Ian McEwan

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Briony Tallis

Briony is the novel’s protagonist. At the novel’s outset, she is a precocious girl with a gift for writing. However she is also a petulant child, both naïve and certain of her understanding, and her… read analysis of Briony Tallis

Robbie Turner

The bright, attractive, and ambitious son of Grace Turner, who is the Tallis family’s charlady. Robbie is studying at Cambridge to be a doctor, and his education is funded by the Tallises, who treat… read analysis of Robbie Turner

Cecilia Tallis

Briony’s free-spirited sister. Early in the novel she realizes, somewhat to her surprise, that she is in love with Robbie Turner. When Briony’s incrimination of Robbie alienates him from the Tallis family, Cecilia cuts… read analysis of Cecilia Tallis

Lola Quincey

Briony’s blasé cousin, two years her senior. She is raped by Paul Marshall, and is so shaken by the assault that she accepts Briony’s assertion that Robbie Turner was the culprit even though it… read analysis of Lola Quincey

Paul Marshall

A somewhat dull friend of Leon’s who is heir to a chocolate-making fortune. His family company manufactures Amo bars. When he visits the Tallis family at the beginning of the book, the family initially… read analysis of Paul Marshall
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Emily Tallis

Briony and Cecilia’s mother, and the wife of Jack Tallis. She is a relatively hands-free parent, in part because she suffers from debilitating migraines. She is something of a snob, and less enthusiastic than… read analysis of Emily Tallis

Jack Tallis

Briony and Cecilia’s father, and the husband of Emily Tallis. Mr. Tallis is an absent parent because his work as a high-ranking government bureaucrat consumes most of his time, particularly during the tensions leading… read analysis of Jack Tallis

Pierrot and Jackson Quincey

Pierrot and Jackson are Lola’s twin younger brothers. At the book’s beginning, they appear as rowdy and capricious preadolescent boys, and the drama that takes place passes over their heads. Pierrot returns at the end… read analysis of Pierrot and Jackson Quincey
Minor Characters
Corporal Nettle
One of Robbie’s two comrades during his time fighting in France and Belgium. To write Robbie’s portion of the story, Briony researches Robbie’s wartime experience by finding and communicating with Nettle.
Corporal Mace
Another of Robbie’s comrades during the war.
One of Briony’s fellow nursing novices, with whom Briony strikes up a friendship. Fiona is from a well-to-do London family.
Leon Tallis
Leon is the oldest Tallis child. He plays a small role in the book; he is visiting home with his friend Paul Marshall when Paul rapes Lola, and he reappears as a doddering old man at the Tallis family reunion that ends the novel.
Nurse Drummond
Briony’s stern supervisor at the hospital where Briony is first positioned.
Danny Hardman
A Tallis family servant whom Cecilia and Robbie wrongly suspect of being Lola’s true rapist.
Old Hardman
Danny Hardman’s father. He is a Tallis family servant.
A Tallis family servant who helps around the kitchen.
Hermione and Cecil Quincey
The parents of Lola, Pierrot, and Jackson. Hermione is Emily Tallis’s sister, and she and Cecil are embroiled in an unpleasant, public divorce. For this reason, their children are sent to live with the Tallises.
Grace Turner
Robbie Turner's mother, and the charlady (cleaning woman) for the Tallis family.
Ernest Turner
Robbie Turner's father and Grace Turner's husband, who quit his job as the Tallis gardener and abandoned his family.