The Good Soldier

Summary

Part II, Sections I-II

Summary Part II, Sections I-II

Analysis

Although the novel seems disordered, the narrative structure of The Good Soldier follows a general order. Each Part of the novel ends in a death. In Part I, Maisie Maidan is the victim; in Part II, Florence dies. Part III closes with the death of Leonora's love for Edward, and Part IV finishes with Edward's death. Each part signals a destruction of the passionate, weak, and vulnerable. Such a narrative structure highlights one of Dowell's conclusions that "the passionate, the headstrong, and the too truthful are condemned to suicide and madness" while only the "normal, the virtuous, and the slightly deceitful" can flourish. The fact that each main part of the novel ends with a death points toward the difficulties and selections in life. Society 'selects" for the normal, for those who are content not to challenge it too strongly.

Ford explores different kinds of deception in these two chapters. Looking back on the past, Dowell is able to describe in detail the steps Florence took to deceive him. She went to great lengths to maintain the appearance of a fragile heart patient, and Dowell unquestioningly believed her. Yet the Dowell's tone toward Florence is not hostile. He explains her steps fairly matter-of-factly, how she went about convincing him that she was generally unable to act in the capacity of his wife. What bothers Dowell is not Florence's deception, but her motive. Dowell is appalled that Florence could lie in order to spend the night with Jimmy behind the closed door, but he understands how Florence might deceive in order to be with Edward. In such a mindset, Dowell understands no definite right or wrong, he takes into account the circumstances of each action and each betrayal.