise the total extent of her accusations she refuses her place at Cambridge out of remorse and begins training as a war nurse in London as an act of penance. This evokes feelings of empathy from the viewer, as one understands she was only a child when the accusations took place.
The cinematography used at the beginning of Atonement provides a nostalgic effect through the use of sunlight and glimmering reflections contrasted against the shadows and darkness in the house. This encourages the image of spaciousness and provides the viewer with a sense of what life was like in the upper class of England. Contrasting against this, The Reader begins with fifteen year old Michael gaining hepatitis and spending several months in a cramped room, persuading the reader to experience feelings of isolation and seclusion.
The Reader is both...
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