Reader Response to The Good Soldier

Reader Response to The Good Soldier

Ford Maddox Ford?s The Good Soldier is saturated with ironies and ambiguities. It is told through the voice of Dowell, giving his interpretation on the events that unfolded around him as well as those that involved him. ?This is the saddest story I have ever heard? is the opening line to the novel and although there are points of sadness embedded throughout the experiences of the individuals, the saddest event is the obliviousness of Dowell.
The general irony that overlay the first half of the novel is the ?heart condition? that both Florence and Captain Ashburnham each suffer from. The only condition they seem to have is allowing their heart to beat for those other than the ones they are married to. The spouses, Dowell and Leonora each do what is needed in order to keep their other half comfortable, happy and healthy. Their time is spent in a health spa, where the respective couples meet one another.
Dowell?s narration is all over the place, jumping from time to time without much clarification. His re-telling of the events also shifts continents, from the Americas to Europe. The Dowell?s are American, while the Ashburnham?s are English. These memories are impressions that have been left on Dowell and he recalls them with eagerness and certain sense of respect for Captain Ashburnham.
Dowell?s marriage is one that has never been consummated, however his bride experienced a sexual relationship prior to her marriage. She has not divulged this information to Dowell, other than to say: ?Once I tried to have a lover but I was so sick at the heart, so utterly worn out that I had to send him away? and now her newly diagnosed heart condition does not allow for sexual activity. Dowell accepts the doctor?s orders for his lack of passion in his marriage and continues to pine for Florence as well as play nursemaid to her.
Florence is an interesting character, full of secrets as well as deception. Florence understood exactly what having a heart condition entailed, since her uncle had suffered from one as well. She seemed to have observed his behaviors and helplessness and modeled her own from the experience. While leaving on a ship for Europe for their honeymoon, Florence warns Dowell that she suffers from a heart condition. From here the lie continues to grow and Dowell?s job as an attendant to Florence is secured.
Dowell is kept in the dark on many activities of his new bride. He later reflects that he never let her out of his sight, however the rules that Florence had in place allowed her privacy needed to carry on extramarital affairs. Once the couple made it to Paris for their honeymoon, Florence?s affair with Jimmy was reignited. This was the man who was her uncle?s companion and who was her first sexual escapade. However, her inability to travel ironically keeps her from Jimmy in time. Her own excuse created so that she could be with him is the same one that keeps her from him.
Edward Ashburnham is a man full of his own secrets and infidelities. Edward is seen by Dowell as a ?cleanest looking sort of chap; - an excellent magistrate, a first rate soldier, one of the best landlords.? Dowell is envious of Edward?s suave appearance and sexual conquests and prowess. Edward also captures the attention of Florence with his sexual prowess, as she falls in love with him. Dowell is none the wiser, as Edward is a man with whom you can trust with your wife.
Dowell?s storytelling unfolds as though he mind is slowly unfolding the events and piecing them together as he tells them. At times, it seems as though he tells us of his realizations of the actions of those around him as they make sense to him. Dowell loves Florence, and wants nothing more than to care for her, but he also hates her. ?I hate Florence with such a hatred that I would not spare her an eternity of loneliness.? Dowell sees Florence for what she truly was, but never sees Edward in the same light.
Edward and Leonora have no relations with one another. Their hearts are separate and Leonora wishes for nothing more than her husband to want her. Edward?s indiscretions have led to blackmail