University of Hertfordshire

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Self-forgiveness and the moral perspective of humility: Ian McEwan's Atonement

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)121-138
JournalPhilosophy and Literature
Journal publication date1 Apr 2019
Volume43
Issue1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019

Abstract

What does it take to forgive oneself? I argue that reflection on Briony Tallis in Ian McEwan’s Atonement can help us understand two key aspects of self-forgiveness. First, she illustrates an unorthodox conception of humility that, I argue, aids the process of responsible self-forgiveness. Second, she fleshes out a self-forgiveness that includes continued self-reproach. While Briony illustrates elements of the self-absorption about which critics of continued self-reproach (such as Margaret Holmgren) are rightly concerned, she also shows a way of getting beyond this, such that the delicate balance between self-forgiveness and self-condemnation is upheld. Atonement also shows the significance for the task of self-forgiveness of a particular kind of narrative continuity.

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