Skip over navigation

The Good Soldier

Ford Madox Ford

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Essay Topics

full title ·  The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion

author · Ford Madox Ford

type of work · Novel

genre · Pre-modernist novel. Written before the period of high modernism that most literary historians agree came after the First World War, The Good Soldier is nevertheless marked by a deliberate and radical break from the more traditional Victorian and Edwardian novel forms which preceded it.

language · English

time and place written · Ford wrote this novel in England during the year 1914, immediately before the start of the First World War; it is considered a book of the pre-war period

date of first publication · 1915

publisher · The Bodley Head

narrator · Dowell, the naive and cuckolded husband who gradually pieces together the story of his time with Florence and the Ashburnhams

climax · There are two major climaxes: Florence's suicide at the end of Part II and Edward's suicide at the end of Part IV. These deaths mark important moments in the plot of the story and the reflection of the narrator.

protagonist · Although Dowell gives a first-person narration, there is no single protagonist. The two couples (Dowell and Florence, and Edward and Leonora) are the four main characters of the novel.

antagonist · There is no one antagonist who is in direct opposition to the two couples. Rather, Dowell must confront a modern world devoid of moral certainties. The antagonistic force is Dowell's own reluctance to face reality.

setting (time) · 1904–1913

setting (place) · The majority of the events take place in the French countryside (somewhere between Nice and Bordighera during the winter), and Nauheim during the summer. Later in the novel, the setting is Branshaw Manor in Fordingbridge, England.

point of view · First-person, limited. The novel is written through the eyes and mind of Dowell, the narrator. The narration is disorganized and disjointed, as the reader only learns the truth of the story as Dowell himself pieces it together.

falling action · After Edward kills himself with a small pen-knife, Leonora remarries a man named Rodney Bayham, has a child, and proceeds to have a very 'normal' life. Nancy Rufford goes crazy when she hears of Edward's death and Dowell becomes her permanent caretaker. Dowell ironically reflects that the "villains" have been punished by suicide and madness.

tense · Past tense narration, present-tense reflection. Dowell narrates a story that happened in the past while commenting on his current understanding of those past events.

foreshadowing · Florence's suicide foreshadows the suicide of Edward Ashburnham; the actions of the Hurlbirds foreshadows tragedy for Dowell and Florence.

tone · Confused, naive, and angry; the narrator's tone changes throughout the novel as he tells the story and reflects back on the events which have occurred; above all, he seems to be earnestly searching for meaning and simplicity, though he is utterly lost.

themes · The Difference Between Appearance and Reality; The Moral Significance of Adultery; Definitions of Normality

motifs · August 4; Heart Conditions

symbols · The Minuet; Martin Luther's Protest; Shuttlecocks

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us