Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

[ Edited ]
In this space, launch any discussion of Part One of the book.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 02-02-200712:31 PM




Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Reader
JaceChrzanowski
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-29-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

Throughout my reading of the novel I found and annotated many references on the principal theme of insanity. If we are reading a first-person narrative, we must take into account the narrator's mental state. For example, (page 3,Dover Thrift Edition 2001) the author makes reference to a prison "full of screaming hysterics". This demonstrates the narrator's isolation and confinement in a world where he plays a passive role and reinforces the social ostracism Dowell experiences. He constantly tells us, he is alone-"horribly alone" and this is permanent through-out Part One.
Further on, (Page 6) the author tells us, "And I trusted mine, and it was madness". Here the narrator is speaking of his wife Florence and trust. The trust that Dowell expresses causes instability in his faith and perception of marriage and establishes the author's slanted view on the female presenting the reader with dual feminine archetypes.
Later, (page 17) "Madness? Predestination? Who the devil knows"? Dowell is comparing Captain Ashburnham with an active volcano and the improbability of setting fire to a haystack. As the title implies the Good Soldier is a myth, as Captain Ashburnham lives in his muddled sentimentality. When really the title should be the Good Husband or the Pathetic Husband. As the reader we are made to feel pathos for the protagonist, but after awhile his digressions become apparent self-loathing and gibber-Jabber. I ask you, what argument or what knowledge has Ford Madox Ford of the sate of psychotherapy and or psychoanalysis as it relates to the theme of insanity?
Reader
JaceChrzanowski
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-29-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

In terms of imagery reiterated in Part One, I can't help but make an anachronistic comment as it relates to twentieth century film. While reading this first part I felt the silent and platonic love affair experienced between Dowell and Leonora mirrors one of my favorite Chinese films "In the Mood for LOve" by director Kar Wa Wong. The complicity and pact made by husband-betrayed and wife-betrayed draws a parallel with the two characters in Wong's film. As, Leonora sublimates her feelings in a dispatch box of which she possess a golden key, Dowell too, acknowledges and ascertains that he is a silent witness to her need for self-possessing control. The two characters in Wong's film whisper their feelings into the hole of a tree and then cover it with mud. This creates empathy and I couldn't help but think of this symbolic gesture as a act of love and or fidelity denied to all, both in the film and in the Good Soldier.(page 18)
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

[ Edited ]

JaceChrzanowski wrote:
Throughout my reading of the novel I found and annotated many references on the principal theme of insanity. ....I ask you, what argument or what knowledge has Ford Madox Ford of the sate of psychotherapy and or psychoanalysis as it relates to the theme of insanity?




A great post, JaceChrzanowski.
Ford Madox Ford was good friends, and a collaborator, with Joseph Conrad. Ford loved _Heart of Darkness_, which is Conrad's trip into insanity. I think you're right that The Good Soldier takes the same trip.

E.g. Dowell says that when he married Florence, her parents warned him, in "a full-blooded lecture, in the style of an American oration, as to the perils for young American girlhood lurking in the European jungle." That is: The girl's going to fall into the same trap of passion and possessiveneess that drove Conrad's Kurtz insane.
Both books want to see past the veneer of civility.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 02-05-200712:33 PM




Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Contributor
Areopagitica
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎01-25-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

The scene that stands out most in Part One is the one where they go on the excursion to Marburg. However, I am unfamiliar with the history behind Luther's "Protest." Can someone offer some assistance in this matter?
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

The 'insanity' also represents the confused world in which Dowell finds himself; where nothing is as it seems, where there are hidden meanings to everything, where nothing is 'good' and nothing is 'bad'. A No-Man's Land. A Purgatory.




IlanaSimons wrote:

JaceChrzanowski wrote:
Throughout my reading of the novel I found and annotated many references on the principal theme of insanity. ....I ask you, what argument or what knowledge has Ford Madox Ford of the sate of psychotherapy and or psychoanalysis as it relates to the theme of insanity?




A great post, JaceChrzanowski.
Ford Madox Ford was good friends, and a collaborator, with Joseph Conrad. Ford loved _Heart of Darkness_, which is Conrad's trip into insanity. I think you're right that The Good Soldier takes the same trip.

