Text Preference: Atonement by Ian McEwan
Ideas for Lines of Inquiry:
To what extent does Briony occupy an antagonistic role in Atonement? [A]
How does perspective influence the reader’s experience in Atonement? [B]
[A] Introduction: Subjectivity of the work, establishment of metafiction that actively attempts to deceive and lie to the reader.
Part 1: Briony’s introduction as an unreliable
In analysing poems including Playroom, Script for Child Services, and Microaggression Bingo, I think I got a glimpse into a deeply troubled life, faced by the author in a home (America) that she simultaneously belongs to and is estranged by. The cultural incongruence between a Pakistani heritage and and the American world, combined with poems chronicling her sexual awakening and clumsy stabs at adulthood, created an interesting conflict that sparked questions regarding maturity, sexuality, culture, and privilege. Playroom, the crucible of most of our analysis, was enjoyable in its aggressive tone and flippantly sexual overtones, especially in the crude juxtaposition between children’s toys (Barbies and Beanie Babies) and the sexual acts that the author’s prepubescent self force them to conduct sparked some pretty interesting debate in our class.
For my second engagement, building on the school survey that I undertook earlier, I was able to arrange an interview with an associate researcher at the IPS (Institute of Policy Study) think tank, to help me get an academic’s perspective on the controversy surrounding the CMIO policy. Frankly, this engagement was far, far more difficult to arrange than the previous survey. I was turned down by 4 different academics from various different universities, ranging from SUSS to the sociology department of NUS. The justification provided for the abrupt declining of my offer was due to the questions being “sensitive in the political climate of coming elections”. I understand the trepidation that an academic might have in accepting an interview on such a sensitive topic, but I did not expect to be rejected as many times as I was. Nonetheless, despite the aforementioned setbacks and failed attempts, reaching out to the IPS was a good choice, as, ideally, an independent think-tank focused on objectively analysing public policy in Singapore would have been able to provide strong, unbiased answers to my questions. After some correspondence with one person at IPS, he eventually linked me to one of his colleagues, the man I interviewed for this engagement. Preceding the interview (which was done online, via Google Meets, and was recorded on my computer using Quicktime Player), I had a brief correspondence with him, sending the questions I would ask in the interview to verify that he was comfortable answering them (which he was). The interview itself went very smoothly; he was a very approachable and friendly person, and was clearly very knowledgeable on the CMIO policy and its applications. His concise answers forced me to reevaluate the necessity of the CMIO policy, and made me realise that, all this time, I had been analysing it from a very foreign perspective; one that viewed any sort of racial system or policy as inherently negative. The interview not only provided a very strong engagement, but also allowed me to widen my understanding a gain a valuable new perspective to use in my essay.