The Good Soldier | Study Guide

Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier | Part 3, Chapter 2 | Summary



After John Dowell leaves for the United States, the Ashburnhams stay on for a time at Nauheim. Leonora Ashburnham watches Edward Ashburnham and Nancy Rufford more closely, so as to prevent them from having an affair. This is difficult for Leonora, as Nancy has been going off alone with Edward, whom she has always seen as an uncle. Leonora pulls it off by demanding Nancy goes to bed at 10 p.m., the same time she does. Leonora notices how miserable Edward and Nancy are and finally allows them a night out at the casino. When Edward returns, Leonora sees him weeping before a Catholic saint. Leonora sleeps well that night.

John describes Nancy as innocent and childish, yet she also sometimes "seemed as old as the hills." Nancy had grown up in the convent, and her mother, Mrs. Rufford, was Leonora's "dearest friend." Leonora took over as Nancy's guardian when Nancy was 13, and Nancy lived at Bramshaw Telegraph with them and also came to Nauheim. John reveals that Nancy kissed him "night and morning, until she was about eighteen." He speaks of an incident where they were alone in the gardens. He describes her in radiant terms: she was "a vivid white thing," a "saintly and swanlike being." Clearly John idolizes and cherishes her in a way that seems more than fatherly. Edward, too, has recently experienced a blossoming of a passion for Nancy that John has described as "wretched."


John has not made much mention of Nancy up to this point, but in this chapter he reveals he has known her quite well for many years. The way he describes Nancy's vivacious personality reveals the affection he has for her, even if he does not openly admit as much. Edward's growing affection for her is complicated by the fact that Edward is like an uncle to her, and she would never wish to betray Leonora, whom she loves as an aunt. Leonora knows Edward well enough to understand why Nancy would nevertheless be a magnet to him, and she remains vigilant in her attempt to prevent any untoward advances by Edward on Nancy.

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