Tuesday, 21 August 2012

9 Questions Regarding The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

And now to the discussion of the book for those who have read the book.Like other great novels,The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes definitely leaves more questions to the readers than answers.So I' ll try to answer some of the puzzling questions raised in the novel.

1. What is the ending of this book that I  boldly referred in my last post?

-As the Tony,Adrian and his fellow classmates debated  about the definition of history in part 1, we all can agree that all the characters agree that history is an account of a person using only  imperfect memories  and inadequacies of documentation.Just like  Robson suicide made the students to speculate what  really happened,Adrian's suicide,the 'historical event' of  this novel is left to the readers own speculation and interpretation  based on what Tony remembers and what Veronica and Sara implied.So just like Robson suicide and other historical event,  nothing can be proved unless with a testimony  from the person involved which in this case quite impossible as Adrian is not alive or with the authentic documentation on what has happened(The diary).Unless Julian Barnes decide to write another book on Veronica's POV or publishing the fragments of the diary,like all historical events,we are left to assume and believe what might have happened.

2.What does Veronica meant by 'Blood Money?

-The right definition of 'Blood Money' is the money paid by the murderer to victims family as a act of penance.Veronica who sees her mom responsible for Adrian suicide refers the money Sarah left to Tony,Adrian's friend and most likely to be  the last surviving kin  of Adrian as blood money.

3.What does Adrian's mathematical equations meant?

b = s –v +/x a1
a2 + v + a1 x s = b?

Equation 1: Sara who has a unhealthy relationship with Veronica( jealousy)  causes her to have a more meanful,passionate relationship with Adrian  that lead to the formation of a another life,a baby.

Equation 2: Anthony   who had a meanful relationship with Veronica, who started to date Adrian after breaking up with Tony, indirectly lead Adrian to have a more meanful or more important relationship  with Sara which lead to the formation of a baby.

4.Why is Veronica still bitter towards Tony?

-Veronica who spent her younger life competing with her mother  Sara who has a unhealthy jealousy toward her daughter had made Veronica a shy,complex person which Tony saw as paranoid and 'bitchy'.Did Veronica loved Tony?I  reckon she did loved Tony which is why she brought him to meet her parents and left him alone with her mother that evening to see whether he will be seduced by her mother.Note  that she became more affectionate with Tony only after that evening while the first day at her parents she rarely paid any attention towards Tony.Realising the relationship could be falling apart as she was refusing to have sex with Tony,she finally decides to have sex with him knowing that Tony really wants it.Again Tony saw this as  a manipulative act and ended the relationship.This could be why she was bitter with him that he was so self centred and only thinks about himself.Another reason  could be due to the fact that Tony's letter to Adrian started all the mess in her life.While she could not project her anger towards her death mother,the shows it to the last living person who has some share of this mess.

5.Did Tony actually slept with Mrs Ford?Why?

-I believe that Tony didn't sleep with Mrs Ford that morning.Why? you may ask.The only way its possible that Tony slept with Mrs Ford and didn't mentioned it was if he was lying or he has Alzheimer disease.I just don't see how one can forget having sex with their girlfriend's mum.It's not something one does often.So unless Tony is having some memory related sickness I would rule out  the possibility he might have forgotten that he had sex with Sarah or unintentionally block the memory.So this leaves us with possibility of Tony lying to the readers but I would also rule this out.Yes,Tony is a unreliable narrator but that doesn't mean Tony could be lying to us.If you have read the book,Tony had admitted some stuff which a normal person might be shy to admit and taken responsibility for things that are not solely because of him.Tony boldly admitted that he had submitted to the course of time,giving up his ambition and for heaven's sake he  admits that he is bad at sex!Him taking responsibility towards his friend suicide(which I felt wasn't his fault) also shows  a side of a person that has a good moral.I just don't see why he would lie about sleeping with Sarah when he had admitted doing things worse than that.

