best, but fails to establish a practical method for solving the problem and in fact the problem seems like remaining untouched by the end of the novel.
And finally, the Žižekian word works here greatly that the doctrine of ideology is “destined to convince us of its ‘truth’, yet actually serving some unavowed particular power interest” (Žižek, Mapping Ideology 7). The ideological Doctrine of the global warming, one can claim, does its best to convince us with its truth mask of the existing ecological disasters, while trying hard to neutralize people’s efforts and ideas about it and also to serve the interests of the government agencies and other power institutions.
Based on Žižekian mapping of ideology, the mysterious level of the doctrine is exercised through some external and material means. Žižek resembles these means to the Althusserian Ideological State Apparatuses. Louis Althusser (1918-1990) believed the state apparatuses are divided to two types: the Repressive State Apparatuses and the Ideological State Apparatuses. The repressive means ‘function by force’ (Luke 84-5) and are institutions like the police, the court, the army etc. On the other hand, the Ideological State Apparatuses are some distinct and specialized institutions including the Religious ISA, the Educational ISA (schools and universities), the Family ISA, the Legal ISA, the Political ISA, the Trade Union ISA, the Communication ISA (press, television, radio etc.) and the Cultural ISA (literature, theatre, etc.) (Luke 84-5).
Religious thinking and the atheistic ideas are dominant themes in McEwan’s novels (Bradley and Tate 1-35). Nevertheless, the presence of the religious ISA is not very apparent in Solar and Atonement, while the Educational ISA can be considered as the focal point. Cecilia, Robbie and Leon are the children of the educational systems. The question here is that if one considers the educational system and the Family ISA in the same line of ideological doctrine, then the beliefs of these academic youths are in contrast to those of Briony and her mother, who are the representatives of the Family ISA in the novel.
One reading might be that there are two conflicting ISA’s at work. Briony is living at home with her mother and her cousins, while Cecilia, Robbie and Leon have been at university away from their rural house. For Cecilia as the representative of the new academic generation, the Tallis house seems an ‘Adam-style’ one, ‘ugly’ and of ‘baronial gothic’ (McEwan, Atonement 19). The description of the house can represent the new generation’s ideas on the old ideologies. They have been exposed to the modern ideology at the university and it seems the Tallis house is banished from the modern doctrines and is still stuck in the old ideologies of the family.
If one considers the country house and the urban university as two ISA’s exercising the ideological doctrines, the university is definitely much more developed in exercising the modern ideologies, while the family and traditions fail to adapt to the fast progress in the ideological doctrines of the state. Therefore, the very failure to adapt to the modern doctrines causes Briony’s old beliefs and rituals. Briony’s play Trials of Arabella can be considered the manifestation of such basic and old-fashioned doctrines. The old doctrines perceived by little Briony postulate marriage for man and woman, and consider issues like divorce and the love affairs out of the wedlock as wicked actions, which must be prevented. This is while the new and adult doctrines call for more tolerance in the modern sense of the word. For instance, in the case of Emily’s sister; Hermione, no one seems seriously critical of her divorce, leaving her three little kids alone, while having her unmarried life with her lover who works “in the wireless in Paris” (ibid 21).
While there might be some truth in the abovementioned reading, it may also seem to some extent inaccurate. A closer reading of the novel in between the lines, reveals another Žižekian notion. The second chapter of the Atonement gives great hints to the readers about the Tallis house and Cecilia’s situation in it. The book notes:
Cecelia’s grandfather…had imposed on the new house his taste of all things solid, secure and functional…the view was fine enough, giving an impression of timeless, unchanging calm which made her more certain than ever that she must soon be moving on. (McEwan 19)
This ‘annoys’ (McEwan 19) Cecilia and makes her try to escape the house. Cecilia, being the rebellious symbol of an academic youth, wants to leave the house because she cannot break the rules of the house and live with the lifestyle she desires. She does not dare to lit up a cigarette in the house stairs had her father been present. Three years of college “among the sophisticates of Girton had not provided her with the courage to confront him [her father]” (McEwan, Atonement 46) and that “none of the lessons of patriarchal criticism could quite deliver her from obedience” (ibid 47). These points might clearly be signs of the fact that, though Cecilia is trying to revolt against the patriarchal family constitutions, she cannot do so and what she does, in Žižekian terms, is just to take a cynical distance from the ideological issue as an effort to dupe them.
