‘Society must go on, I suppose, and society can only exist if the normal, if the virtuous, and the slightly-deceitful flourish, and if the passionate, the headstrong, and the too-truthful are condemned to suicide and to madness.’*
Dowell said, ‘This is the saddest story [he has] ever heard.’ and I agree. It is the saddest because it is nothing about nemesis nor destiny (as Dowell stated), but passionate souls trying to be true to themselves in this convention-bound world.
I said it is the saddest (and only the term sad can be applied here. It is nothing mournful, woeful, lamenting, grievous or anything as such… it is sad simply sad.) because of its tragic ending. Though un-chronologically and only plausibly (as it is narrated from one point of view), we still carefully witness each characters’ developments (if this is the right term to use): we can see, convincingly or not, for instances, how Leonora was brought up, how she became who she was, how she was married to Edward and how she tried (though apparently failed) to understand Edward and to win back his love (which clearly had never lied there). In the meantime, we also hear about Edward and how he was put in the situations that made him learned about himself, and how Leonora’s attempts contributed to his tragic end. The stories seem to be in fractions yet join together quite perfectly to show us the readers how it really is ‘the saddest story’.
And in this sense, it makes me pity the characters profoundly. I wish I could save them from such ending! I sort of could understand that struggle between passion and convention the characters need to face. They were born with their nature but then they were inevitably chained by social-constructed morality, and we see how satirical it is here that only people who suppress their passion can go on living happily (if there was such thing called happiness) in this world.
It is one of the books that seems to be rather simple on the surface, yet contains impressive complexity deep down. It is one of those books that I had to pause several times along the way, just to give a long sigh.
Title: The Good Soldier
Author: Ford Madox Ford
*Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 191.