The Sense of an Ending

by

Julian Barnes

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Margaret Character Analysis

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 and Tony subsequently become friends. Although Tony claims that their relationship is fully platonic, and that Margaret would never want to get back together with him, that claim is contradicted in both explicit and subtle ways throughout the story. Indeed, it’s implied that Margaret’s affair was in part a desperate act, a way to get Tony to react more strongly and perhaps fight for her in a way he proves unable to do.

Margaret Quotes in The Sense of an Ending

The The Sense of an Ending quotes below are all either spoken by Margaret or refer to Margaret . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Sense of an Ending published in 2012.
Two Quotes

And for a moment, she almost looked enigmatic. But Margaret can’t do enigma, that first step to Woman of Mystery. If she’d wanted me to spend the money on a holiday for two, she’d have said so. Yes, I realise that’s exactly what she did say, but…

Related Characters: Anthony (Tony) Webster (speaker), Margaret
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:
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Margaret Character Timeline in The Sense of an Ending

The timeline below shows where the character Margaret appears in The Sense of an Ending. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
One
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Tony began work in arts administration; he met a coworker, Margaret, married her, and had a daughter, Susie. His first job turned into a long career.... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Tony had a few subsequent affairs: it always felt right to tell Margaret about them, though now he wonders if that stemmed from jealousy or self-protection. Susie grew... (full context)
Two
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
...wondered if things would have been better with Veronica, and never regretted his years with Margaret. Perhaps he lacks the imagination to have fantasized about a wildly different life than his... (full context)
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Tony reflects that Margaret used to say men were attracted to one type of woman or the other: those... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Tony has been influenced by Margaret’s clear edges over the years: rather than patiently beginning a correspondence with Mrs. Eleanor Marriott,... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
...series of phone calls: to Mrs. Marriott to ask for Jack Ford’s contact details; to Margaret to arrange a lunch date; and to his own lawyer, T.J. Gunnell. (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Tony admits that when he first met Margaret, he’d pretended Annie was his first real girlfriend: he had been telling himself that his... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Tony meets Margaret for lunch. He thinks how nice she looks, and how he notices what’s remained the... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
After a series of questions, Margaret asks wryly what the “long-divorced” Tony would do if the presumably unmarried Veronica were to... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
...because it might be evidence, or “corroboration”: it might jump-start some aspect of his memory. Margaret again suggests he let it go, but finds it touching that he’s so stubborn. Then... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
...of such feelings now. In that case he is nostalgic: for his early years with Margaret, for Susie’s childhood, for the road trip with Annie. He wonders if it’s possible to... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
...but tranquil approach. His precedent is the strategy he took when the villa he and Margaret used to live in together began to show signs of wear, cracks and crumbling bits... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
...emails and confirms that he never directly asked for a meeting. He also thinks that Margaret’s theory of women should be modified: he was attracted both to her and to Veronica. (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
...if he’d been awkward or pushy or selfish during their relationship. On another lunch date, Margaret listens to the story. Tony knows she likes being a sympathetic ear, even if he... (full context)
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
...had to do now was not get Alzheimer’s and remember to leave her some money. Margaret has been a better grandparent than he has, he admits; Susie once told him he... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
...morning, she replies that if he has to ask, the answer is no. Tony calls Margaret to tell her about this exchange: after a silence, she quietly says that he’s on... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Tony notes that he doesn’t want to blame Margaret, but that she’d left him with no one else to turn to. He writes another... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
...but Veronica tells him to go first. He relates the account that he tells himself: Margaret and Susie and his grandchildren, his work and retirement and winter breaks. As he’s describing... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
The next week is a quiet one. Tony knows Margaret won’t call if he doesn’t. He’s been feeling somewhat bad about her. He remembers a... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
...station he doesn’t know in north London. He thinks this is thrilling, contrasting it to Margaret’s penchant for plans and dislike of surprises. He tries to reactivate other old memories of... (full context)
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
...clutch of her car, and, terrifying Tony, she swerves around the block—he thinks about how Margaret was always a nice, safe driver. Veronica tells him that he never got it, and... (full context)
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Tony’s next week is one of the loneliest in his life: he replays to himself Margaret’s statement that he’s on his own now, and Veronica’s that he just doesn’t get it.... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Philosophy vs. Reality Theme Icon
Tony has no one to tell this to: as Margaret said, he’s on his own, and now must return to his own past to reevaluate... (full context)