E.g. Dowell says that when he married Florence, her parents warned him, in "a full-blooded lecture, in the style of an American oration, as to the perils for young American girlhood lurking in the European jungle." That is: The girl's going to fall into the same trap of passion and possessiveneess that drove Conrad's Kurtz insane.
Both books want to see past the veneer of civility.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 02-05-200712:33 PM




Reader
JaceChrzanowski
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-29-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

I was touched by the nurse/invalid theme as presented in the story. In a book where apparent "heart" maladies are the least concern for many of its supposed victims- as most characters have come to Nauhiem for a cure- none really exhibit symptoms with the exception of Mrs. Maidan who dies of a heart condition. I venture to suggest that with the time period of the novel taking place in the Belle Epoque period the atrocities of the immanent First World War foreshadow the publication of the novel and must have haunted the author? As Leonora takes on the role as nurse to Dowell's condition, I find it ironic that Dowell's wife's name is Florence. I can't help but think of Florence Nightingale and the role of nurse/soldier as it pervades the novel. We are told Leonora looks at Dowell like the "look of a mother to her son, of a sister to her brother", and that "she looked at me as if I were an invalid". (pages 18-19) Finally, she "accepts the situation" and the roles that each will play in one another's life. (page 39) Dowell, too must accept his role and it is poignant that Dowell is a feeble victim and a scapegoat who perhaps symbolizes death and destruction of a generation on the verge of War.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



JaceChrzanowski wrote:
I can't help but think of Florence Nightingale and the role of nurse/soldier as it pervades the novel.




nice comment there about Florence's name. And Dowell's vision is distorted: The sweet nurse's name is attached to a woman who he says cheats and lies.

It's interesting that whenever Dowell describes Florence, his wife, he says he hates her. In turn, he always says he loves Leonora.
He's accepted his role, but with bitterness. He's pining for the one he doesn't have, so echoes his wife's hunger there.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


New User
midnightlamp
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎02-05-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

Great intuitions on the subject of mental health in the The Good Soldier. What I like to keep in mind is that is one treatment among gazillions of upper class people, even in the most modernist literature. That is the perspective of the narrator we are dealing with. Disclaimer: I am up to page 120 in the B&N classic edition, but as the timeline is not linear, maybe I can be excused. The narrator has the leisure to wallow in loathing of self and others, he's living a rare life. Apparently, if he's willing to have the tepidest, least rewarding marriage for so many years, he's probably thinking too much about life and not living it. I think he's supremely jealous of Ashburnham, the good soldier, as a man of accomplishments, and romantically. I do need to ask fellow readers how he can be so contemptuous of Florence, yet have remained with her for so long, not exercizing other potential relationships? He says at one point, this is the last time I'll mention her name, and then her name's every 10th word from that point on.

I think Ford is having tremendous fun with this book, feeling liberated by the loosening of restrictions in all forms of art around the time he wrote this. He can weave in and outside the four walls of fiction, speak to the reader, and then act as if the wall hadn't been breached. So far though, while I find the book an interesting read in this way, I see much more discipline in his friend Joseph Conrad, a much more sincere and profound painter of character; I do think the writing so far, and perhaps the second half of the book will correct me, suffers from too many modernist liberties, Ford seems to have less of a stake in his work than he might.

Welcome all thoughts.
An attorney by trade, reader and poet by predilection and provocation, whichever word applies, I have a preference, equally, for surreal and medieval art, especially dutch approaching High Renaissance (The Brueghels,Durer, Bosch). I identify most strongly philosophically with the protagonist of Camus' The Stranger, Wallace Stevens, and don't pretend to know enough to get the full impact of Emily Dickinson.

I don't know how to fix cars, I was hit with a boomerang at 3 and have no sense of direction whatsoever. I can do the New York Times crossword up to Wednesday, after that my ego suffers cataclysmic reversals.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



midnightlamp wrote:
I think he's supremely jealous of Ashburnham, the good soldier, as a man of accomplishments, and romantically. I do need to ask fellow readers how he can be so contemptuous of Florence, yet have remained with her for so long, not exercizing other potential relationships? He says at one point, this is the last time I'll mention her name, and then her name's every 10th word from that point on.