Cecilia and Robbie are having their affair silently and secretly. They cannot and do not proclaim their love for each other due to the same family conventions. Cecilia flowers a vase that is fully respected, not because it is the work of the artist Hőroldt, but because it is the memento of Uncle Clem who died at war. Even Emily respects the vase though she does not really like it (McEwan, Atonement 24). When Robbie and Cecilia accidentally break the vase (a fact that can ironically imply the break they are trying to make in the patriarchal structure of the Tallis household), Cecilia mends it so masterfully that the cracks in the handle are invisible. She ironically does her best to dupe the family and conceal the cracks they have made.
Žižek believes that “we are victims of authority precisely when we think we have duped it: the cynical distance is empty, our true place is in the ritual of obeying” (Žižek, Enjoy Your Symptom X). By this, Žižek says all about the manner of the academic characters in Atonement. Cecilia, Robbie and Leon, while being academics, fully respect the authoritative family rules. Even when they do not believe in them, they do it as a ritual to respect the rules. They do not touch the room of the dead Auntie Venus in the house and still “no one questioned her right to the room” (McEwan, Atonement 49). The young academics do not believe in the rules, but obey the rules of the family ISA in a ritualistic manner. The Educational ISA not only contradicts the family, but also works absolutely in line with it. They are probably acting to complete the ritualistic aspect of the ideological web.
The obscurity of the household and the rituals performed in it can be better understood through Žižek’s ideas. On the unquestionability of the ritual, Žižek uses the Confucius words and writes:
When Confucius writes: “Look at nothing in defiance of ritual, listen to nothing in defiance of ritual, speak of nothing in defiance of ritual, never stir hand or foot in defiance of ritual,“ he is asking us precisely to “say what we don’t mean”: rituals are to be followed, not understood; when we obey them, we repeat formulae whose true meaning is always obscure to us. (Žižek, Living in the End Times 14)
Apart from the Family and Educational ISA, there are other ISA means at work in Atonement. The Legal ISA works mostly as the RSA when the court votes for the incarceration of Robbie, and later on, the old Briony is afraid of publishing the truth about their life story owing to the fact that the Marshals might take legal action against the publication and her. The Political ISA is also at work with the help of the war and ideological aspects behind the harsh realities of it.
The Trade Union ISA cannot be directly found in the novel. However, if one considers the Trade Union ISA as an offspring of the old-fashioned Marxist ideas on economy and class-conscious society, the entire novel will be better understood. The old Tallis household seems to be built based on a class-conscious society, where the master and the working class are strictly kept apart. The design of the household puts the Tallis house in the hierarchical level of a master, with its artifacts, ponds and statues around it. The servants’ houses are built at a distance from the Tallis’s center to show their statuses. Robbie’s house is of the same servant type. On the other hand, the Tallis household is rebuilt by the grandfather, who was grown up in an ironmonger’s shop and had made the family fortune with a series of patents on padlocks, bolts, latches and hasps. The house can be considered as the manifestation of the ritualistic economic power structure.
Robbie is the son of a servant and is ideologically considered to obey the rules of the house without getting close and penetrating in the center of the house. Robbie is is traditionally supposed to continue gardening and serving the house and do as his parents have done. But, in the modern era, the kind master gives Robbie the freedom to enter the Tallis’s house freely, helps him educate and supports him. The freedom in the absence of the master (Cecilia’s father is far away from home), causes him to enter the master’s reign; something intolerable to the dominant ideology (one must consider the fact that although the mother is like the shadow of the dad, she cannot act as the master. Hence, the master loses the performative aspect of her mastering, and as Žižek puts it, ‘the emperor becomes naked’ (Žižek, Living in the End Times 365)). Consequently, Robbie is to