- Memory; impressions
- Consider the characters'
memory and its relationship with worldview or perspective.
How does the text convey this?
- "How were we to know that
our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had
already been gained, some damage already inflicted?
Also, that our release would only be into a larger
holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first
- "Back then, we were most of
us absolutists," the narrator describes. What are they
- "I thought she was nice.
Well, I probably would have found any girl who didn’t
shy away from me nice."
- What values are attached to
memory in the novel? How is memory portrayed? What demands
are expected or required of memory in different
situations? Is this justified?
- "But she only said, 'I
wonder why you remembered that.' And with this moment of
corroboration, I began to feel a return of confidence."
- "If asked in a court of law
what happened and what was said" (119)
- What is the difference between
memory and impressions? When does memory fail or when is
an impression wrong, and why is it significant? In what
ways is memory unreliable? Consider the following:
- "'Oh, I never thought it was
- "Severn Bore. Veronica had
been alongside me." (119)
- Consider the characters'
relationship with time throughout their lives. How does
the novel convey its ideas about time?
- "We live in time—it holds us
and moulds us"
- "I mean ordinary, everyday
time, which clocks and watches assure us passes
- "it takes only the smallest
pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some
emotions can speed it up, others slow it down;
occasionally, it seems to go missing"
- "Another detail I remember:
the three of us, as a symbol of our bond, used to wear
our watches with the face on the inside of the wrist. It
was an affectation, of course, but perhaps something
more. It made time feel like a personal, even a secret,
- "And then life took over,
and time speeded up. In other words, I found a
- "I’d better explain what the
concept of 'going out' with someone meant back then,
because time has changed it."
- "You may say, But wasn’t
this the sixties? Yes, but only for some people, only in
certain parts of the country."
- "She was five months older
than me and sometimes made it feel like five years."
- "I asked if I might be told
the date of the will"
- "time was telling not
against them, it was telling against me" (98)
- "it isn’t necessarily too
- "Of course, I was far too
- "this was what my time was
now for" (134)
- "Time’s revenge on the
innocent foetus" (139)
- "Now, for the first time, I
wondered what had happened to Robson’s girl, and to
their child" (141)
- "I knew I couldn’t change,
or mend, anything now" (149)
- Influences on time
- How does time and memory
affect each other?
- What is the relationship
between history and time?
- What kinds of things are
changed by time in the novel and what are similar or
remain the same?
- How does the novel use time to
convey guilt? To what effect?
- "Why had I reacted by going
- "Remorse, etymologically, is
the action of biting again: that’s what the feeling does
to you. Imagine the strength of the bite when I reread
my words." (138)
- "There is accumulation.
There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is
unrest. There is great unrest." (149)
- "In our final history lesson
of the year, Old Joe Hunt" asks his students: "We could
start, perhaps, with the seemingly simple question, What
is History?" Why is this a question to ask at the end
of term? How is this different from asking the
question at the beginning?
- What functions of history does
the novel present?
- What shortcomings of history
does the novel show?
- What does the novel propose
might compensate for the shortcomings of history?
- What does the novel suggest
are the uses or futility of philosophy?
- Echoes and Parallels
- How does Robson's suicide set
- How does Adrian's explanation
of Robson's suicide as a historical event and his
questions about it prepare for the problems and questions
that arise in connection to Adrian's own suicide?
- How might Hunt's response to
Adrian's explanation clarify or question the evidence in
Adrian's later suicide case and Tony Webster's "Quest to
Discover the Truth"?
- Do events in Part Two prove
or disprove Hunt's suggestion not to "underestimate
history. And for that matter historians"?
- Does Hunt's warning that "It
is often the statement made with an eye to the future
that is the most suspect" find later application?
- What of his point that
"mental states may often be inferred from actions"? What
mental states of which characters can be inferred from
Knowability and Unknowability of People and Things
earnestly does the novel take Adrian's explanation to
Old Joe Hunt, "in one sense, I can't know what it is
that I don't know" (11)?
- How might
people's internal, personal and abstract character,
personalities and ideas be inferred from external or
physical evidence? What do the following reveal?
they read or like
may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of
makes an individual that individual?
Tony hadn’t been Tony" (89)
of these days I’ll surprise you,' I said.
'You do still. You have today.'" (101)
sort of Adrian did I have instead? [...] But now I had
to recalibrate Adrian, change him from a Camus-quoting
repudiator for whom suicide was the only true
philosophical question, into…what?" (140)
questions are asked about a person or event? When are
they answered? By whom or what? Do the questions turn
out to be the right questions to have been asked?
can the legal system or legal means discover about a
can historical methods uncover?
can psychology or psychologists find or see (87)?
can common sense or logic decipher?
Finn is described as a "philosopher" who "pushed us to
believe in the application of thought to life, in the
notion that principles should guide actions" (9). How
does this idea of the "true philosophical question
[...] The fundamental one on which all others depend"
(13–14) and the process of logical reasoning prove
useful in explaining things throughout the course of
the novel? How "philosophically self-evident" are
the other hand, there is Tony Webster's refrain about
logic: "where's the logic in that?" (26), "Logic: yes,
where is logic?" (40). He makes the observation:
"Adrian was much cleverer than me—he used logic where
I use common sense—but we came, I think, to more or
less the same conclusion" (104). Are logic and common
sense at odds? Are they the same thing? What
difference do they make in knowing about things?
can intimacy, attention and perceptiveness?
for example, how well Tony's ex-wife Margaret knows
him. What kinds of things does she know about him? To
what extent? How does she come by that knowledge?
were some women who aren’t at all mysterious, but are
only made so by men’s inability to understand them.'"
Where might this be true in the story?
wrong with you? [...] You just don’t get it,
do you? You never did, and you never will'" (126)
is Adrian being serious and when is he "taking the
does one's view or understanding of a person or event
change if one treats it as a historical figure or
does it mean that Tony "didn’t feel as if [he] was
examining some historical document" when he is reading
the photocopied page of Adrian's diary (86)? "No, I
felt as if Adrian was present in the room again,
beside me, breathing, thinking."
Margaret says "'Tony, you're on your own now,'" (106)
what does she already know that he does not seem yet to
know about him or about the situation?
reliable are words as indicators of truth? How do words
convey the sense of something, of understanding?
brother, Jack, was easier to read: one of those
healthy, sporting young men who laughed at most things
and teased his younger sister. He behaved towards me
as if I were an object of mild curiosity, and by no
means the first to be exhibited for his appreciation."
hadn’t even meant it at the time—I was just flailing
around, trying to find a way to hurt. [...] So it was
as false as it was hurtful." (138)
what you call 'hand-cut chips' are actually cut
elsewhere, and quite probably by a machine?'" (145)
title of the novel announces The Sense of an Ending.
How much does it give away of its story even before it
has begun? What impact does this outright knowledge of
an ending have on the telling of the story? What
resonances of "the sense of an ending" do you find in
effective is the literary or novel form as a vehicle for
clarity, precision, nuance, development, and layers?
aspects of the novel The Sense of an Ending or
what expressions within it show ideas about its own form
and function? Consider, for instance,
few incidents that have grown into anecdotes"
don’t run out of material the way novelists do,' she
instructed me. 'Because they don’t depend on material
in the same way'"
said there were no surprises left in life?" (118)
producing events" (138)
I’d had an address for her, I would have sent a proper
letter. I headed my email 'Apology,' then changed it
to 'APOLOGY,' but that looked too screamy, so changed
it back again. I could only be straightforward"
- How many
senses does Barnes use the word sense in the
was the first thing a man sensed" (66)
that make sense?" (87)
don’t mean that in a bitchy sense" (101)