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.
Religion Theme Icon

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 which carry certain assumptions about one’s character. This dynamic between religion and identity is most apparent in the scene where the two couples travel to M—. In M—, Florence, who is a Protestant, reads Martin Luther’s Protest and acts as though it adds value to her identity as a Protestant. She then uses the Protest to feel superior to Leonora, who is an Irish Catholic, arguing that the piece of paper makes Protestants “honest, sober, industrious, provident, and clean-lived”—unlike Catholics like Leonora, who (according to Florence) lack these traits.  In this scene, Florence does not think about or cite particular Protestant beliefs that would suggest her superiority, she simply feels superior because of the identity itself. Florence, though American, is descended from an old English family and she sees Englishness as a fundamental part of her identity.

Later in the novel, John says that Edward and Leonora regularly argued over which denomination they would raise their potential children. Both felt that their respective religious upbringings were crucial to their identities and wanted their children to follow in their footsteps. Ironically, Edward and Leonora don’t even end up having children, rending their argument a performative display of cultural values rather than a substantive matter of belief. Given these examples, it is clear that religion is still alive and well in the characters’ minds. However, rather than providing these characters with a strict set of beliefs and morals, religion gives them a stable sense of their sociocultural and national identities.  

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Religion Quotes in The Good Soldier

Below you will find the important quotes in The Good Soldier related to the theme of Religion.
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: