The Good Soldier | Study Guide

Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier | Part 1, Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

John Dowell goes back in his narration to August of 1904, when he and Florence first met the Ashburnhams. John professes that he was so bored in Nauheim that he "fell into the habit of counting [his] footsteps." But one evening, there were newcomers at dinner. John knew who the Ashburnhams were because he read the hotel ledger. The waiter tried to seat them at another table, but Florence invited them to sit with her and John.

John discusses his impressions of the Ashburnhams. He claims to love them but also characterizes them as cold and bland. About Edward Ashburnham he says, "his face ... expressed nothing whatever," and he professes to be surprised that Edward could "arouse anything like a sentiment, in anybody." Meanwhile, John criticizes Leonora Ashburnham's exposed "white shoulders" as being cold. He also points out that Leonora was in the habit of wearing a bracelet with "a small golden key to a dispatch box." John proposes that this is where she "locked up her heart and her feelings."

Analysis

In this chapter John reveals how the two couples met. He provides his thoughts on Edward and Leonora, which are mixed. While he professes to love them, he also describes them negatively. John continues to make such contradictory statements throughout the narrative, so it is impossible for the reader to be sure about his true feelings. Symbolically, Leonora's golden key bracelet points to her bottled-up passions, to which John appears to be blind. Both Edward and Leonora hide chaos under their perfectly ordered surface personas, one of Ford's main themes.

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