Excellent points in your post!
I agree that Dowell's jealous of Ashburnham, that soldier with the active sex life.
Dowell, you imply, might be impotent?
He's also jealous of Leonora in an inauthentic or intellectualized way. He mentions Leonora more than his wife through the first half of the book, as if the only type of adultery Dowell can commit is the mental game of imagining, of playing a judgmental voyeur.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Contributor
Areopagitica
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎01-25-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

It is particularly curious to consider how dramatically different the novel would have been if it had been narrated by a third-person, omniscient point of view. I believe it would have produced a weaker effect throughout the novel as the characters' emotions, their states of mind and the events that occur are revealed to the reader. Specifically, it is Dowell's unreliability as a narrator that captures our attention from the very first sentence. Ford appears to hook the reader from the beginning, only to enjoy swinging the reader back and forth between events in the novel. Dowell initially seems to be relating the story in a rather insouciant manner, as if he were not directly involved in it. But his need to tell someone what happened informs us that this story is of grand importance to him, in which he played a significant role.
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go


midnightlamp wrote:
I do need to ask fellow readers how he can be so contemptuous of Florence, yet have remained with her for so long, not exercizing other potential relationships?





This quote is from the first page of Part II, section I, but I think it answers your question.
"I have told you, as I think, that I first met Florence at the Stuyvesants,' in Fourteenth Street. And, from that moment, I determined with all the obstinacy of a possibly weak nature, if not to make her mine, at least to marry her."

I thought this quote said so much about the expectations Dowell had about his relationship with Florence, expectations which then translated into reality. He was not interested in a marriage which involved a relationship with a woman, intellectual, emotional, or sexual. He was interested in a figure, a thing, an object, something he could present to society. He was proud to call the object of Florence his wife, but they had no relationship with each other. Moreover, I don't think he wanted any kind of relationship with any woman, so he did not "exercise other potential relationships."
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



Fozzie wrote:

He was not interested in a marriage which involved a relationship with a woman, intellectual, emotional, or sexual. He was interested in a figure, a thing, an object, something he could present to society. He was proud to call the object of Florence his wife, but they had no relationship with each other. Moreover, I don't think he wanted any kind of relationship with any woman, so he did not "exercise other potential relationships."




Nice comment. Maybe it's because he sees her as an owned object that his pride is so horribly wounded when she acts without him. She follows a desire; he's shocked and offended that she can.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Frequent Contributor
cosmotrotter
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



IlanaSimons wrote:


Fozzie wrote:

He was not interested in a marriage which involved a relationship with a woman, intellectual, emotional, or sexual. He was interested in a figure, a thing, an object, something he could present to society. He was proud to call the object of Florence his wife, but they had no relationship with each other. Moreover, I don't think he wanted any kind of relationship with any woman, so he did not "exercise other potential relationships."




Nice comment. Maybe it's because he sees her as an owned object that his pride is so horribly wounded when she acts without him. She follows a desire; he's shocked and offended that she can.





Yes, I've wondered about his orientation or asexuality from the language he uses. But then again, I've also wondered if he is/was in love with Leonora the whole time. After all, if he hasn't noticed his own wife's affair with his 'good soldier' friend whom he respects so well, and he lies to us, why not? Maybe they've been carrying on for 9 years and the whole Florence/good soldier thing is so much rot. Quite, really.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



cosmotrotter wrote:
I've also wondered if he is/was in love with Leonora the whole time.
Maybe they've been carrying on for 9 years and the whole Florence/good soldier thing is so much rot. Quite, really.




Yeah. He definitely thinks he loves Leonora. "I loved Leonora always, and, today, I would cheerfully lay down my life, what is left of it, in her service" (32).
"There was Florence [but] it was Leonora I was more interested in" (44). "I loved [Leonora] very dearly" (49). He can't stop talking about her all thru the 1st part! Until we get to chapter 6's "I hate Florence. I hate Florence with such hatred that I would not spare her an eternity of loneliness" (62).
Because this guy's love and hate are so artificially romantic or polarized, I don't think he was sleeping with Leonora. I think he was resentful--felt left out of the picture of love, and inadequate.
What do you think? I kind of resonate with your suggestions about his impotence.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Frequent Contributor
cosmotrotter
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go

Ilana wrote: I don't think he was sleeping with Leonora. I think he was resentful--felt left out of the picture of love, and inadequate.
What do you think? I kind of resonate with your suggestions about his impotence.


