One of the Contemporary Lit discussion prompts: By now you should be comfortable with these post. For your first post about The Sense of an Ending, write about whatever comes to mind. Use the text to support what you write. Discuss the contemporary. Or, don’t. But make a case and follow through with it in about a page to two pages of response.
Another students response: I love this book. I think its my favorite of the books we’ve read so far. I thought everyone should know. But for this post, I think I want to talk about how this book might fall into the category of the contemporary despite its layout perhaps not being the most contemporary that we’ve observed so far.
I think this book gives merely the sense of a story. And by that I mean that the text seems to be hyper aware of itself, at times, evident in expressions made by the narrator. For example, when the narrator describes his time with Annie the American, he eventually says “still, that’s all by the by. Annie was part of my story, but not of this story” (Barnes 50). Here, the narrator is acknowledging this text as being a story, but perhaps more importantly he is asserting that the story that is being told is not his story, that it is something other. And this confused sense of who this story is actually about is furthered throughout the novel with the heavy emphasis on telling Adrian’s story, though the narrator’s story does seem to be being told as well and so the narrator’s statement becomes paradoxical. These multiple perspectives and question of what story we are actually presented in this text seems to me to be distinctly contemporary, as it has been noticed in other contemporary texts we have read as well.
But to further my point about this texts giving just the sense of a story, I will provide another example. In the part of the novel where Alex and the narrator discuss Adrian’s suicide, the characters’ conversation goes something like this: “What do we think?…About his reasons?…I couldn’t decide whether its fucking impressive or a fucking terrible waste…it could be both…What i can’t work out is if its something complete in itself…just involving Adrian…or something that contains an implicit criticism of everyone else. Of us” (Barnes 54-55). Here, the characters could almost be having a direct conversation with the audience instead of amongst themselves, as the question they seem to be asking about Adrian’s death might actually be implying a question about the novel in its entirety–is this novel just something complete in itself, or does it contain an implicit criticism of us all? And in this way, we are merely getting the sense of a story; just the sense that these characters and what happens to Adrian is what matters, when in reality the text is discussing larger issues that pertain to our society and our reality. And in moments like this one the text calls attention to this conundrum within itself, and along with the multiple perspectives of the story we are given that call into question whose story this actually is, the novel presents to us perhaps not just the sense of an ending, but the sense of the story itself.
I think I have more thoughts on this idea that I might like to expand on later, but that’s all I got for now.
My Response to that response: I agree that the story is very hyper aware of itself in many ways. It shows this hyper awareness many times especially at the beginning of the novel when it explains about him having to go back to his school days in order for him to begin the story and the narrative. “I’m not very interested in my schooldays, and don’t feel any nostalgia for them. But school is where it all began, so I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty. If I can’t be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be true to the impressions those facts left. That’s the best I can manage.” (Pg. 4). In many ways the hyper awareness of that story has of itself may in many ways be being used to comment on the way we remember experiences in life, how we remember things, or how we experience life. It could also be commenting on our struggle to understand the way we experience things and remember things. It might be using the hyper awareness to cope with our experiences and memories, “I remember in no particular order: — a shiny inner wrist; — steam rising from a wet sinks as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it; — gouts of term cycling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house; — a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torch beams; — another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface; — bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door. This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same a s what you have witnessed.” (Pg. 3). This could be showing that the way we choose to remember things is or may be very different from the way we actually experienced or witnessed them. We can remember things exactly as they happened or they could be remembered as completely different and the opposite from the way that actually happened or we may be haunted by memories or experiences when never want to remember or be reminded of ever again. So in many ways the hyper awareness of this book could be making comments on society but in many ways it also be being used to show how we as individuals perceive experiences, and memories, in society and of society and life in general at the same time.