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The Good Soldier

by: Ford Madox Ford

Florence Hurlbird Dowell

Florence Dowell, the adulteress of the novel, is the only main character whose tale is never told. In large part, our ignorance of her background is due to a complete lack of communication between Dowell and his wife. In contrast, Dowell's later discussions with Leonora and Edward allow him to include their versions of events into the novel. The exclusion of Florence's story allows the author to suspend direct judgment of her. If Dowell criticizes Florence, we are able to understand the criticism as the emotional pain of a deceived husband; Florence is never directly criticized from an objective source.

What we know of Florence comes mainly from her actions, not her words. She is deceptive and controlling. She is willing to feign a heart condition to get her way, and to commit suicide if she doesn't. Florence values her ancestors, if not her family. She is perfectly happy to dismiss her aunts in favor of a home that belonged to her ancestors more than two centuries ago. Dowell's impressions of her are strongly split; he alternates between sympathetic pity, calling her 'poor Florence,' and strident hatred, comparing her to La Louve, the She-wolf. Florence is indeed both powerful and manipulative, but ultimately she is thwarted in her every desire; perhaps this is cause for pity.