The Sense of an Ending


Julian Barnes

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Sense of an Ending can help.

The Sense of an Ending Characters

Anthony (Tony) Webster

The protagonist of The Sense of an Ending is also its narrator: sixty-something years old when he is telling his story, he also appears as an adolescent and young man as Tony returns to memories… read analysis of Anthony (Tony) Webster

Adrian Finn

A latecomer to the all-boys school that Tony attends, Adrian joins Tony’s friend group but remains at a certain distance from the others. Like them, he’s fascinated by literature and philosophy—his preferred authors are Camus… read analysis of Adrian Finn

Veronica (Mary Elizabeth) Ford

Tony’s first girlfriend, Veronica is studying Spanish at Bristol when the two of them meet. She comes across to him as sophisticated and cultured in a more authentic way than he is: she likes… read analysis of Veronica (Mary Elizabeth) Ford

Mrs. Sarah Ford

Veronica’s mother, Sarah Ford is a housewife in Kent where she lives with her family. Tony remembers her as a carefree, easily laughing woman, who warns him not to let her daughter take advantage… read analysis of Mrs. Sarah Ford

Jack Ford

Veronica’s brother and a Cambridge student like Adrian, Jack is casual and sardonic, treating Tony with rather unconcerned bemusement during the weekend Tony spends at the family’s home. Tony feels insecure around Jack… read analysis of Jack Ford
Get the entire The Sense of an Ending LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Sense of an Ending PDF


Tony’s wife, whom he meets through his job (in arts administration) and with whom he has one child, Susie. Margaret eventually leaves him for a restaurant owner, who in turn leaves her; she… read analysis of Margaret


Margaret and Tony’s only daughter, Susie is grown up and married herself by the time Tony begins his story. She is depicted as tolerant toward her father: Tony is mildly offended that she seems… read analysis of Susie

Adrian’s son (Adrian)

A forty-something man around the time Tony begins telling his story, this Adrian doesn’t have his identity revealed until the very end of the novel. He is mentally ill and needs to be under constant… read analysis of Adrian’s son (Adrian)

Veronica’s Father

A civil servant, Veronica’s father picks up Tony from the train station during his visit to the family home and, like Jack, seems to Tony to treat him with a jokey demeanor that… read analysis of Veronica’s Father


An American woman whom Tony meets while traveling around the United States after graduation, Annie “hooks up” with him for three months. She wears plaid shirts, has a friendly demeanor, and is easygoing, which Tony… read analysis of Annie

Old Joe Hunt

The history teacher at Tony’s school, Old Joe Hunt wears a three-piece suit and maintains a slightly wry, distanced air with his students. Although Tony describes his classes as somewhat, though not excessively, boring… read analysis of Old Joe Hunt

Phil Dixon

The literature teacher at Tony’s school, Phil Dixon is a young, recent Cambridge grad whom the students adore. He uses the New Criticism method that involves sharing a poem with students without identifying information… read analysis of Phil Dixon


A student in the “Science Sixth” at Tony’s school, Robson never appears directly in the novel, but is a significant reference point for Tony and his friends after he commits suicide, having gotten his… read analysis of Robson
Minor Characters
A school friend of Tony’s, Colin shares his jokey, ironic attitude, though coupled with true intellectual interests (he’s a fan of nineteenth-century European authors like Baudelaire and Dostoyevsky). Colin embraces an anarchic view of the universe according to which there’s no ultimate meaning, and everything is left to chaos.
Another member of Tony’s friend group at school, Alex is considered the philosopher among them before Adrian joins the group. He’s also the friend that shares the details of Adrian’s suicide with Tony, who was traveling around the United States when it happened.
A student in Old Joe Hunt’s history class who is depicted as slower-thinking and less clever than Tony and his friends.
A student of the Maths Sixth who spreads the rumor that Robson killed himself because his girlfriend became pregnant (a rumor that Tony and the others subsequently accept as fact).
Tony’s Mother
A minor character in the novel, Tony’s mother appears most notably after Adrian’s suicide, when she suggests that he was too clever—that he reasoned his way out of common sense—and deeply angers Tony.
Tony’s Father
Also a source of Tony’s frustration after Adrian dies, when he doesn’t know what to say or how to act in order to comfort his son.
One of Susie’s sons (Tony’s grandson).
Eleanor Marriott
The lawyer responsible for Sarah Ford’s estate, who transfers her bequest to Tony, and with whom he tries to negotiate in order to obtain Adrian’s diary.
T.J. Gunnell
Tony’s own solicitor (lawyer), who he contacts in order to try to obtain Adrian’s diary.
The black woman
One of the care workers responsible for Adrian (junior).
Another care worker responsible for Adrian (junior).