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KT32
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Re: Narrative Voice

Part of the modernist movement as well was the lack of accessibility you have to the characters. Much like Joyce, Ford did not want the book to have a paint by numbers theme and by using the solitary voice and vague descriptions/threads he has accomplished this. Modernism of itself is not entirely about getting the whole picture as much sometimes as getting through the story. Ford will never jump out and distinctly offer you a read inside his head, but will allow you to study him further and come up with your own conclusion.
You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows - Bob Dylan
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beshockley
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Re: Narrative Voice



IlanaSimons wrote:
Narrative Voice

We’re flooded with the narrator John Dowell’s voice in this book. We see everything through his eyes and words.
What’s his voice’s effect on you? Does his voice feel earnest, passionate, moralistic…or something else?

Would you say we’re viewing this story from far away or close up?
Ford said that both he and the novelist Joseph Conrad agreed that “life does not narrate, but makes impressions on our brains…. If we wished to produce...an effect of life [we] must not narrate but render…impressions” (Good Soldier, xv-xvi).

Tell us something about the book's narrator.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 02-02-200712:20 PM






I find his voice mostly "matter of fact" with some disbelief to his own life experience. He has bitterness but also continues to convey his genuine fondness for the characters of his story and of the life he once lived.

The story tends to vacillates in and out - distant to up close. His narration does not hold one continual view throughout and I think this was his intention to render an affect or impression on the reader.

The impression I get the most about the narrator: - he seems to not actually participate in life but rather observes it.

Take the first couple of pages in PART 1 CHAPTER 3. He is counting steps, why?
He has all this ability to describe his surroundings in detail; but yet he seems to have no character insight toward his wife and friends.

This strikes me as someone who is emotionally unattached, he is along just for the ride.
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Re: Two Examples of Narrator Confusion (Unreliable) in Part II



Fozzie wrote:
quot;Have I conveyed to you the splendid fellow that [Edward] was --- the fine soldier, the excellent landlord, the extraordinarily kind, careful and industrious magistrate, the upright, honest, fair-dealing, fair-thinking, public character?"
I became annoyed when I read this question. He has time and time again stated what a good person Edward was. He must be repeating this for some reason. Maybe he will realize that Edward had a bad side to him and was not all good.




Nice comment. The repetition makes it unconvincing.
I wonder what others think the motivation here is.
One thing that strikes me is that this American narrator really wants to see himself as British, as his wife does.



Ilana
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Synapse
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Re: Narrative Voice

I'm new and am enjoying the discussion. I see J.D. as a detached hedonist. Very early on he seems amazed that he could have missed F's affair with E.A.. I think he missed it because he holds no passion for F. and simply doesn't care to notice what she does. He is aloof, and self interested. Such a person will miss the relationships of others and be easily duped falling victim to their own lack of passion and interest.
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Re: Narrative Voice



Synapse wrote:
I'm new and am enjoying the discussion. I see J.D. as a detached hedonist. Very early on he seems amazed that he could have missed F's affair with E.A.. I think he missed it because he holds no passion for F. and simply doesn't care to notice what she does. He is aloof, and self interested. Such a person will miss the relationships of others and be easily duped falling victim to their own lack of passion and interest.




Neat comment. He poses as *extra-vigilant* to some things, masking the fact that he's really not in tune with basic things, like his feelings and his marriage.



Ilana
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cosmotrotter
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Re: Narrative Voice

EVERYMAN wrote:
'I also took note when he wrote:

"I don't know how it is best to put this thing down--whether it would be better to try and tell the story from the beginning, as if it were a story; or whether to tell it from this distance of time, as it reached me from the lips of Leonora or from those of Edward himself.

So I shall just imagine myself for a fortnight or so at one side of the fireplace of a country cottage, with a sympathetic soul opposite me."

I don't know about your friend,s but I don't have any friends who could sit in front of the fire with me and tell a story covering nine years of their life in a coherent, logically flowing manner. It would have fits and starts, the teller would forget important bits and go back and fill them in, would wander here and there as various incidents arose and receded in their memories.

He warns us that this is how he is going to tell the story -- and he does! '

When we consider that Conrad and Ford were friends, and that they cowrote together, one must think about Conrad's stories and novels. Time after time, Conrad presents a narrator who relates a tale overheard from another person - we are treated to a window, a presentation of a story about third parties - much like we are being told the story by the listener at Ford's fire. When Ford's narrator says he can't decide how to tell the story, I think it reflects on the character of the narrator.

