Discussion of Ford’s most famous novel has tended to focus on technique and the depiction of the characters’ psychology rather than on the novel’s larger historical and contemporary themes. The Good Soldier is extraordinary, however, precisely in its detailed anatomy of the principal features of modernity, and its analysis of how these features are related. Beginning with Dowell’s professed ignorance of the meaning of the story he tells, Ford shows how the narrator’s incomprehension is shared by the other characters and how it reflects a general modern sense of fragmentation and formlessness.
The reliability of John Dowell as a narrator in Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier has been variously discussed, however, this essay examines the reliability of John Dowell with respect to his Oedipal motivations. The fact that Freud mostly ignored the fantasies that parents direct toward their children could be one explanation for the growing interest in recent psychoanalytic research. The essay addresses the social commentary in the novel through the Freudian paradigm rather than the relationships among the characters in it.
Beginning with a brief survey of the novel’s initial reception by critics, this paper argues that The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion is the saddest story for Ford because it is the story of human life itself. The paper also argues that the novel’s aesthetic design proposes a concealed optimism. With emphasis on Dowell’s narration, the paper discusses how The Good Soldier uses the tension between impressionism and realism in order to elaborate that optimism but also complicate it. It does not matter whether Dowell is a reliable or an unreliable narrator. It matters that Dowell shows us that one human being finds it almost impossible to understand another human being. In sum, by discussing the novel’s aesthetic design, the paper argues that while Dowell dwells in darkness, he sheds light on the shape of human life itself.
This paper argues that Ford’s elaboration of temporality in The Good Soldier shares a narrative strategy with the modern mystery. Working from The Good Soldier and other works by Ford, the paper compares Ford’s elaboration of the problem of time to works by other modernist works (by Proust, for instance) but also to mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett.
J. Fitzpatrick Smith
This paper argues that Dowell enjoys a curious talent for making even clear language opaque. Such opacity is not without significance in this densely patterned novel. Many readers have noted the exorbitance of Dowell’s figurative language, but few have actually considered the implications of such metaphoricity. Whether Dowell is the dupe or the deceiver of the novel remains always an insoluble riddle; yet what remains after these narrative convolutions is Ford’s peculiar treatment of language, what he observes in the explanatory letter to Stella Ford as the “tangle of references and cross-references.”
The focus of this study is the second section of Part i of the novel, more specifically Dowell’s brief account of his visit in Provençe and a piece of local folklore and cultural memory – the story of the medieval troubadour Peire Vidal and his passionate pursuit of the rather “ferocious” lady of his dreams. Even though several critical studies were devoted to a closer exploration of the influence of Mediterranean history and sensibility upon Ford’s imagination regarding The Good Soldier and other pieces of fiction and non-fiction, the textual resonance of this particular episode has not been yet addressed and fully assessed.
This essay situates Ford’s The Good Soldier and Conrad’s Lord Jim within metaphysical and epistemological debates to produce a broader (aesthetic, historical, and philosophical) and more nuanced assessment of the novels and the literary categories to which they belong. It also shows how Dowell’s method for finding the truth that matters to him produces his delusions and also marks him as a student of otiose Edwardian habits of knowing.
This essay reads Dowell’s narration in the context of the discourses of obscenity and indecency contemporary with the publication of The Good Soldier. Like the modernist landmarks Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Good Soldier treats the theme of adultery. Yet both Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were at the center of landmark obscenity trials because of their frank and controversial representations of sexuality. By comparison, The Good Soldier seems to willfully avoid such explicitness, favoring euphemism and circumlocution as John Dowell narrates the complicated series of sexual liaisons that form the novel’s plot.