The Good Soldier | Study Guide

Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier | Part 4, Chapter 1 | Summary

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Summary

John Dowell says he has come to the conclusion that Florence Dowell "was a contaminating influence" on the Ashburnhams. He proposes that Leonora Ashburnham should have better chaperoned Edward Ashburnham or even taken him away from Nauheim. But he also admits Edward probably would have found some other woman, if not Florence. For a time, Leonora feels like her plan with Maisie Maidan is going well and that Edward is "cooling off towards" her. Then Florence touches Edward's wrist, and Leonora despairs. About a week later, Leonora sees Florence coming from Edward's bedroom. After that, Florence constantly talks to Leonora about her affair, torturing her. Leonora is so upset, she begins to micromanage Edward's money again and attempts to have an affair of her own with Rodney Bayham. John calls Florence "vulgar," "a harlot" and "a common flirt." He accuses her of breaking down the Ashburnhams' "pride and reserve" with her "unstoppable" talking. Meanwhile, he says Leonora merely "wants to recapture [Edward] in the end" of all his affairs, "a victory for all wives and victory for her Church."

Analysis

John no longer tempers his stark criticism of Florence. He casts her as the villain and Leonora the noble wife who merely wants her husband back. She comes close, too, allowing Edward to tire of Maisie Maidan all on his own and letting him spend his money as he wishes. But then Florence ruins it all. Leonora cannot do anything openly to stop Edward and Florence's affair. She desires that "her union with Edward should appear to be flawless"—that is, she embraces illusion rather than reality. And because she clings so tightly to creating this illusion, she must suffer in relative silence.

Ford Madox Ford contrasts Leonora and Edward's situation with Florence and John's. Leonora knows the reality of her rotten marriage and has an agonizing nine years while John lives those same years in happy ignorance. With this, Ford seems to imply Leonora would have been much happier had she not known about Edward's affairs.

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