The Sense of an Ending

by

Julian Barnes

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Veronica (Mary Elizabeth) Ford Character Analysis

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 poetry, prefers classier music than he does, and (mostly) refrains from dancing. She comes from a rather well-off family, and seems to have a closer relationship to her father and brother Jack than to her mother (Sarah Ford). Veronica doesn’t want to have “full sex” with Tony, though she finally does after they break up—leading him to end things with her definitively, which deeply upsets her. That Veronica subsequently begins dating Adrian makes Tony think of her, for decades into the future, as manipulative and deceptive. While the novel explores the difficulty of ever knowing another person—and only ever portrays Veronica through Tony’s eyes—it does suggest that Veronica wanted a more serious relationship with Tony and felt devastated and betrayed by the breakup. In some ways, she’s like him in her refusal to be direct—her attempts to make Tony “get it” (that is, understand what happened after she and Adrian started dating, including the fact that he slept with her mother) forty years later are oblique at best. But over the course of the novel, it becomes clear that Veronica acts out of pain far more than out of deception. In addition, she is the character in the novel who seems to have accepted responsibility for other people more than anyone else, particularly in her close relationship to her mentally ill half-brother, Adrian’s son.

Veronica (Mary Elizabeth) Ford Quotes in The Sense of an Ending

The The Sense of an Ending quotes below are all either spoken by Veronica (Mary Elizabeth) Ford or refer to Veronica (Mary Elizabeth) Ford . 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:
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). 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.
One Quotes

But I think I have an instinct for survival, for self-preservation. Perhaps this is what Veronica called cowardice and I called being peaceable.

Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Two Quotes

What had begun as a determination to obtain property bequeathed to me had morphed into something much larger, something which bore on the whole of my life, on time and memory. And desire. I thought—at some level of my being, I actually thought—that I could go back to the beginning and change things. That I could make the blood flow backwards.

Related Symbols: Severn Bore, Adrian’s Diary
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

Remorse, etymologically, is the action of biting again: that’s what the feeling does to you. Imagine the strength of the bite when I reread my words. They seemed like some ancient curse I had forgotten even uttering. Of course I don’t—I didn’t—believe in curses. That’s to say, in words producing events. But the very action of naming something that subsequently happens—of wishing specific evil, and that evil coming to pass—this still has a shiver of the otherworldly about it.

Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

I looked at the chain of responsibility. I saw my initial in there. I remembered that in my ugly letter I had urged Adrian to consult Veronica’s mother. I replayed the words that would forever haunt me. As would Adrian’s unfinished sentence, “So, for instance, if Tony…”

Related Symbols: Adrian’s Diary
Page Number: 162-163
Explanation and Analysis:
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Veronica (Mary Elizabeth) Ford Character Timeline in The Sense of an Ending

