The Good Soldier | Study Guide

Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier | Part 2, Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

John Dowell clarifies that it was not only at Nauheim that he and Florence Dowell spent time with the Edward Ashburnham and Leonora Ashburnham. In his diary John notes that Edward visited them in Paris in September and December of 1904, the latter visit during which Edward "knocked Mr. Jimmy's teeth down his throat." Edward's frequent visits are a result of Florence's jealousy. She would often demand Edward come to "assure her of his fidelity." If he does not, Florence threatens to tell John about their secret affair, and Edward cannot have that because Leonora "would wreak upon him the most terrible vengeance that she could think of."

John then tells of the night of August 4, 1913. John sits in the hotel lounge with Bagshawe. Leonora is in bed, after having sent Florence off with the admonition to chaperone Edward and Nancy Rufford, Edward and Leonora's ward. Florence returns from this errand "with a face whiter than paper," sees John talking to Bagshawe, and runs off. Bagshawe recognizes Florence and tells John the last time he saw Florence, she was coming out of Jimmy's bedroom 13 years before. John goes to Florence's room, which is unlocked, and finds her dead.

Analysis

In this chapter John seems to be trying to make sense of why he only found out about Florence's affair with Edward after her death. Florence and Leonora battle it out over Edward, but neither of them is motivated by love. Florence desires Edward so she can have his estate, as the manor in England was home to her ancestors. Leonora desires to keep Edward "to show that Catholic women do not lose their men." Edward is stuck in the middle, not able to choose or give up either woman on the threat of disclosure to John. John believes Leonora does not want him to know of the affair because she does not want to hurt him. However, Ford Madox Ford insinuates it is much more likely Leonora keeps the silence to torture Edward since she admits the best way for her to make Edward angry "would have been to refuse, herself, ever to see him again." This implies that the narrator and Florence may not be as important to Leonora and Edward's relationship as he thinks they are. Also, in this way Ford shows how Edward suffers for giving into passions that are not approved by "good" society.

But Florence suffers as well. Leonora coldly sends her after Edward and Nancy, knowing that Florence will see Edward's affection for Nancy. Florence must have become aware that Nancy represented a loss of her power over Edward and Leonora. When Florence sees Bagshawe, she also must have been aware that he represents her loss of power over John. Florence commits suicide because she suddenly feels powerless and exposed for her indiscretions. She finds the loss of her status as a good person intolerable. Ford symbolizes this by having Florence run with "a face whiter than paper" and "her hand on the black stuff over her heart." Her "good" and "white" persona is be besmirched by her "bad" and "black" heart.

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