He certainly wasn't sleeping with her, at least in the version of events he presents to us - he tells us that when she embraces him on the elopement night it was the only time in his life that a woman embraced him or made him feel warmth. Telling, that.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



cosmotrotter wrote:
He certainly wasn't sleeping with her, at least in the version of events he presents to us - he tells us that when she embraces him on the elopement night it was the only time in his life that a woman embraced him or made him feel warmth. Telling, that.




agreed. I thought that in one of your ealier posts you dared us to imagine that maybe they _had_ slept together...which we'll keep alive as an utterly unlikely exciting possiblity.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



JaceChrzanowski wrote:
I was touched by the nurse/invalid theme as presented in the story. In a book where apparent "heart" maladies are the least concern for many of its supposed victims- as most characters have come to Nauhiem for a cure- none really exhibit symptoms with the exception of Mrs. Maidan who dies of a heart condition.

I can't help comparing Ford's Nauhiem with Mann's Magic Mountain. In both, the setting of the medical spa gives a distance from the world and an air of unreality to everything that goes on. In both institutions, the looming presence of death as a regular visitor to the isolated community puts the characters in a distorted reality.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Contributor
beshockley
Posts: 17
Registered: ‎12-09-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



cosmotrotter wrote:


IlanaSimons wrote:


Fozzie wrote:

He was not interested in a marriage which involved a relationship with a woman, intellectual, emotional, or sexual. He was interested in a figure, a thing, an object, something he could present to society. He was proud to call the object of Florence his wife, but they had no relationship with each other. Moreover, I don't think he wanted any kind of relationship with any woman, so he did not "exercise other potential relationships."




Nice comment. Maybe it's because he sees her as an owned object that his pride is so horribly wounded when she acts without him. She follows a desire; he's shocked and offended that she can.





Yes, I've wondered about his orientation or asexuality from the language he uses. But then again, I've also wondered if he is/was in love with Leonora the whole time. After all, if he hasn't noticed his own wife's affair with his 'good soldier' friend whom he respects so well, and he lies to us, why not? Maybe they've been carrying on for 9 years and the whole Florence/good soldier thing is so much rot. Quite, really.




These are all great posts and I am really curious about this theme.

What is up with this guy/marriage? First, his narrative gives the impression that he never consummated his marriage. Considering FLO immediately takes ill as soon as she steps upon the ship.
And this point, his lack of sexuality, especially to Florence totally confuses me. Why he is like this? Is this intentional narration; and if, what for? Could this be his true character?

Here are several ideas this renders plausible?

He is morally obligated due to his own spirituality to become her nurse maid? This gives credence to his positive light to Catholicism, and his selective praise of Lenora.

Flo is strictly a person needed for social assent? He puts up with her and down right has no physical passion for her, because she is only a tool being used by him. Maybe for an aristocratic life style?

He is truly an impotent character - asexual or just lacking individual freedom to act upon sexual impulses? Hello, you just got married and already your wife is shacking right under your nose?

Whatever it is, his lack of intimacy with FLO from the get go, is suspect of psychological imbalance and even perhaps insanity.

I do not have an answer. I would like to be enlightened and hear other ideas as well.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Part One: Discuss Plot and Themes as We Go



beshockley wrote:
What is up with this guy/marriage? First, his narrative gives the impression that he never consummated his marriage. Considering FLO immediately takes ill as soon as she steps upon the ship.
And this point, his lack of sexuality, especially to Florence totally confuses me. Why he is like this? Is this intentional narration; and if, what for? Could this be his true character?

Here are several ideas this renders plausible?

He is morally obligated due to his own spirituality to become her nurse maid? This gives credence to his positive light to Catholicism, and his selective praise of Lenora.

Flo is strictly a person needed for social assent? He puts up with her and down right has no physical passion for her, because she is only a tool being used by him. Maybe for an aristocratic life style?

He is truly an impotent character - asexual or just lacking individual freedom to act upon sexual impulses? Hello, you just got married and already your wife is shacking right under your nose?

Whatever it is, his lack of intimacy with FLO from the get go, is suspect of psychological imbalance and even perhaps insanity.

I do not have an answer. I would like to be enlightened and hear other ideas as well.




Very nice observations. In another thread, Ziki just made interesting comments that make me think this: Dowell speaks and speaks and speaks to us with a need to be heard; he's wordy because he's living in a world where no one speaks authentically. They social climb; his endless talk about authenticity and morality is a compensation for loneliness. I do think he lives a sexless life.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Users Online
Currently online: 10 members 143 guests
Please welcome our newest community members: