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The Good Soldier

Ford Madox Ford

Part IV, Sections V-VI

Part IV, Sections III-IV

Part IV, Sections V-VI, page 2

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Summary

Part IV, Section V

Dowell claims that this is the saddest part of the story. He sees the terrible position that all three people are in. If Nancy does not belong to Edward, he will literally die. Dowell writes this section eighteen months after he has returned to Branshaw to care for Nancy. He records the events that have passed in this time.

After Nancy heard of Edward's suicide, she went mad. Her father picked her up from the ship in Ceylon, and found her unable to speak. The only thing she would say was that she believed in an "Omnipotent Deity." Leonora would not go to Ceylon to retrieve her, so she sent Dowell to do it. Nancy now sits in the hall, forty steps from Dowell as he writes. She is beautiful, well looked after, but utterly without reason. Dowell finds himself once again the attendant, the nurse-maid of a beautiful girl who pays no attention to him.

Dowell reflects that this is such a sad story because no one has gotten what he wanted. Leonora wanted Edward but ended up with Rodney Bayham. Edward and Florence are dead, the girl is mad, and Dowell remains right where he started: a pathetic caretaker. Dowell reasons that Edward was too caught up in traditions, too willing to lead the "normal" life, although he was too much of a sentimentalist for that.

Dowell describes how he believes Nancy and Leonora worked together to emotionally destroy Edward: "Those two women pursued the poor devil and flayed the skin off him as if they had done it with whips," Dowell writes. The women would talk all night and then emerge during the day to tell Edward the results of their deliberations. Once Edward accidentally told Leonora that all he wanted was for the girl who was five-thousand miles away to continue to love him.

Leonora, vengeful, decided that this should never be so. She spoke to Nancy continually, telling her what a horrible husband Edward was, and yet imploring the girl to "belong to him" to save his life. Leonora's method drained all love for Edward out of Nancy. One night, Nancy gave in to Leonora's demands. She went to Edward's room and offered herself to him. Nancy told him that, knowing the kind of man he is, she could belong to him to save his life, but she could never love him. This was torture for Edward, but he refused to touch her, and sent her back to her room. It also sent him into a deeper depression because he knew that Leonora had coerced Nancy to despise him forever.

Part IV, Section VI

Dowell reflects on the events which have transpired and on the heroes and villains of his "saddest story." He cannot decide whether Edward acted selfishly in sending the girl to India. Leonora thinks that it was selfish of him to ruin a young life, but Edward contends that the act could not be selfish because it caused him such tremendous emotional pain. Dowell refrains from judgment on this matter and leaves it to the reader.

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