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Ian  McEwan

Ian McEwan: Challenging Characters with Internal and External Conflicts

Protection of Human Rights in the European Union


Erin  Carroll

The foundations of the European Union were built on the need for economic unity. This economic unity resulted in the Euro as Europe’s national currency. Europe’s cyclical history of conflict without resolution between nations suggested the need for political unity in addition to economic unity. In the twenty first century, the European Union took steps toward a fully-fledged political unity by writing its own Consitution. As Europe’s leaders faced this difficult process, they struggled to maintain the integrity and policies of the member countries while they debated human rights issues. The difficult process of debating and writing policies protecting human rights presented unusual challenges to member nations. Conferences held to discuss and debate issues became so heated that members had to end the meeting early with no resolution to the topic they came to discuss. The most controversial topics in the Union included abortion and the protection of women’s rights, torture, and the invocation of religion in political debate. The complex issues and conflicting interests of the different member countries resembled the extraordinary obstacles Ian McEwan devises for his characters.

In each of his novels, Ian McEwan portrays ordinary people in extraordinary situations. The readers follow each of his characters as they battle external as well as internal conflicts on their journey of self-discovery. As they face life’s challenges they have the ability to change and grow, although not all of them seize that opportunity. McEwan’s novels Atonement, Amsterdam, and The Innocent all feature characters who struggle to separate the quiet murmur of their own consciences from the angry shouts of the rest of society. McEwan challenges his characters without exceptions. He forces a thirteen-year-old girl to make a decision that could send another man to jail and challenges a thirty-year-old man to uncover and experience his emotions for the first time. The moral dilemmas that the characters face force them along the path of self-discovery.

Major Works Consulted:

Council of the European Union. Fifth Annual Report on Human Rights. Brussels, Belgium: 2 February 2004 10 October 2003.
Kotlowski, Dean J, ed. The European Union, from Jean Monnet to the Euro. Athens: Ohio UP, 2000.
McEwan, Ian. Atonement. New York: Anchor, 2003.
---. The Innocent. New York: Anchor, 1999.
Photo Credit: McEwan, Ian. The Innocent. New York: Anchor, 1999.

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