He speak-writes with a faux British, faux aristocratic voice. He wants to be leisure class, but clearly isn't. He wants to understand everything, but understands little. He wishes to relate great truths to us, or to appear to do so, but cannot and muddles his facts, his opinions, and his descriptions of things.

The Good Soldier of whom he speaks seems to be Britain, falling to her knees at the end of Empire just before WWI. America would be the naive narrator, picking up the flag and running, in this comparison...

Psychologically, the narrator is definitely firmly lodged in the Modernist era of novel-writing, where the reader learns more about the character of the narrator than anything else in a novel - the characters and plot and setting are all just props moved around by the all-important narrator-god who is gradually working out its psychoses before our very eyes. Or in this case, trying to appear as though he has learned all of life's great lessons, when, in fact, he has learned nothing and remains blissfully and proudly ignorant.

On a side note, does anyone notice that the narrator falls back on the word "quite" when he's running low on brain fuel? Funny and annoying simultaneously.
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Re: Narrative Voice-impressions

[ Edited ]

IlanaSimons wrote:
Narrative Voice

We’re flooded with the narrator John Dowell’s voice in this book. We see everything through his eyes and words.
What’s his voice’s effect on you?




So far it is very boring. Right now I wonder how I will last throughout the whole book. I am not yet through Part One though so I will save further comments for later.

ziki :-)

Message Edited by ziki on 02-07-200707:24 AM

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Re: Narrative Voice/POV



cosmotrotter wrote:He warns us that this is how he is going to tell the story...

yes and Melville doesn't ;-)

I also made a mental note of exatly those lines concerned with POV and I wonder how they will play out during the whole book.
ziki
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Re: Narrative Voice-impressions



ziki wrote:
So far it is very boring. Right now I wonder how I will last throughout the whole book. I am not yet through Part One though so I will save further comments for later.

ziki :-)



No problem with that comment. Can you say what part of the voice bores you? Is he too in love with his own words?




Ilana
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Everyman
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Re: Narrative Voice

Another aspect to Dowell the unreliable narrator is Dowell the first person narrator who seems to me at times to step out of his first party narration role to become Dowell the omniscient narrator.

I have been noticing a number of things he says about how other people were thinking or feeling, or what their motives were, that I don't think he could have known. He doesn't say "it seemed to me" or offer other qualifiers that would indicate that he is taking a guess, but he makes clear declarative statements about what they were feeling or thinking as though he actually knew those things. This is the role of the omniscient, not the first party, narrator.

I'm not yet sure why Ford does this.
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Re: Narrative Voice-impressions

Ziki - I see that somebody gave your post only a single star. I think that was unfair. I can see perfectly well what you are saying, and I am feeling a bit the same way myself.

I'm into Part II, so I'm ahead of you, but so far I am finding the characters fairly uninteresting and some of the scenes unconvincing. I have a hard time caring what is happening to these people. Dowell has already told us most of the outcome of the situation, so there's no suspense except to see how it all comes to pass.

The main interest in the book for me is to study the way in which Ford presents the story and how his approach differs from those of the earlier English novelists. I also like to look at how he handles language; his voice is quite different from earlier authors. This is a transitional work, and as such does have some interest in that regard.

But viewed purely as a story, so far it's pretty much a yawner, particularly since we already know what's going to happen. Which in some situations can be exciting, we want to see HOW this all happens, but not here, at least not for me.



ziki wrote:

IlanaSimons wrote:
Narrative Voice

We’re flooded with the narrator John Dowell’s voice in this book. We see everything through his eyes and words.
What’s his voice’s effect on you?




So far it is very boring. Right now I wonder how I will last throughout the whole book. I am not yet through Part One though so I will save further comments for later.

ziki :-)

Message Edited by ziki on 02-07-200707:24 AM




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Re: Impressions

I can't help but wonder if the time line the narrator has us follow plays a role in this or not? "Mrs. Dalloway" by Woolf took place over the course of one day; Joyces' "The Dubliners" are a series of shorts that focus on life in Ireland. A portion of them (if memory serves me correctly) deal with young adults/children of school age but all center around lost opportunity or some sort of misfortune. Still the shorts generally take place over a period of a day or two.

Ford stretches his story out over a significant amount of time. I find his tone while a bit melancholy - not in the same vein as Joyce. He does toss out small snippets that allow you to see at one point he was happily married or seemingly happy for a Modernist.

Though had Woolf's story been longer - we may have gotten a different taste of the character and of the setting. The time frame is long enough to get a sense of Mrs. Dalloway but not really dive into how she is because we really only know her for one day.

