Life and memory as moral dominants of J. Barnes’ “The sense of an ending”

Keywords: Julian Barnes, “The Sense of an Ending”, life, memory, time, structure, moral and artistic philosophy.


The paradigm of the study is the work of the famous English writer Julian Barnes whose popularity is the result not only of his original plots, the writer’s ability to combine in his works the famous ironic style of English literature with the latest techniques of presentation, but also due to the fact that his works improve the form of the novel, are distinguished by the simultaneous combination of traditionalism and postmodernism, and differ in dynamic
construction, a kind of a narrative structure, the narrator’s expressive point of view and tone of voice.

The topic is relevant due to readers’ wide interest in the works of the famous English writer, a representative of postmodernism, whose novel “The
Sense of an Ending” (2011) won the prestigious Booker Prize and became the quintessence of those ideas about constructing history, the nature of human memory. about the existential role of love and death, which Julian Barnes has embodied in all his works since the late 1980.

The article studies the artistic connection of life and memory in “The Sense of an Ending,” the combination of which for J. Barnes is not only an essential part of moral and creative philosophy, but also a plot factor that determines the novel’s whole world. The novel is the author’s implicit reasoning
about the problems of the historical through a common man’s autobiography. From the private stories of Tony, Adrian, Veronica, and Sarah, J. Barnes makes us reflect on the nature of the time in which life is a movement and preparation for death, the struggle of Eros and Thanatos, but history does not fit into this straightforward movement. Events take place, their evaluation changes over time, new facts appear, and the already known ones prove to be false. Life plays with the mind and memory of a person who can only compose his/her own version of events or accept someone else’s. The novel is the next step in J. Barnes’ creative understanding of memory considered not indirectly and not through the individual and collective, but actually on the example and through the prism of human personality: by observing the main narrator and his life, listening to his voice, the reader can draw general conclusions about the nature of memory, time and history. The writer urges not to confuse the concepts of memory of the past and the past itself. This novel by Julian Barnes affirms the idea of the power of love that can overcome limitations of history and death (the end of life and history) as a characteristic of time that is beyond doubt.


1. Bakhtina M.1. A. Roman J. Barnsa “Predchuvstviye kontsa” : Eros i Tanatos protiv vlasti istoriyi // Filologos. 2012. Vyp. 15 (4). S. 5−10 [in Russian].

2. Barnes J. Nothing To Be Frightened Of. London : Jonathan Cape, 2008. 250 p. [in English].

3. Barnes J. The Sense of an Ending. London : Jonathan Cape, 2011 : електрон. версія. URL:

Ending.html (дата звернення: 17.07.2020) [in English].

4. Childs P. Matters of Life and Death : The Short Stories of Julian Barnes // Julian Barnes. Contemporary Critical Perspectives / [ed. by S. Groes and P. Childs]. London; New York : Continuum, 2011. P. 103–116 [in English].

5. Kermode F. The Sense of an Ending : Studies in the Theory of Fiction. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2000. 224 p [in English].

6. Piqueras M.O. Memory Revisited in Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending // Coolabah. 2014. No.13. P. 87−95. DOI: 10.1344/co20141387-95 [in English].

7. Westerhof G. J. Identity Construction in the Third Age: The Role of Self- Narratives // Narratives of Life : Mediating Age / [ed. by H. Hartung and R. Maierhofer]. Berlin : Lit Verlag, 2009. P. 55−69 [in English].

Author Biography

Hanna Kostenko, NU “Zaporizka Polytechnic”

Ph. D in Philology,
Assistant Professor

How to Cite
Kostenko, H. (2020). Life and memory as moral dominants of J. Barnes’ “The sense of an ending”. Theoretical and Didactic Philology, (33), 46-54. Retrieved from