The timeline below shows where the character Veronica (Mary Elizabeth) Ford appears in The Sense of an Ending. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
One
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Tony’s life did “speed up”: after struggling to win girls without a “technique,” he met Veronica Mary Elizabeth Ford, a student of Spanish who liked poetry, and whose father was a... (full context)
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Veronica owned a Black Box record player (Tony had a Dansette); she owned choral and lieder... (full context)
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Like other girls, Veronica was fine with kissing and touching over the clothes; other girls would accept mutual masturbation,... (full context)
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...records: he had more blue Pelicans (nonfiction) than orange Penguins (fiction), a sign of seriousness. Veronica had more poetry: Eliot, Auden, Thom Gunn, Ted Hughes, as well as Left Book Club... (full context)
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Veronica asked why Tony wore his watch inside out: since he couldn’t justify it, he stopped... (full context)
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Tony recalls being invited to spend a weekend with Veronica’s family in Chislehurst, Kent. He brought a huge bag and Veronica’s father, a large, red-faced... (full context)
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Veronica’s brother Jack was healthy, prone to laughter, and teasing with Veronica: to him Tony was... (full context)
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...weekend is being so uneasy that he was constipated the whole time. He vaguely recalls Veronica withdrawing, at first, into her family and judging him along with the others; he remembers... (full context)
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...eggs in a frying pan, unconcerned when one broke, she told him not to let Veronica get away with too much. He wasn’t sure what to respond: finally she smiled and... (full context)
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...seemed to dissipate, though Tony was paranoid that they’d just become tired of him. Still, Veronica became more affectionate with him, and even kissed him goodnight that evening. They ate roast... (full context)
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A week later, Tony recalls, Veronica came to London so she could meet his friends. They wandered around the tourist neighborhoods... (full context)
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Veronica asked for a picture to be taken with Tony’s friends in Trafalgar Square. Forty years... (full context)
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After Veronica left, Tony asked his friends what they thought. Adrian said he’d heard of Jack and... (full context)
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Veronica and Tony dated through their second year. Little by little she allowed him more sexual... (full context)
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Tony reflects that he has few other memories from Bristol other than work and Veronica. One that does stand out is the night he saw the Severn Bore, staying up... (full context)
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Tony shifts topics suddenly: after Veronica and he broke up, he shares, she slept with him. He didn’t see it coming... (full context)
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The next time they met, Veronica called Tony a “selfish bastard.” First, she said his flippant decision practically made the sex... (full context)
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Veronica responded sarcastically, until Tony asked if she slept with him to get him back. When... (full context)
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...that they didn’t run into each other too much: each time, Tony became apprehensive that Veronica would make him feel guilty, but she never spoke to him. He told himself he... (full context)
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During summer vacation, a letter arrived from Chislehurst. It was Veronica’s mother, who said she was sorry to hear they’d broken up and hoped Tony would... (full context)
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...part: he goes on to say that Adrian was writing to ask permission to date Veronica. Or, as far as Tony remembers, he actually wrote to say that they were already... (full context)
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...and bitter at this ethical posturing, the idea that Adrian would stop having sex with Veronica if Tony objected (unless, he thought, she was “stringing him along” too), as well as... (full context)
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Tony notes that he has an instinct for survival and self-preservation, perhaps what Veronica had meant by calling him cowardly. He chose a postcard at random and wrote, in... (full context)
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...said what he thought of their “moral scruples.” He advised Adrian to be prudent, since Veronica seemed to him to have suffered “damage” a long time ago. He burned Adrian’s letter... (full context)
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...uneasy among a posh family. In addition to that, he had sensed a complicity between Veronica and Veronica’s father, who was so casually disdainful of Tony, and between her and Jack—though... (full context)
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...everyone has in some way been abused. He wonders if there was “inappropriate behavior” with Veronica’s father or her brother Jack, some “primal” moment of loss. He remembers Old Joe Hunt... (full context)
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...that the last time he saw Adrian, he’d said he was in love. Silently calling Veronica a bitch, Tony decided that Veronica was the one woman a man could fall in... (full context)
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...so angry. The next few days, he tried to imagine how Adrian could have loved Veronica and still killed himself. He wondered if something terrible had happened in the months he... (full context)
Two
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Tony, besides, has successfully put the pain Veronica caused him out of his mind: he never wondered if things would have been better... (full context)
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...what else he’s been left. She replies that it’s a diary belonging to Adrian Finn. Veronica Ford apparently has said she isn’t yet ready to part with it. Tony asks her... (full context)
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...Annie was his first real girlfriend: he had been telling himself that his relationship with Veronica was a failure, anyway, so he wrote it out of his past. But after a... (full context)
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On the phone with T.J. Gunnell, the lawyer advises Tony not to doggedly pursue Veronica’s “theft” of the diary—the police wouldn’t be eager to pursue charges against a woman who... (full context)
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Mrs. Marriott takes two weeks to give Tony Jack Ford’s email; Veronica has declined to have her contact details passed along. Tony sends a formal email, offering... (full context)
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...about, and he laughs: such directness is typical for her. He immediately says it’s about Veronica Ford, (he and Margaret, he notes, aren’t insecure about each other’s previous lovers). She responds,... (full context)
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...of questions, Margaret asks wryly what the “long-divorced” Tony would do if the presumably unmarried Veronica were to walk into the café at that moment. Tony blushes, but says he wouldn’t... (full context)
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After a week, Jack sends Veronica’s email along with a cheery note about blue skies in Sydney. Tony is surprised and... (full context)
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Tony recalls that Veronica’s father drove a Humber Super Snipe—a strange name, it strikes him. He’s wondering if he... (full context)
