Ian McEwan

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Atonement: Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

To Lola’s and the twins’ puzzlement, Briony cancels the rehearsals for The Trials of Arabella. Lola walks around the house. She finds her brothers, and they confess tearfully that they are unhappy away from their parents. She comforts them, and Jackson speaks explicitly about their parents’ divorce. Lola reprimands him sharply.
A shift to Lola’s perspective is all it takes to depict her not as the meddling diva that Briony perceives, but rather as a young woman who must fill the role that her absentee parents vacated. Lola’s demand that her brothers not mention the divorce highlights its emotional impact on her, but also perhaps its social impact. A child of divorce—perhaps especially a woman—at the time was likely doomed to a troublesome future.
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Paul Marshall appears in the doorway and introduces himself to the Quincey children. He mentions that he has read about their parents in the paper, but Lola tersely discourages him from mentioning any of the drama in front of her young siblings.
This exchange shows Lola to be more mature and considerate than Paul, who, despite being much older, is tactless in front of the twins. Again, that her parents were in the paper suggests the great social stigma of divorce at the time.
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Paul takes a nap on his bed and awakes to see Lola and the twins in the room across from his. He notices that Lola is an attractive young woman and begins to speak with her. The twins join the conversation and Paul shows them an Amo bar. When Paul explains that it will be standard issue in each soldier’s equipment, the twins say that their father thinks the country will not go to war. Paul responds that their father is mistaken. He gives Lola an Amo bar but does not give any to her brothers. Paul watches Lola while she eats the candy.
Paul’s desire to speak with Lola and subsequent ogling of her eating the candy bar suggests an uncomfortable sexual attraction, while his bickering with the nine-year-olds reinforces his status as a childish, immature character.
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