After eating lunch and ensuring that the children will behave, Emily Tallis retreats to her bedroom. She is tormented by a weight that sits on her brain like an indifferent animal. She thinks about Leon’s blithe life as a banker and Cecilia’s as a college student. Emily then begins to worry about Briony, whom she believes is being mistreated by Lola. Lola’s free-spiritedness reminds Emily of her much-resented sister Hermione, who is Lola’s mother.
Emily dozes off, and when she wakes she continues to think about Briony’s self-consciousness and talent. She reflects indignantly on Hermione’s self-indulgent abandonment of her children, and vows that she will take care of Jackson and Pierrot “only out of duty.” Emily continues to plan the rest of her errands, committed to maintaining control over the day.
Every detail in Atonement can be construed differently depending on the perspective from which it is viewed: to Emily, her youngest daughter’s bossiness is a mark of talent, rather than a character flaw, while she sees her sister’s children as mere burdens because of her resentment toward their mother.