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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.

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