The Good Soldier


Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier: Part 4, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Finally, John arrives at what he says is the saddest part of “the saddest story.” As he sees it, Nancy, Edward, and Leonora are all in unsalvageable positions. It seems obvious to John, writing in retrospect, that Edward will die if Nancy doesn’t return to him. Indeed, as it turns out, Edward does kill himself, although John withholds the details for the time being. In the aftermath of Edward’s death, Nancy goes insane. Nancy’s mind cannot bear the idea that she is directly responsible for his death. By the time her father gets to her, Nancy can no longer speak coherently. The only thing she utters is her apparent belief in an “Omnipotent Deity.”
Despite her desire to do the right thing, Nancy is punished because her psyche cannot bear the weight of her actions. Her references to an “Omnipotent Deity" resemble Edward’s prayer from earlier in the novel; that is, they are cries of desperation more than anything else. Indeed, Nancy was put in an impossible situation, and John is right to portray her fate as the saddest part of his melancholy tale.
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Because Leonora can no longer stand to face Nancy herself, she sends John in her place. John visits Nancy and sees that she is still as beautiful as ever, even though her mental state has sharply deteriorated. As he looks at Nancy, John realizes that he is once again acting as a nurse for a woman he loves. He cannot help but notice the bitter irony of the situation. In the end, John realizes, no one in his life ended up happy. He is rich, but alone, Florence and Edward killed themselves, and Leonora settled for Rodney Bayham, a man she considered having an affair with while still married to Edward.
If John did kill Florence to marry Nancy, then his plan was an abject failure. Not only does John fail to marry Nancy, but he is also once again utterly alone. Even Leonora has settled for someone else and moved on. However, John is only left with a lifeless woman and his memories of this tragic story, which he may or may not be responsible for.
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Still, John places little to no blame on Edward for what has transpired. He describes how Nancy and Leonora tortured Edward and gave him no control over the outcome of his life. Leonora knew Nancy loved Edward and so she did everything she could to make her dislike him. However, eventually, her only option was to make Nancy Edward’s mistress and by that point it was already too late; Nancy could never accept such a position. John thinks this situation must have tortured Edward and drained him of any life force he had remaining. In the final months of his life, Edward knew that Nancy, the one person he truly loved, was poisoned against him forever because of Leonora.
John’s refusal to blame Edward for anything is almost laughable at this point. Edward may be a tragic figure, but to absolve him of all blame is absurd, assuming the story John tells is even mildly accurate. Meanwhile, John portrays Leonora as a schemer who turned Nancy against Edward, even though she is also the one who wanted Nancy to stay. Of course, she could be both, but the insinuation that she is entirely to blame for what happened is blatantly unfair.
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