The Good Soldier

by

Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier: Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On the night of Florence’s death, John considers marrying Nancy. He even says this out loud to Leonora. He assures his reader that the idea of marrying Nancy never came into his head until Florence died. When John states his desire to Leonora, she tells him she will think about it. After all, Nancy is like a daughter to her, and her situation is complicated to say the least.
Here, John cites yet another reason why he might have killed Florence: he is in love with someone else. Additionally, marrying Nancy would give John a chance to get back at Edward for having sex with Florence. For Leonora, this is also a good solution. If John marries Nancy, it will help keep her away from Edward.
Themes
Marriage and Infidelity Theme Icon
The Manipulation of Reality Theme Icon
Quotes
In the months following Edward’s death, Leonora begins revealing her knowledge to John. By this point, Leonora assumed John knew about Florence and Edward’s affair, so she talked about it openly. According to John, this is the first time he realized the extent of his wife’s infidelities. Additionally, Leonora tells John that his wife’s death was a suicide, which is also news to him. Previously, John assumed Florence died because of her heart condition. John admits that he is completely unbothered by Florence’s death. He does not feel anger or sadness toward her; he is utterly indifferent.
John continues to profess his utter naivety, which becomes harder and harder to believe. However, this is the first time that he provides a reason for being so kind to Edward while Edward was still alive. Still, it doesn’t explain why John continues to compliment Edward after his death. Of course, if the reader believes John, then his desire to marry Nancy could not be part of a revenge plan. However, it is difficult to believe John when he admits that his wife’s suicide didn’t bother him. Even if Florence did treat John cruelly, indifference is an odd and inhuman response to the death of one’s spouse.
Themes
Marriage and Infidelity Theme Icon
The Manipulation of Reality Theme Icon
Eventually, John figures out what led to Florence’s suicide. Apparently, Florence followed Edward and Nancy (as instructed by Leonora) who went to a park. While at the park, Edward and Nancy assume they are alone, as Florence doesn’t make herself known to them. Florence overhears Edward attempting to seduce Nancy, which breaks her heart. Meanwhile, Nancy finds Edward’s advances charming because she thinks they are the kind words of a father rather than the romantic words of a lover.
As always, the question here is whether John’s story is plausible. While the story in the park is consistent with everything the reader knows about Edward, is seeing Edward try to seduce Nancy enough to drive Florence to suicide?
Themes
Marriage and Infidelity Theme Icon
The Manipulation of Reality Theme Icon
Florence runs back to the hotel where she sees John with Bagshawe. John thinks that the sight of the two of them together is what pushed Florence over the edge. Although she may have been able to withstand Edward’s betrayal, John’s discovery of her own infidelity in the same night was too much. After Florence’s death, John directs all of his energy toward marrying Nancy. Although he claims that he never thinks of Florence, he is at the very least glad that he no longer must act as her nurse.
John seems to think that his story of Edward and Nancy in the park is not enough to cause Florence to commit suicide because he adds his conversation with Bagshawe into the mix. However, this is rather flimsy evidence. There is no reason for Florence to assume that Bagshawe is telling John about her affair with Edward. Additionally, she doesn’t care much about John anyway, and it seems unlikely that his knowledge of her affair would drive her to suicide. Once again, the question is whether John is being deliberately misleading.
Themes
Marriage and Infidelity Theme Icon
The Manipulation of Reality Theme Icon
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