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A Biblical Archetypal Analysis of Atonement

Author ZuoFuXiao
Tutor GuanRongZhen
School Guangxi University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Atonement The Holy Bible archetypical criticism Northrop Frye
CLC I561.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Ian McEwan is one of the modern influential writers in Britain and the world literary circles. His novel Atonement, which is published in2001, not only wins National Book Critics Circle Award, but also wins him huge acclaim. Different from his other novels, Atonement embodies strong humanistic concern and philosophical consideration through depicting the cruel World War II, the romantic love story and the contradictions among different classes in Britain.Since its publication, Atonement has already become the focal point of literary study among foreign scholars. It has been studied by literary critics from different angles. While in China, the study of Ian McEwan and Atonement develops quickly, but far from comprehensive. In this thesis, the author tries to analyze the biblical archetypes in Atonement based on Northrop Frye’s archetypal analysis. By discovering and exploring those biblical archetypes, a better understanding of the novel in its cultural background can be achieved. In Chapter two, three, four, the thesis tries to analyze the recurring archetypal images depicted in Atonement from the perspectives of theme, narrative pattern and characters separately. The biblical archetypal analysis mainly focuses on characters:Briony and her archetype—Judas; Robbie and his archetypes—scapegoat and Jesus Christ; Cecilia and her archetype—Mary Magdalene. Through analyzing the biblical archetypes in this novel, the author tries to explore the humanistic concern and philosophical consideration behind those archetypes in the literary creation.By the biblical archetypal interpretation of Atonement, it can be seen that the application of biblical archetypes in this novel not only demonstrates the superb artistic originality of Ian McEwan, but also greatly heightens the humanistic depth and artistic quality, which further enriches the novel. The shaping of archetypes and the application of unique writing techniques in Atonement provide a new way to literary creation and offers a new method of literature interpretation as well.

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