I agree with going with the reading and feeling it out, Modernism is like that. It was once believed with Modernism that only the rich could reallyl understand the books - because they were the ones reading them. Though if anyone where to ask Joyce to interpret his story he would have snubbed them. He felt that you should understand the work and not have to question it - otherwise you were not worthy of reading it. I think part of Modernism's long shelf life is everyone trying to get through Joyce.
You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows - Bob Dylan
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Re: Narrative Voice-working through




ziki wrote:
So far it is very boring. Right now I wonder how I will last throughout the whole book. I am not yet through Part One though so I will save further comments for later.

ziki

IlanaSimons wrote: :-)



No problem with that comment.

ziki: Of course :-) If that was the case, I'd quit this board at once. LOL.Just teasing while actually being serious.


Ilana:
Can you say what part of the voice bores you?

z: Not yet. And perhaps it is not the voice. It maybe was more the tediousness of the story as such (in part One)



Ilana:
Is he too in love with his own words?

I do not feel that.

I am not sure if/how I am upset with the narrator; I kind of feel some sympathy for him, but perhaps it might also be that I covertly find him pitiful (as he progresses). It is more the question: Why the hell is he telling me all this? I am also struggling with my own impulse to be easily entertained.

Interesting momentary discovery: either I sit as a princess on a cushion and require that all is served on a silver platter or I have to go into labor and be a midwife to some insight...that usually takes some screaming...heheh. Perhaps I just wasn't clear about my own position toward the book.

As I am writing this reply I think I am set on the right track: I need to ask why he needs to be heard, rather then wanting him to amuse me with a story which indeed would prove to bea little pointless under circumstances.

Was that part of the roles these people played would you say? They tried to amuse each other, co-exist comfortably, pretend (OK there I said it) instead of really seeing each other and relating authentically?

Thanks for being here

ziki

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labor of reading

[ Edited ]
Hi Everyman,
the only stars that interest me are those on the nightsky. This is not a competition for me and I have the function turned off.

However, thanks for your post, today is another day. That is hopeful.
I also tried to save myself by thinking about the technique but perhaps that was a desperate measure. However, I even made a drawing of the narrative technique(not a diagram) that with some consistent effort could be transformed into a painting.

Anyhows:

In psychology they talk about paralell processes where the caretaker(s) unconsciously act as substitute(s) for the real players (=their FOO's members/ FOO= family of origin).

Allegedly this book has something to do with impressions/impressionism. I very much agree with the assesment that we take in impressions and then try to arrange them and interpret them and construct convenient stories with the beginning and end in order to make it all palatable and in so doing find some meaning in the chaos.

To melt these last two paragraphs together I consequently wonder if we as readers are dragged into the story and "made to feel" its impact on our own skin (psyche) if you know what I mean.

Think of the classical paintings and the saloon with first impressionists and the way these paintings required a change in your seeing. What if this book requires the change of my reading or at least asks for a clean slate? In which case I need to make it into a meditation, not a newspaper.......see, Joyce is nearby, all that stream of consciousneess stuff...

I think I read on with this mood in my pocket and see what happens with it.

There is a risk in discussing a book during the time you read it but I am glad I can do it with you. Thanks for your willingness to share the process itself. Thrilling.

Onward :-)
ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 02-08-200703:52 AM

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Everyman
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Re: labor of reading

I enjoyed your comments, ziki, but I'm not nearly as sophisticated about the psychology potentially underlying the book as you are. I'm not a psychologist at all, but if anything a philosopher.
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Re: Narrative Voice


Everyman wrote:
Another aspect to Dowell the unreliable narrator is Dowell the first person narrator who seems to me at times to step out of his first party narration role to become Dowell the omniscient narrator.

I have been noticing a number of things he says about how other people were thinking or feeling, or what their motives were, that I don't think he could have known. He doesn't say "it seemed to me" or offer other qualifiers that would indicate that he is taking a guess, but he makes clear declarative statements about what they were feeling or thinking as though he actually knew those things. This is the role of the omniscient, not the first party, narrator.

I'm not yet sure why Ford does this.



