This Tallis family heirloom was given to Jack Tallis’s brother Clem to commemorate Clem’s liberation of a village near Verdun in World War I. Early in the book, while Cecilia and Robbie flirt, they accidentally damage the vase. Cecilia disrobes and goes into a fountain to retrieve the broken piece, and Briony witnesses this event and understands it to signify that Robbie has mistreated her sister. This misunderstanding, along with others, forms the basis for Briony’s notion that Robbie is guilty of raping Lola. In this way, the accidental destruction of a Tallis family heirloom leads to a major rupture in the Tallis family itself, and the token won in World War I that honors the family leads to the breaking apart of the family in World War II.
Uncle Clem’s Vase Symbol Timeline in Atonement
The timeline below shows where the symbol Uncle Clem’s Vase appears in Atonement. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
Part 1, Chapter 4
...Tallises have taken into their home. Emily also relays that Betty dropped and shattered Clem’s vase after, as she claims, it broke apart in her hands. These letters make Briony feel... (full context)