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The Good Soldier | Study Guide

Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier | Part 3, Chapter 3 | Summary



John Dowell explains that Leonora "wavered" when they returned to England and slackened her vigilance. He goes into details about Leonora Ashburnham's history with Edward Ashburnham. Leonora had grown up in a convent with her six sisters. Her father, Colonel Powys, was friends with Colonel Ashburnham, Edward's father. Colonel Powys wrote to Colonel Ashburnham, asking if Edward might marry one of his daughters. Colonel Powys had a photo taken of them, and Edward eventually chose Leonora to be his wife. In the photo all the sisters are clothed in white dresses, but Leonora's face "is all but invisible" because a "black shadow" falls across it. It is a poor match because Leonora is too practical and Edward too sentimental. Leonora feels Edward is too generous and bad at managing money. He tries to honor her by commissioning a Catholic church for her, but she thinks this a grand waste of money. Edward feels Leonora is too tight in her money management, and he feels a "net closing round him."


Leonora and Edward's marriage suffers from their profound dissimilarity. Although Leonora passionately loves Edward, at least in the beginning, she is unable to demonstrate this to him in a way that he understands. She is too self-sufficient, and he would prefer someone he can spoil and take care of. She wants to do right by him by running affairs efficiently, but he only sees this as her preventing him from doing what he wants—which is to be extravagant. The more she tries to put in order what she sees as his chaotic tendencies, the more he views her as "being actually wicked and mean." The photo of Leonora and her sisters, in which Leonora's face is covered in shadow, serves as a symbol of Edward's poor choice.

Although John never explicitly says it, it would appear that Leonora restrained her physical passion with Edward because she was afraid of any resulting children being raised Protestant. As a devout Catholic, Leonora would insist on her children being the same, but Edward refuses to allow this. This puts her in a state of agony and may be a reason why Edward felt it necessary to look elsewhere for physical affection.

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