Self-forgiveness and the moral perspective of humility: Ian McEwan's Atonement
What does it take to forgive oneself? I argue that reflection on Briony Tallis in Ian McEwan’s Atonement can help us understand two key aspects of self-forgiveness. First, she illustrates an unorthodox conception of humility that, I argue, aids the process of responsible self-forgiveness. Second, she fleshes out a self-forgiveness that includes continued self-reproach. While Briony illustrates elements of the self-absorption about which critics of continued self-reproach (such as Margaret Holmgren) are rightly concerned, she also shows a way of getting beyond this, such that the delicate balance between self-forgiveness and self-condemnation is upheld. Atonement also shows the significance for the task of self-forgiveness of a particular kind of narrative continuity.