The Good Soldier

Summary

Part I, Sections I-II

Summary Part I, Sections I-II

In this chapter, Dowell includes the story of La Louve, the She-wolf, who refuses Peire Vidal, a poet who is in love with her. He commits crazy stunts to get her attention, and finally her husband forces her to be with him, because courtesy is due to great poets. Dowell adds that, of the two, "she was the more ferocious."

Analysis

Narrative mode in The Good Soldier differentiates Ford from other authors. The entire novel is narrated from a first-person perspective by Dowell, a naive, well-intentioned man. He attempts to speak directly to the reader, imagining himself talking to a "sympathetic listener" by a fireside in the country. Because Dowell delivers the story in such a rambling and episodic manner, it is necessary to question the reliability of his tale. Although Dowell attempts a faithful depiction, we wonder whether his motive as a story teller is to speak to a "sympathetic listener" or simply to receive sympathy. If the latter is the case, we must understand the events in the novel as twisted in order to create sympathy for a deceived husband.

By mirroring moral confusion with narrative confusion, Ford reaches beyond the confines of traditional narration. Dowell's narrative style suggests he writes without an ordered mind. By jumping from past to present and from scene to scene, Dowell challenges all chronology, mixing stories of past events with his current reflections. These reflections change as Dowell writes and as the story progresses; though he begins by calling his wife "poor Florence" he later corrects himself and changes tone completely, expressing his deep hatred for her. At the end of section II, Dowell concludes that "it is all a darkness"; he is a man who has lost his understanding of right and wrong. Ford is especially clever in the way he directs Dowell to craft the story.