In the Tallis family’s lake sits an island temple. From afar, it seems charming and serene, but it is actually in disrepair. Briony looks at the temple as she hits the lakeside nettles in frustration. She imagines some of nettles are Lola and the twins and strikes them down with a tree branch. Briony moves on and pretends that other nettles are her past selves, and strikes them down as well in a rejection of her “sickly dependency of infancy and early childhood” and her conceited pride in her writing.
Briony’s wrathful destruction of the nettles is a helpful symbol for her juvenile approach to writing. She uses prose to create a world that she can dominate absolutely, and exerts this control to elevate and gratify herself, and to grapple with various feelings of unfulfillment.
Leon passes behind Briony, but she does not turn to acknowledge him. Instead, she continues swatting at the nettles, which sting her legs, and pretends that she is a world champion at the sport of nettle slashing. Once she has finished swatting the plants, she walks back towards the bridge, and vows to stay in the driveway and wait until something happens to her that will “dispel her insignificance.”
Once again, readers are given a glimpse of what Briony retrospectively refers to as her “self-mythologising.” The danger with her desire for greatness is that it will lead her to craft a personal narrative that puts her at the center of it, that makes her a hero, without regard to how it affects others (or, in face, even using that narrative to avenge her resentments much as her mother Emily does regarding the twins in the previous chapter).