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The Good Soldier | Study Guide

Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier | Part 3, Chapter 4 | Summary



John Dowell discusses Edward Ashburnham's character again and admits it is difficult to give an accurate impression of him. John then discusses the business he attended to while he was in the United States after Florence Dowell's death. He apologizes for digressing from his main story and gives some background to the start of Edward's affairs. As Edward was testifying in the case where the nursemaid on the train called him out for "comforting her," he realized Leonora Ashburnham was "completely unattractive" to him. He began to have daydreams about the nursemaid and other women. So when Edward went to Monte Carlo, he was open to having an affair with La Dolciquita. She slept with him and then demanded money to continue. For a week, he gambled his money in agony. Then La Dolciquita came to him and said he could pay her rather than gamble all his money away. He went with her to Antibes and told Leonora he was going with friends.

Still, John insists Edward's "passions" took up only a "relatively small" amount of his time. John "has been forced to write very much about [Edward's] passions," but he claims he does not want to give the reader the wrong impression about Edward. That is, John continues to assert that Edward "led a regular life" and had "all the virtues that are usually accounted English."


John wants the reader to know that he still considers Edward a good person despite all of his affairs. But does John truly consider Edward to be a good person? By this point, the reader has discovered that what John says cannot necessarily be trusted. That John spends so much time exposing Edward's sins is a clue that he judges him harshly. John has sublimated his own passions for so long in service of appearing to be a good person he is unable to be honest with himself or with the reader. So while both Edward and John try to appear as good people, their inner reality is much different. As John himself remarks, "Who in this world knows anything of any other heart—or of his own?"

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