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Tony writes to Veronica and receives a one-line reply: “Blood money?” He can’t understand it, other than the idea... (full context)
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Tony notes that Veronica seems confused by his dogged but tranquil approach. His precedent is the strategy he took... (full context)
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...does find comfort in his own stubbornness, however. He keeps sending jovial, jokey emails to Veronica every other day, though also includes “half-sincere” questions about her life. He is pursuing what... (full context)
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Tony instantly recognizes Veronica by her posture as he approaches the middle of the bridge the next day. She... (full context)
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Veronica looks somewhat shabby, in Tony’s eyes. Her hair is the same length it was 40... (full context)
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Tony waits a day and a half before opening Veronica’s envelope, knowing she’d expect him to rip it open immediately. He wonders why she had... (full context)
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The letter, reproduced in the text, is addressed to Adrian but also to Veronica, whom he calls the “Bitch.” Tony says he hopes that the two of them will... (full context)
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...himself. He thinks about how cruel and jealous he’d been. But then he wonders why Veronica would give the letter to him: he imagines it’s a tactical move, meant to warn... (full context)
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The next day, Tony keeps thinking about himself, Adrian, and Veronica, and about how much more hurtful people can be when young. He thinks that it... (full context)
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...wanted life to bother him too much, and he’d succeeded—succeeded at being average at life. Veronica replies to the email, simply saying that he doesn’t get it, and that he never... (full context)
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Tony keeps wondering: why Veronica had his letter, why she’d bothered to answer his email if she hated him so... (full context)
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...said for the spontaneity and immediacy of email: he might have written a letter to Veronica and then have second thoughts before posting it in the morning, but instead he writes... (full context)
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...years on. He wonders if his own cruel letter was trying to get back at Veronica for what Tony imagined was her contempt for him. He’s been profoundly, intimately shocked by... (full context)
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...forgiven: that is, if he might prove that he wasn’t such a bad guy to Veronica after all. He has the tendency to call Susie before a five-day holiday, just so... (full context)
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...won’t be any better than his, and imagines the painful things about him, Adrian, and Veronica they might say. Mrs. Ford is dead, and Jack abroad: Veronica is the only one... (full context)
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...she’d left him with no one else to turn to. He writes another email to Veronica, asking about her parents and saying he has good memories of them. To his surprise... (full context)
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...from his attic room to a wood; Jack referring to Mrs. Ford as “the Mother”; Veronica’s sultry good-night kiss to him, after which he masturbated into the little washbin. He googles... (full context)
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A few nights later, Tony calls Veronica and suggests they meet again, promising he doesn’t want to talk about her mother’s will.... (full context)
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Tony arrives to find Veronica there already, reading a Stefan Zweig novel: he cracks a joke about her making it... (full context)
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Tony asks how her last forty years have gone, but Veronica tells him to go first. He relates the account that he tells himself: Margaret and... (full context)
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Tony doesn’t want to press Veronica, but he hopes for a polite message saying it was nice to see him. Even... (full context)
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Tony emails Veronica again, apologizing for monopolizing the conversation and asking to meet again. After a few days,... (full context)
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When Tony reaches the Tube station, he sees a familiar posture: Veronica turns and walks off, leaving him to follow her to her car. He tries to... (full context)
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Finally, Veronica asks him to look along the pavement, where five people are coming towards them. In... (full context)
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After a long silence, Tony asks Veronica what’s wrong with them, and then asks if they’re care-in-the-community. Veronica suddenly lets out the... (full context)
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Veronica’s maneuvers have allowed them to get ahead of the group again. The presumed care worker... (full context)
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Back in the car, Tony says that they all seemed very pleased to see Veronica. He continues to ask questions, to which he’s met with silence. After trying out a... (full context)
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...and humiliated, especially after the hopefulness he’s recently felt, especially about the possibility of overcoming Veronica’s contempt. He’d really thought he could turn back time: he’d taken what she’d said about... (full context)
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...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. Knowing that Margaret wouldn’t yell at him if he... (full context)
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...affairs in order—which requires getting his hands on that diary. He writes to Jack, saying Veronica has been just as mystifying to him as she’s always been. He asks for any... (full context)
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...Tony is driving to North London, eventually finding himself in the street where he and Veronica had parked. He watches bands of schoolchildren, many on their phones, a few smoking. The... (full context)
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...The following Friday he drives to the pub along the second street where he and Veronica had stopped. No one shows up, so he comes back a second Friday and orders... (full context)
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...son. Tony’s first reaction is to think about what he wrote in his letter to Veronica and Adrian, about whether Veronica could get pregnant before Adrian discovered she was a “bore.”... (full context)
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Tony thinks of how he’d so recently been indulging in vague fantasies about Veronica even while admitting he knew nothing about her life. Now he has some answers: she... (full context)
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Tony writes an email to Veronica with the subject “Apology.” He doesn’t expect her to respond or to think better of... (full context)
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Then, Tony receives an email from Veronica, which is almost the same as an earlier one: it says he still doesn’t get... (full context)
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...a friend of Adrian (Jr.)’s father many years ago, and used to know Adrian’s mother Veronica quite well too: in fact they’ve seen each other recently, in the last weeks and... (full context)
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...what Tony is saying doesn’t make sense. First, Tony clarifies: he knows Adrian’s mother as Veronica, but Mary is her second name, which is what Adrian calls her by. But Terry... (full context)
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...why Mrs. Ford had Adrian’s diary, why she said his last months were happy, what Veronica meant by blood money, and what Adrian’s strange formulae in his diary meant. One a... (full context)