On Making Sense of Oneself: Reflections on Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending

Philosophy and Literature 39 (1A):106-121 (2015)
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Life can be awful. For this to be the stuff of tragedy and not farce, we require a capacity to be more than we presently are. Tony Webster, the narrator of Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending, poses a challenge to this commitment of ethics in his commentary on the instability of memory. But Barnes leads us past this difficulty by showing us that Tony’s real problem is his inability to make sense of himself—a failure of self-knowledge. Tony’s past is tangled up with others he can scarcely see as people. Let us hope we can do better.
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