The Sense of an Ending

by

Julian Barnes

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Robson Character Analysis

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 girlfriend pregnant. The boys view his suicide as less a tragic event than an opportunity for them to speculate endlessly and abstractly on his reasons and motives. For Tony, Robson’s suicide is also a counterpoint to Adrian’s, since he understands the latter as admirably well-reasoned and the former as desperate and weak: much of the novel will work to complicate and challenge that view.
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Robson Character Timeline in The Sense of an Ending

The timeline below shows where the character Robson appears in The Sense of an Ending. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
One
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Philosophy vs. Reality Theme Icon
One morning at assembly, the headmaster announced that Robson of the Science Sixth had died over the weekend. Adrian repeated, “Eros and Thanatos,” to... (full context)
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Philosophy vs. Reality Theme Icon
A few days later, Brown of the Maths Sixth told the boys that Robson had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and hanged himself in the attic. They debated how he... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
Philosophy vs. Reality Theme Icon
Tony wonders if it was the revelation that Robson was having sex, more than anything, that really bothered him and his friends. From their... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Philosophy vs. Reality Theme Icon
...got that quotation from the French Patrick Lagrange. Asked to give an example, he said Robson’s suicide—and everyone was shocked, but Adrian tended to get away with more than anyone else.... (full context)
Memory, Manipulation, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
History, Narrative, and Truth Theme Icon
Sex, Class, and Power Theme Icon
...responses to condolence letters. Adrian replied that nothing could make up for the lack of Robson’s testimony, but Hunt said that a participant’s own explanation always needs to be treated with... (full context)
Responsibility, Agency, and Guilt Theme Icon
Philosophy vs. Reality Theme Icon
Tony returned in his mind to the innocent discussions after Robson’s suicide, when it was evident to the friends that suicide was a free right, a... (full context)
Two
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
...reevaluate the way he always saw Adrian: in fact, he was just another version of Robson. For the first time, Tony realizes he and his friends never thought about Robson’s girlfriend... (full context)