‘Real’ Mind Style and Authenticity Effects in Fiction: Represented Experiences of War in Atonement

Louise Nuttall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Fictional representations of the “mind styles” of characters are often valued for their realism and their ability to invite understanding and sympathy. However, the power of fictional narratives to influence perceptions of real-world individuals with similar experiences raises questions of accuracy and ethics with regards to mind style. This article explores the linguistic means through which impressions of “realism” and “authenticity” are invited or denied as part of a fictional mind style: specifically, that of a Second World War soldier, Robbie Turner, in McEwan’s Atonement (2001). I outline literary critical concerns surrounding “legitimate” war literature, before introducing responses to Atonement which reveal the significance of what is “real” for readers of this novel. Adopting a cognitive stylistic approach to mind style using Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar, I argue that the language of this text contributes to conflicting impressions of realism and authenticity on first and second readings as part of the ethical question it poses for readers.
This article is used by permission of The Pennsylvania State University Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-235
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2019


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