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The Good Soldier | Study Guide

Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier | Part 4, Chapter 4 | Summary



Edward Ashburnham overhears Nancy Rufford discussing him with Leonora Ashburnham. He forbids Nancy to speak of these unmentionable things. John Dowell, the narrator, juxtaposes the whiteness of Nancy's silk kimono with Leonora's "dress of black lace." Suddenly, to Nancy, Leonora seems "as a cruel and predatory beast" who "had driven Edward to madness."

Leonora and Edward cannot agree on what to do with Nancy. He calls Nancy's mother's lover, Mr. White, "to make it right for her." Nancy resolves to obey Edward's wishes for her by going to her father in India. Edward informs them that John is coming to stay with them and that Mr. White will take Nancy to Italy.


Leonora does not want Nancy to go away, but Leonora's motives for keeping Nancy on are not necessarily pure. It seems to be her desire to make Edward suffer as much as he has made her suffer. This need for revenge against Edward might be part of Leonora's "instinctive desires" or it might be John's projection of his own need for revenge against Edward, or both. In any case, it gives the reader pause to ponder how pure John's motives are for even putting this sordid story out there. A clue might be in the way John juxtaposes Nancy's white kimono and Leonora's black dress. If Leonora is complicit in ruining Edward, how complicit is John? John wants the reader to believe he is an innocent bystander, much like Nancy, but if so, why does he not do anything to stop Edward's suicide, as depicted in the final chapter? Ford Madox Ford provides no definite answers but leaves it to the reader to decide.

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