Term Paper: Structure and Texture in the Good Soldier and Parade's End by FM Ford

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Structure and Texture in Ford's The Good Soldier And Parade's End

As Graham Greene once wrote on the subject of Ford Madox Ford, "No one in our century except James has been more attentive to the craft of letters. He was not only a designer; he was a carpenter: you feel in his work the love of the tools and the love of the material" (Greene 1962, p. 8). In what follows, we intend to explore the ways in which Ford both designed and engineered what are perhaps his two greatest novels, the Good Soldier and Parade's End. Through a rigid analysis of both the formal and textual aspects of Ford's work, we hope to expose those qualities that contributed to Ford's development as one of the pioneering authors of Modernism and literary Impressionism.

We will begin with a brief overview of the author's life and milieu, in order to gain some perspective on the biographical elements that undoubtedly played a role in the emergence of Ford's writerly style. We will then move on to an analysis of the sprawling text of the Good Soldier, which is characterized by its inventive use of the flashback device. Structurally, the work makes use of a non-chronological order of events, which are relayed to us by an unreliable narrator. We will investigate these formal devices, showing how the structure of the novel is meant to mirror the chaotic events that are depicted throughout the course of the book.

We will then turn our attention to what is arguably Ford's finest achievement, the tetralogy Parade's End. We will explore the ways in which the main character of this book is linked with the unreliable narrator of the Good Soldier. We will also examine the ways in which the character's psychological development influences the texture of the work. We will conclude by showing the ways that Ford's unique literary Impressionism has left a distinctive mark - not only on Modernism, but also on the evolution of literature in general.

Throughout our analysis, we will make use of the authoritative Bodley Head edition of Ford Madox Ford's works, as well as an array of standard and recent scholarship on these two novels.

The Author and His Milieu

Throughout the course of his prolific career, Ford Madox Ford wore many hats. Not only was he a distinguished novelist, he was also renowned for being the editor of two of the literary magazines that would come to define English language Modernism: The English Review and the Transatlantic Review. Ford was also a distinguished critic, and helped to launch the careers of some of the most important names in early 20th century letters. Throughout the course of his lifetime, Ford published over eighty volumes. His main theme was the conflict between the evolution of modern industrial society and the traditional values of the British. In his personal life, Ford was known for being something of a lady's man. He was involved with several women, including the novelist Jean Rhys, who wrote about their affair in the novel After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie.

Ford was born in to the bohemian surroundings of Merton, Surrey, where his father was a writer and music editor of the Times and his grandfather was the esteemed painter Ford Madox Brown. His father, whose full name was Franz Carl Christoph Johannes Hueffer, belonged to an illustrious German family that owned a printer and a newspaper in their native Muenster. While the Hueffers had traditionally been a Catholic family, Hueffer himself was rather unconventional - he was an atheist and a disciple of Schopenhauer, factors that may have led him to immigrate to England in 1869, where his son Ford was born four years later. Hueffer has been described as rather bulky but not a tall man, of very Teutonic physiognomy: brilliant, ruddy complexion, brilliant yellow hair, blue eyes radiant with quickness and penetration... though not a melancholy person in his ordinary demeanour, [he] had a certain tinge of hypochondria in his outlook on life (William Michael Rossetti, quoted in Mizener 1985, p. 3).

Hueffer undoubtedly had a major influence on his son's development. He was an intellectual of numerous accomplishments, and like his brothers (one of whom was a professor history, the other two of whom became quite wealthy in business), was highly ambitious. In addition to his philosophical pursuits, Hueffer was an accomplished musicologist. He also penned a number of librettos for operas by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, including the Troubadour and Colomba. Hueffer also penned a study of Wagner, and a book on the Troubadours, a History of Provencal Life and Literature in the Middle Ages, which was published in the year 1878. As his son would later do, he started two intellectually ambitious magazines, both of which were to be financial failures. One, the New Quarterly, was meant to serve as a vehicle for the promotion of the ideas of Schopenhauer, while the second, the Musical World, was rooted in the ideas and music of Wagner.

Ford grew up in an environment where such literary and artistic legends as Dane Gabriel, Algernon Swinburne, Christina Rossetti, William Morris, and Edward Burne-Jones were regular visitors. From a young age, Ford traveled widely throughout continental Europe. He studied in Folkstone at the Praetorius School. Upon the death of his father, Ford moved with his family to London. There, he would continue his education at the University College School. Despite the fact that Ford never made it to university, he was fluent in several languages, including French, German, Italian and Flemish; he was also proficient in classical languages, such as Greek and Latin. While still a teenager, Ford converted to Catholicism.

At the age of eighteen, Ford published his first book, the Brown Owl, a fairy tale featuring illustrations by his grandfather. Three years later, Ford would marry Elsie Martindale. In the year 1908, the marriage broke up, although Ford never officially divorced Martindale. Throughout his life, it is estimated that Ford had over twenty romantic relationships with women. This is hard to imagine from a contemporary standpoint, as Ford was not conventionally good-looking. Despite his overweight body and bad teeth, however, Ford had many other charms relating to his exceptional memory and intellect. He was able to woo admirers by quoting long passages from the classics by memory. Once, he began working on a French translation of one of his own works without even having the original in front of him, so strongly was it entrenched in his memory. Eventually, the many scandals that Ford provoked - including having an affair with his wife's sister, not to mention his bad health and financial problems - led to the author having a nervous breakdown in the year 1904.

Much of Ford's earlier output consisted of collaborations with Joseph Conrad. The pair first became acquainted with one another in the late 1890s. Together, they would collaborate on two novels, the Inheritors and Romance. Ford was deeply inspired in his own work by Conrad's utilization of mediating narrators. This technique would come to the forefront in Ford's own novel the Good Soldier. Ford's most impressionistic text from this era was the Soul of London, through which he tried to capture the spirit of London through a series of impressionistic jottings. Critics such as Saunders (2005) have situated the Soul of London as a pivotal representation of Impressionism in Ford's oeuvre, linking the author's Impressionist tendencies with an urbanism frequently associated with both the Transparent and Mediated forms of painterly Impressionism (Brettell 1999, p. 18). The book marks a pivotal starting-point in most discussions of Ford's affiliation with Impressionistic tendencies in literary discourse and marks a vital transition, not only in Ford's own oeuvre, but in the history of Western literature:

The Soul of London is a transitional book. It is both original and 'Fordian' while yet belonging to a slew of works in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that engaged with the spirit of London in sundry quasi-essentialist ways. It was, on paper at least, traditional enough in its concerns to be commercially successful. However, its impressionistic perceptions of the metropolis were more in line with the radicalism of writers such as Arthur Symons than the stolid certainties of London's contemporary historians W.J. Loftie and Walter Besant (Freeman 2005, p. 28).

Between the years of 1906 and 1908, Ford published his first great work, the Fifth Queen, a trilogy that was based on Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife. The English Review was launched to much fanfare in the year 1908. It brought to the general public the writings of such up-and-comers as Henry James, Anatole France, Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, and John Galsworthy. During a particularly tumultuous period in Ford's life, which involved his stormy relationship with writer Violet Hunt, Ford lost possession of the Review. This was in the year 1910. It was also during this period that Ford was forced to pay his wife child support for their two daughters. When he refused to do… [END OF PREVIEW]

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