Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2024

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English and Linguistics

Department Chair or Program Director

Richards, Gary

First Advisor

Haffey, Kate

Major or Concentration



This paper examines the religious imagery in Atonement by Ian McEwan through a close reading of the structure and main characters Briony, Cecilia and Robbie. The novel is deeply concerned with questions of sin and redemption, which intersect with religious symbolism and metafiction to create the story. This paper reads Briony as both a creator god and a failed Christ figure and Cecilia and Robbie as Adam and Eve characters, showing the text’s self-awareness through its use of narrative to create meaning. It argues that the field of religious studies offers many theories and terms that enrich the field of literary analysis, such as ritual, sacred vs. profane space and time, and creature consciousness, all exhibited in Atonement. Finally, the paper explores the relationship between literature and religion’s meaning-making myth, all of which parallel the Judeo-Christian tradition.