Yes, I agree. I would say that Dowell is trying to be authoritative. He speaks like he is stating facts, or thoughts that could not be questioned. I think this attitude makes the readers question him more.
Laura

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Re: Ziki : Impressionism & The Good Soldier

[ Edited ]
Very insightful Ziki. Five stars:smileyvery-happy: I agree with you here and was reminded of both Joyce and Lawrence, who also 'required a change in your seeing' like the Impressionists, as you say. Just as Impressionism (literally) blurred the lines between appearance and reality, so does Dowell's narrative. Are these 'good' people really good? Are they 'normal'? Is Nancy Rufford insane or are those around her (and the world) insane? At first the book seems full of gossip and trivia but underlying this one can see a moral theme around adultery emerging. I have not yet discerned the religious theme, except in relation to the ubiquitous 7th Commandment, but no doubt I will in due course. (It is difficult, is it not, to go from the philosophy and broad brush strokes of Melville's Fighting Temeraire to the exquisite detail of Seurat's Bathers at Asnieres:smileyhappy:)



Ziki wrote:
Allegedly this book has something to do with impressions/impressionism. I very much agree with the assesment that we take in impressions and then try to arrange them and interpret them and construct convenient stories with the beginning and end in order to make it all palatable and in so doing find some meaning in the chaos.

To melt these last two paragraphs together I consequently wonder if we as readers are dragged into the story and "made to feel" its impact on our own skin (psyche) if you know what I mean.

Think of the classical paintings and the salon with first impressionists and the way these paintings required a change in your seeing. What if this book requires the change of my reading or at least asks for a clean slate? In which case I need to make it into a meditation, not a newspaper.......see, Joyce is nearby, all that stream of consciousneess stuff...

I think I read on with this mood in my pocket and see what happens with it.

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-08-200706:59 AM

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Re: Narrative Voice-working through


ziki wrote:

I need to ask why he needs to be heard, rather then wanting him to amuse me with a story which indeed would prove to bea little pointless under circumstances.

Was that part of the roles these people played would you say? They tried to amuse each other, co-exist comfortably, pretend (OK there I said it) instead of really seeing each other and relating authentically?

Thanks for being here

ziki





Your words here really capture the narrator for me. Dowell has a need to be heard. And it might be because he lives in a social circle where people pretend, and don't see each other authentically.



Ilana
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Re: Ziki : Impressionism & The Good Soldier

[ Edited ]

Choisya wrote:
Very insightful Ziki. Five stars:smileyvery-happy: I agree with you here and was reminded of both Joyce and Lawrence, who also 'required a change in your seeing' like the Impressionists, as you say. Just as Impressionism (literally) blurred the lines between appearance and reality, so does Dowell's narrative. Are these 'good' people really good? Are they 'normal'? Is Nancy Rufford insane or are those around her (and the world) insane? At first the book seems full of gossip and trivia but underlying this one can see a moral theme around adultery emerging. I have not yet discerned the religious theme, except in relation to the ubiquitous 7th Commandment, but no doubt I will in due course. (It is difficult, is it not, to go from the philosophy and broad brush strokes of Melville's Fighting Temeraire to the exquisite detail of Seurat's Bathers at Asnieres:smileyhappy:)





If you keep looking at the gem of the book it will perpetually change in the light of the moment and fall apart and then it will assemble itself again and you'll wonder "what was it I heard?" and have a need to ask about this and that and so the narrator will repeat it for you...but in the flow of time it will not be the same.

If I keep looking only at the "separate points" I will see 'nothing much'. I was also thinking Seurrat (even if he's pointilist) because he ran with the original idea of impressionists in this particular direction and distilled it. Thus it is more 'obvious' for the discussion of the "reading effect", don't you think?

I'd say Melville was just on the edge.....his book has also most effect of the reader first when you step away from it, not folowing only the particles of the short chapters. He was also close in time. (+ Gaugin and his Tahiti)


ziki
Just going at the boulder of the book "with my hammer to find the gold" but I think the book flutters, maybe it is a butterfly and I missed all points. Ah, the magic of reading.

Message Edited by ziki on 02-11-200707:54 AM

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Re: labor of reading



Everyman wrote:
I enjoyed your comments, ziki, but I'm not nearly as sophisticated about the psychology potentially underlying the book as you are. I'm not a psychologist at all, but if anything a philosopher.




Everyman,

neither am I but maybe the art is a door here.

Knowledge is a burden. I feel that my plight toward the classics is not to take them too seriously. If so they usually reveal their secrets. If I put them into the church, then they are definitely dead, offered only for reverence and worship. I am not enough of a Catholic for that. I never know how to deal with a classic book beforehand, I am doign my best to remain naive.


How is your reading going? I'd say it got better in the middle of the third part (not the book, just my willingness to hear the book) because I see it is definitely not about the plot, it is perhaps not even about the people in it, the characters. I feel like a three years old with those building blocks/playing cubes....Assamble, destroy, reassamble again and destroy. How amazingly comfortable a child is with that process and how tricky it can be for me as a reader.

ziki
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