The Good Soldier


Ford Madox Ford

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Class and Traditional Morality Theme Analysis

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.
Class and Traditional Morality  Theme Icon

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 everyone who isn’t Edward. She gets angry any time Edward gives money to the poor and she essentially blames Edward’s suicide on Nancy.

When taking all of these actions into account, it is difficult to see how Edward and Leonora could be described as “good people.” That is, until Nancy uses the phrase—or, at least, the phrase is used by John on her behalf—later in the novel. Toward the end of the novel, Nancy looks at a newspaper article, which describes the relationship of a couple she knows. Nancy thinks of the couple as “good people” because they are well off; however, the article describes a relationship full of alcoholism, infidelity, and violence. Therefore, it appears that Nancy associates the idea of “goodness” with those who are high class. By virtue of being rich, having resources, and carrying oneself in a particular way, one can affect the appearance of “goodness,” even if one does not act “good” in any meaningful sense of the word. As such, The Good Soldier depicts a world where the link between wealth and traditional morality has become blurred, while simultaneously demonstrating just how absurd that conflation is.

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Class and Traditional Morality Quotes in The Good Soldier

Below you will find the important quotes in The Good Soldier related to the theme of Class and Traditional Morality .
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

I don't know. And there is nothing to guide us. And if everything is so nebulous about a matter so elementary as the morals of sex, what is there to guide us in the more subtle morality of all other personal contacts, associations, and activities? Or are we meant to act on impulse alone? It is all a darkness.

Related Characters: John Dowell (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

It really worried poor Florence that she couldn’t, in matters of culture, ever get the better of Leonora. I don't know what Leonora knew or what she didn't know, but certainly she was always there whenever Florence brought out any information. And she gave, somehow, the impression of really knowing what poor Florence gave the impression of having only picked up.

Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

She continued, looking up into Captain Ashburnham’s eyes: “It's because of that piece of paper that you're honest, sober, industrious, provident, and clean-lived. If it weren’t for that piece of paper you’d be like the Irish or the Italians or the Poles, but particularly the Irish....”

And she laid one finger upon Captain Ashburnham’s wrist.

Related Characters: Florence Dowell (speaker), John Dowell (speaker), Edward Ashburnham, Leonora Ashburnham
Related Symbols: Martin Luther’s Protest
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 3 Quotes

I don't know why they never had any children—not that I really believe that children would have made any difference. The dissimilarity of Edward and Leonora was too profound. It will give you some idea of the extraordinary naïveté of Edward Ashburnham that, at the time of his marriage and for perhaps a couple of years after, he did not really know how children are produced. Neither did Leonora. I don’t mean to say that this state of things continued, but there it was. I dare say it had a good deal of influence on their mentalities. At any rate, they never had a child. It was the Will of God.

Related Characters: John Dowell (speaker), Edward Ashburnham, Leonora Ashburnham
Page Number: 104-105
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 3 Quotes

Yet there it was—in black and white. Mr. Brand drank; Mr. Brand had struck Mrs. Brand to the ground when he was drunk. Mr. Brand was adjudged, in two or three abrupt words, at the end of columns and columns of paper, to have been guilty of cruelty to his wife and to have committed adultery with Miss Lupton. The last words conveyed nothing to Nancy—nothing real, that is to say. She knew that one was commanded not to commit adultery—but why, she thought, should one? It was probably something like catching salmon out of season—a thing one did not do. She gathered it had something to do with kissing, or holding some one in your arms[.]

Related Characters: John Dowell (speaker), Nancy Rufford
Page Number: 156-157
Explanation and Analysis: