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The Good Soldier

Ford Madox Ford

Part IV, Sections I-II

Part III, Sections IV-V

Part IV, Sections III-IV

Summary

Part IV, Section I

Dowell admits that he has told this story in a very rambling way, going back and forward as he remembers important details. He justifies such a narration by claiming that it is more real; he says that it is the way a person telling a story would transmit it. As he reflects upon the story in its entirety, he places more blame on Florence than he did at the beginning of the novel. He charges her with depressing and deteriorating both Edward and Leonora, obliterating all opportunity for them to once again have a healthy marriage. He suggests that Leonora could have done more, perhaps, to prevent the affair once she realized it was a possibility. But he must admit that he should not condemn her for her inactivity. It was, after all Florence, with her vulgarity and her pride, who finally lured Edward away from his wife.

Before their trip to M—, it appeared that Leonora's plan to win her husband back had been working. She excused his previous affairs as the uncontrollable nature of man, and she admitted that perhaps she had gone too far by so restricting Edward's money. He responded by making small advances to her, attempts to renew their intimacy. But this structure was smashed the moment that Florence laid her hand upon Edward's wrist. Leonora saw that Edward responded to Florence's advances, and she did not see how it could ever be possible for Edward to return to her "after such a vulgar intrigue with a vulgar woman." Leonora despised Florence, for not only did she thwart Leonora's strongest desire, she did so in a rude and showy manner, by constantly talking to Leonora of her affairs with Edward.

When they returned to Branshaw Manor, Leonora once again clamped down on Edward's expenditures. She was enraged that he endeavored to spend money helping others through public service; she could not believe that Edward would donate to the War Office the rights to his stirrup, a potentially profitable invention. Dowell thinks that it was the prospect of being unable to help others which ultimately caused Edward to commit suicide.

Part IV, Section II

Dowell returns to Connecticut to visit the Misses Hurlbird and to settle the affairs of Uncle John Hurlbird. Because Hurlbird died only five days before Florence, Dowell is the inheritor of both of their fortunes. Uncle John asked that his money be used to found a center for the treatment of heart patients. After his death the doctors discovered that Uncle John never really had a heart problem; he had a lung problem. Dowell split the money to build a much larger center for the treatment of both the heart and the lungs. After donating the money, Dowell leaves to return to England as per the wishes of Edward and Leonora. Once at Branshaw Manor, Dowell learns that Nancy is leaving for India tomorrow in order to spend time with her father. He intends to propose to her before she leaves. But before he proposes, he has a long talk with Edward, who describes many of the events which have occurred in Dowell's absence.

After they returned from Nauheim, Leonora had a breakdown. She had awful headaches and both she and Edward descended into depression. Nancy tried as best she could to care for her aunt and uncle, but she is unable to make the situation better. When Nancy returns home to tell Leonora of a good deed that Edward has done by giving a young man named Selmes his horse, Leonora responds with hatred rather than admiration. Leonora's hatred for Edward grows and she becomes increasingly bitter that Nancy is the person who can make Edward happy.

In an effort to relieve his strain, Edward announces that he is sending Nancy to India to spend some time with her father. Leonora is livid that Edward could do something so selfish in sending a girl back to a man whom she fears. Leonora slips into Nancy's room later that night to talk to her. She tells her that Edward is dying for love of her. Nancy responds that she too is suffering because she is in love with Edward. Leonora is taken aback. Nancy says that she intends to go to Glasgow to care for her mother who has fallen on hard times. Leonora implores Nancy to stay, to belong to Edward so that he may be saved. Nancy smiles but answers that she and Edward are not worth that.

Analysis

Historically, the financial trouble experienced by Edward and Leonora Ashburnham, was not an unusual situation for people of their social class in the beginning of the twentieth century. The rise of industrialism in England was combined with the fall of the landed gentry. As new, richer industrialists began to make a place for themselves in the highest ranks of society, the old landed families found it becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain their luxurious lifestyle. They could no longer depend on income from their land alone to meet their high cost of living. Edward and Leonora Ashburnham, like many of the people who were in their situation, clung to their history, their honor, and their respectability as things which could not be tainted by poor finances. Edward values his history and his gentility so much because, in the absence of money, they are the only supports which he feels will forever connect him to the idealized feudal system.

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