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Novel Revie the Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford

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In his strange 1927 introduction to his strange 1915 book, Ford Madox Ford claimed that going with the title The Good Soldier rather than The Saddest Story was something he had “never ceased to regret”

He characterised the decision as a cynical commercial choice by his publisher to appease wartime sensibilities. And it’s quite possible that Ford was sincere in his lament.

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Dellolio points out how the inner wishes and thoughts of Guy Haines are actualized and manifested in a more hands-on state through the character of Bruno Anthony. Guy wishes to marry his girlfriend, Ann Morton, but is unable to do so because he is already married and unable to secure a divorce from his wife, Miriam Haines. On the other hand, Bruno would like to live his own life without his father’s influence. As a way to fix their problems and fulfill their inner desires, the men devise a plan where they would each murder the other’s enemy. The problem (and the expressionist theme) arises, however, when Guy finds himself unable to actually murder another human being. It is important to note, though, that Guy does have a desire to murder his wife for the restrictions she is placing on his life. Guy even exclaims aloud to his girlfriend, “I could strangle her!”. Like Ford’s John Dowell, however, there is something that is keeping him from fulfilling his desires. Although these two men are unable to fulfill their desires on their own, their subjective thoughts are manifested into reality through the character’s counterparts, Edward Ashburnham and Bruno Anthony.

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Dowell for example, considers himself to be really intelligent, perceptive and insightful. Because he has had nothing to do for nine years, he reasons that he must be a faithful and reliable narrator. He explains to the reader that his attention was entirely focused on his surroundings, for example: the dining room decorations, the hotel plan layout, the flirtatiousness of Florence. But as he relates to the story of their trip to Nauheim, Dowell is quite the opposite of insightful. He is so obsessed with seeing things at face value and in trusting those he sees as “good people,” that he seems to be incapable of noticing the things happening all around him. He doesn’t even notice that there is a budding romance between Edward and his wife, Florence

Even when Leonora explicitly tries to reveal the truth to him, Dowell doesn’t understand. He simply accepts her “I’m an Irish Catholic” (Ford, 2002, p. 43) excuse quite happily with no objection. Dowell seems to only recognise the details which have little bearing on the situation or of little importance. Florence’s betrayal and Leonora’s absolute horror seem to remain completely transparent to him.

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Thus, Ford originally named his novel "The Saddest Story" but his publisher, arguing that such gloom would not play well with the public in 1915, asked for another title. Archly, sarcastically even, Ford proposed 'The Good Soldier'. He later regretted the change of title, and he was right to do so

The heavy-handed irony of the new name is a travesty of the delicate and devastating ironies of the story within.

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Womack, Kenneth and William Baker, eds. The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion. Broadview Press, 2003.

Ford, Madox Ford (2003). Kenneth Womack and William Baker (eds.).

The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion. New York: Broadview Press. ISBN 1-55111-381-3.

Ciabattari, Jane (7 December 2015). "The 100 greatest British novels". BBC.

Levenson, Michael (1984). "Character in The Good Soldier". Twentieth Century Literature. 30: 373–387.

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