The Good Soldier


Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier: Part 4, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

John begins to wrap up his story by posing questions to the reader, which he does not answer. He asks, for instance, whether Edward’s decision to send Nancy to India was selfish. According to Leonora, it was dooming the girl to a life of abuse. However, according to Edward, any act that results in such pain to oneself cannot be selfish. When posing such questions, John is careful to act as a neutral party; in this section, he always leaves the final moral judgment up to the reader.
John’s question here is fair, although it is a bit late for him to start acting like a neutral party. His story and commentary have been biased throughout, so readers should ignore his claims regarding neutrality.
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However, there is some story left to tell. John returns to the moment when he first arrived at Branshaw Manor. While there, he asks Leonora about marrying Nancy. Leonora gives her permission but tells John that he cannot settle down close to the Ashburnhams because she doesn’t want Nancy nearby. John understands, accepts Leonora’s request, and decides to postpone his proposal for several months. Eventually, he plans to travel to India and propose to Nancy once he is there.
Leonora’s request here is reasonable and probably what’s best for everyone. Of course, it never comes to fruition because of Edward’s suicide and Nancy’s subsequent breakdown.
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The day before Nancy leaves for India, John talks to Edward who reveals his love for Nancy. The next day when Nancy is put on her train, Edward is deeply upset, while Leonora is the happiest that she’s been in a long time. Edward feels as though his wife has got the best of him. Meanwhile, Leonora feels that there is once again a possibility of winning her husband back.
Edward and Leonora’s opposing attitudes toward Nancy’s departure suggest that their marriage is far from fixed. Leonora’s notion that she can win her husband back is nothing more than pipe dream, and, of course, it does not happen.
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At this point, John remembers that there is only one bit of the story that he’s failed to mention so far: Edward’s death. Coincidentally, John was present for it. A few days after Nancy’s departure, a letter arrives from Nancy stating her current location and the fact that she is safe. Edward reads the letter while in the stables with John. Afterwards, he hands the letter to John, asks him to take it to Leonora, and then pulls out a knife. John sees the knife and realizes what Edward intends to do but does not stop him. Moments later, Edward puts the knife to his throat and slices it open. 
Finally, John narrates Edward’s suicide, and in doing so calls into question everything that has come before it. First of all, it’s unclear whether John is telling the truth. This is yet another death that only John was around to witness. Furthermore, John had clear incentive to kill Edward; after all, Edward had sex with John’s wife. Alternatively, John could secretly wish to marry Leonora either for love or to inherit yet another fortune. However, even if John did not kill Edward, he does not come out of the scene innocent. At the very least, he allows Edward to kill himself and doesn’t seem emotionally affected by what he sees. If John did kill Edward, then this might explain why he is so forgiving to him throughout the novel; his excessive kindness could be a way of covering up his tracks. Ultimately, like everything else in this novel, the truth is unknowable because there is no omniscient narrator to confirm or deny what John is saying. Instead, the reader is left with only John’s words, which can be slippery to say the least.
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