6. Did Mrs Ford seduce Adrian?Why?

-Yes ,according to Tony and implied by Veronica.Adrian coming from a dysfunctional family,where his mother left his father clearly have some 'mummy issues' and as we read in the part 1 is a hyper sensitive man.This could be why Adrian was easily seduced by Sara when he was with the Fords.Sara on the other hand is implied to be a women who likes younger men and having affair which would explain her husband alcoholism battle.She seems to have this unhealthy jelaousy towards her daughter.Again this is my point of view as one can also argue that Sara could be a elderly woman in a loveless marriage and an alcoholic husband.Again as Julian Barnes states,history and memory is subjective.

7.How strange is Veronica's family?

-To some extent,we all can agree Veronica's family is quite weird.An alcoholic father,lustful mother,a complex sister and a brother who doesn't call his mother,mother.I reckon there is some more incestuous thing going on with the family than what have been told to the readers.I came to this conclusion because   on how Tony out of a sudden claim  Veronica is 'damaged' and implied that she and her father and brother could be having a incestuous relationship.I guess Tony subconsciously picked up the incestuous vibe during holiday with the Fords  from Sara herself but was blinded with his good impression of her and again with his self centred attitude .There are many stances during the holidays implied  that Sara was having incestuous relationship with her son Jack.For instance Jack  referring his mother as 'The mother' and Jack suggesting to Veronica that 'The Mother' would not be happy with Veronica closeness with Tony.Another thing which made the family quite weird is due to the fact the whole family sort of know Sara's lust for young men, from the alcoholic father who keeps yelling about the young boys who used to work for them to Veronica who left her boyfriend to see whether he would succumb to her moves.Again this is just my interpretation as one could argue the possibility of Jack and Veronica not being Mr and Mrs Ford children as Tony did realise that both Veronica and Jack bear no resemblance towards their parents.

8.Why did Adrian decides to take his life?

-Adrian  is described to be quite an intelligent man and always thinking ahead of him. Even though he was really happy with Sara, creating another life due to his weakness and lust made him guilty and he saw the responsibilities ahead him due to his mistake.Again its during the sixties where making your girlfriend pregnant is a very serious issue,so just imagine how serious is it to make your girlfriends mum pregnant.Him coming from a broken family saw how he had  been the reason for  wrecking another family and possibly creating a miserable life for the future baby growing up in a dysfunctional family.With all this responsibilities accumulating along with guilt and remorse,he decides to   give back the gift of life which had been bestowed upon him.

9.What is the horizontal hand gesture  by Mrs Ford meant?

-This is possibly the most puzzling question I had reading this novel as  I couldn't actually visualise of this hand gesture is.The only thing I could  grasped from the hand gesture is that is was a hand wave below the waist level.Knowing a bit about psychology ,I guess it was a way which could be intentionally or unintentionally way of Sara saying she is available for him.

So there you go.I have tried my best to explain the blurry part of this magnificent novel using my own speculation and interpretation.Again everything is subjective  and everyone might have their own theory about what might have happened(which is the point that Julian Barnes tried to say in this novel).
So what do you think of this novel?Do you agree with my theory  or have a theory of your own.Just leave  whatever is in your mind in the comment section and we can discuss it.


Meera said...

The story's facade is simple, refined almost to monotony and dependent on the revelation of a secret towards the ending. But what is hidden between the lines is far more chaotic—and likely to leave the reader anxious for days after finishing the book. I loved that the book made me really think about regret, and repentance. It also made me think about the idea that we are always dishonest narrators of our own lives. And the book was very disturbing that it made me think about how easy it is to think you are one kind of person, when you are actually not and how universal human frailty is.
The ending was excellent that it left me lost in the lines, sitting there, recollecting all the little pieces of story back together in my mind. And it left me chaotic and disturbed for days after finishing the book.

F.FRANKLIN said...

@Meera I agree with you 100%..its one of those read makes you wanna yearn for more and I'm waiting for movie adaptation of this movie

Jaume Aguadé said...

This strange history only started to make sense to me when I got convinced that Adrian Jr is the son of Tony.

Hindi Jokes said...

A small yet extremely powerful book, it rightfully deserves the Booker. I started reading this book and was soon wondering as to where the story is eventually going. However , as the book progressed , I was rewarded with the satisfaction of having read something that will stay with me for a very long time. In all possible senses, the book does justice to the title. In the end , the main protagonist does feel the sense of everything ending

CashFund said...

