The Good Soldier


Ford Madox Ford

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Themes and Colors
Marriage and Infidelity Theme Icon
The Manipulation of Reality Theme Icon
Class and Traditional Morality  Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Good Soldier, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Marriage and Infidelity

At the center of The Good Soldier are two marriages—one between John and Florence Dowell, the other between Edward and Leonora Ashburnham. Although marriage is recognized as a valuable institution by John and Leonora, it is completely disregarded by their respective spouses Florence and Edward. Throughout the course of the story, Florence and Edward partake in multiple extramarital affairs, including one with each another. These affairs give Florence and Edward their vitality, as…

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The Manipulation of Reality

The Good Soldier is a completely different book depending on how one chooses to interpret it. If one takes John Dowell at his word, he is the victim whose life is full of tragedy. If one assumes that John’s narration is unreliable, he can be read as a murderer who swindled Florence and her family out of a great deal of money. Furthermore, in addition to these two options, there are many interpretations of the…

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Class and Traditional Morality

Throughout the novel, John Dowell regularly makes use of the phrase “good people,” often to describe Edward and Leonora. However, it is difficult to apply this phrase to Edward and Leonora and still have it make sense. According to John’s version of events, Edward and Leonora constantly lie to one another. Edward regularly carries on affairs behind Leonora’s back and for much of the novel Leonora despises her husband. Meanwhile, Leonora acts selfishly toward…

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Religion is constantly in the background of The Good Soldier and there are several moments where it comes to the forefront. Although religion does not provide its central characters with moral scruples, it does still give them a certain cultural cache, which they feel attached to; in other words, characters use religion to be seen as “good people” in the eyes of their peers. Additionally, one’s religion is closely linked to one’s nationality, both of…

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