Explore the ways in which the love between Robbie and Cecilia is presented unreliably or as something doomed to fail
The relationship between Robbie and Cecilia is presented unreliably throughout the novel; it is displayed through different themes such as class difference, gender struggles as well as symbolism and Briony’s perspective.
The way Briony talks about Cecilia and Robbie in Chapter 2 when the vase is broken reflects her childish perception of love as well as proving just how easily she misinterprets things. When looking down at the pair from the window back in the house “she had privileged access across the years to adult behaviour, to rites and conventions she knew nothing about” (pg 39). “Rites” refers to the connection and relationship between Robbie and Cecilia, to something that Briony was yet to understand. It implies a ceremony of some sort, one that reveals the true love between them; or one that reveals the sexual undertone of their relationship. Ceremonies are usually done to celebrate or commemorate something, often associated with religion and ceremonies like the Eucharist. When Briony describes it as a ‘rite’ she might be unconsciously accepting their true love and thinking ahead to their marriage which again is a religious ceremony. She did however have no idea what exactly was happening down there and all she could do was guess and assume that Robbie us using Cecilia to his advantage because “at his instance she was removing her clothes” (pg 38) despite the fact she unconsciously might think otherwise. The way she highlights ‘instance’ and the fact it was for ‘him’ reflects her view of status of women with relationships. She implies that her sister, Cecilia, is weaker and malleable to Robbie’s desires, under his control. He didn’t look back when she came out of the fountain but she did not her the conversation between them and saw it out of context; therefore to her what she was seemed alien and unacceptable. Briony has very traditional views on relationship, especially about weddings; she says that “a good wedding was an unacknowledged representation of the yet unthinkable – sexual bliss”(pg 9) showing that although she’s aware of the sexual kind of love too, she does not yet think about it, nor believes that it is the kind of love that could be between Robbie and her sister; which is why she reacts the way she does. She describes it as a ‘bliss’ which proves that she knows that a sexual relationship can bring happiness and pleasure but at her age it’s ‘unthinkable’ to be thinking about it. She’s unaware of the “ecstatic frenzy” and “awed sense of return” (pg 137) it brings to the couple.
Briony is partially the reason why their relationship is presented unreliably to the readers, because she herself is a very unreliable and naïve narrator due to her age and opinion; an omniscient…