Will be bumming it from someone at the next book-club meeting .. some of them found the book weird .. a lot of them liked it a lot.. you write really well!

Riki Chard said...

Thank you for your insight into this book. It was very helpful. In regards to why Adrian took his life. I have a different theory. When Robson took his life Adrian said that he was keeping the balance of the population count (or something like that) and with Adrian being such a logical person his intentions were the same ?

F.FRANKLIN said...

@Riki Chard That is an interesting theory.Perhaps trying to maintain could be one of the reason of his suicide but still think its the fear of responsibility and his hyper sensitve nature was the driving factor.

Seattle Divorce Attorney website said...

Based on the title, I thought this book was going to be a real downer. It turned out to be more of a mystery. It reminds us that jumping to conclusions is often a mistake. Beautifully written, of course. I am now moved to read more by Julian Barnes.

Gil said...

I found your nine points extremely interesting. This was a book I had to read right through at one sitting, though at times I found myself absolutely hating Tony. He is certainly a very unreliable narrator, as well as a total emotional coward, and his suggestion that not everyone in the 1960s, especially himself, engaged regularly in sex is just more of his pure unreliable storytelling. As for Veronica, I admire her self control -- Tony deserved to be put away for harassment -- I'm surprised she didn't throw him off the wobbly bridge!

Eric said...

I agree with a lot of this interpretation. But I wouldn't call Tony a kin of Adrian, just a friend from long ago. Perhaps if Tony had received the diary, as he should have, he'd understand why Sara left him money.

agriotes66 said...

About that gesture : I have seen it used, and used it, to signify something like "Washout" or "No way!" or even the equivalent of the utterance "Uh-uh". Also no one has spotted the possibility that it may have been intended to communicate a message to Veronica, who is sitting in the passenger seat, not to Tony. It's Sarah's verdict on Tony, warning her daughter that she's on a hiding to nothing with this awkward, timid, socially inferior boyfriend. It's no coincidence that Veronica soon takes the initiative, telling him, "I don't stagnate, Tony", which precipitates their breakup.

I'd add to this that Mr Ford, who is probably more perceptive than his fatuous, hearty demeanour suggests, observes that in Tony, Veronica has a rival for her mother's affection. He immediately takes the sting out of his remark with another laboured joke. Finally, factor in Jack's thinly veiled contempt ("My brother was right about you".) and it is clear that the Ford family "Court of Inquiry" convened over that weekend has judged Tony an unsuitable suitor. Sarah's bequest of £500 is by way of solatium.

Anonymous said...

Wow, while I could almost see where you were going with this post, I was forced to stop reading a third of the way down. The huge amount of grammatical errors just made this painful to read. Luckily I managed to answer all of these questions myself. Thanks for having a good attempt though.

Judy Mann said...

That gesture Veronica's mother makes? Horizontal arm movement? That means don't take any more crap from Veronica. Enough is enough-no more. Sara has just told Tony "Don't let veronica get away with too much" That gesture follows their conversation and again it's her finalizing her warning about Veronica- "Remember-No more- enough is enough.-"
NOW while we're on the subject- what is God's name is veronica referring-over and over again-she says to Tony "you just don't get it- do you?" What in God's name does he NOT GET??
Because lemme tell you- I don't get it either/ Anybody out there? Tell me what Tony does not GET.

Anonymous said...

I have read this book 3 times to try and understand why it got the Booker award and why it had such rave reviews. I find it a rather bland short story with a good twist at the end. It is interesting that most of the comments from readers try to explain events that do not require explaining. For example many deduce that Sarah seduced Tony. There is nothing to suggest that this happened. People even go further to suggest Tony had forgotten this event. What - seducing your girlfriend's Mother!

There are so many other asides that people are desperate to interpret without there being any valid clues.

It all suggests "The Emperor's New Clothes" with the Literati applauding from the crowd. Sorry.

Unknown said...

In it Julian Barnes reveals crystalline truths that have taken a lifetime to harden. He has honed their edges, and polished them to a high gleam.

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