The Good Soldier
A chronicle of the tragedies in the lives of two seemingly ''perfect couples'' whose lives are far from perfect, this novel was loosely based on two real-life incidents of adultery and on Ford's own messy personal life. (From feedbooks.com)
The curriculet is being added to your library
Part 1 - Chapter 1
Do you want to know the definition of a word in this text you are reading? Curriculet has a built-in define feature just for you! Highlight any word by right clicking on it. Then select define.
Do you think this narrator sounds confused? If you do, you're in good company. He is expressing a central theme of the novel--the paradox of being around someone and yet not really knowing him or her at all. Have you ever felt this way about someone? A teacher? A family member? A friend? As you read, think about the ways in which the author explains this artificial friendship he had with this other couple.
The image shown below is a spa facility in Nauheim, Germany. It is a treatment center where many people sought treatment for heart ailments and conditions. The medical baths injected carbon dioxide into the water, and the patients were required to do exercises while submersed. (This annotation contains an image)
Define this word. What does the definition imply about the Indian Chief?
Today, we might call this a clique. The narrator suggests that this group of four are very close.
What does John's description of the coterie's friendship suggest about him as a narrator of this story?
Most narrators are sure of their perspective, and rarely do they cause the readers to doubt their ability to tell the story. Part of the intrigue of this story, though, is that John Dowell seems to be telling a story that he himself proclaims to not have figured out for himself. Think for a moment about why an unreliable narrator might make a good storyteller.
This Latin phrase means "forever and ever" or "to eternity." This phrase is a small example of hyperbole that is characteristic of the intense and passionate narration that John is using to tell us his story. He is defending his case that the Ashburnhams are morally upright people who have been brought up by the virtuous society. As readers we might wonder why he places them on such high pedestals even though Leonara is admitting her obvious moral failures.
John means that people who look innocent are really guilty. A popular metaphor for this kind of person is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
What is John referring to here?
Part 1 - Chapter 2
Character development is defined below. Be prepared to answer questions pertaining to character development in this curriculet. (This annotation contains a video)
The initial impression that the author gives us about Florence, his wife, is that she is
John suggests that the point of his marriage is to entertain his wife by keeping her engaged in erudite and philosophical conversations. Ironically, she does not enjoy listening. Although we may not be certain of the accuracy of this description of his wife, we can at least read between the lines and infer that he is very unpleased with having to put up with this for so long in his marriage. It appears as if he is attempting to gain sympathy from the reader to whom he is now speaking directly.
This short, humorous anecdote actually provides insight into an very important theme in this novel--reality is not always what one thinks it is. Have you ever let something you thought was certainly "truth" lead you down a road of worry and fear only to find out it wasn't true? Or the opposite--naively and happily believed something to be true only to find out it was an illusion? These are serious questions but they lie at the heart of this novel.
In what ways does the author undermine his own credibility in this chapter? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Part 1 - Chapter 3
Below is a picture of a Leghorn hat. These were fashionable in both Europe and America during the early 20th century. They often signified wealth and sophistication by the women who wore them. (This annotation contains an image)
What does John seem to be questioning here?
As readers we trust the narrator to provide details about each of the main characters in a novel. In this novel, however, the narrator provides details but offers uncertain conclusions about the characters he describes. Edward, for example, is described very superficially. The author gives us the impression that he knows very little about this individual other than outward appearances. Do you trust what John is telling us about these people in his story?
What personality trait does John highlight the most in his description of Edward?
The narrator describes the unvirtuous affairs of all the other characters, but not himself. He states that he is not this type of person. Because he has already cast doubt on his ability to honestly tell a story, can he believed here? Do you think he is telling the truth?
What evidence can be used to make the inference that John is actually in love or infatuated with Leonora?
Part 1 - Chapter 4
Watch the following video on emerging themes. Be prepared to answer questions about theme throughout this curriculet. (This annotation contains a video)
What theme do John's words about humanity seem to express?
If people make assumptions about those around them and never try to develop deeper relationships, then they will only know superficial things about people. The narrator expresses his frustration with humanity, perhaps to gain our attention, sympathy, and common interest in this predicament. However, it should be obvious by now that John is very insecure and not the best at being a judge of character or of making true friends. What about his approach to relationships can you relate to?
A French phrase that means "for good reason." Why would John use this phrase and tone when describing his wife's motives?
Which word best describes Florence and Leonora's relationship?
A rittersaal is a German word for a large banquet hall. These halls were often in castles and noblemen's manors, but they also became a common in many restaurants throughout German as a place to host a large party. As the four friends travel, through Germany and other parts of Europe, define the words or look them up on Google to catch an image of what they look like. This helps visualize obscure terms and foreign words. (This annotation contains an image)
What does John notice that causes him to feel "something treacherous" about the day in Germany?
Why does John make such a big deal about people's eyes? His description of Leonora's eyes makes it seem as if he is feeling intimate with her by just looking at them. Eyes are often a symbol of intimacy in literature throughout the world. They have been metaphorically described as everything from "windows to the soul" to "apple of my eye."
What is the significance of Leonora being an Irish Catholic?
Part 1 - Chapter 5
Both of their spouses supposedly had heart conditions, and this was the reason they moved to Europe. They were spouses but also caretakers and nurses to their spouse.
What does this statement reveal about John?
Little by little, the narrator reveals intimate details and "truths" about his life and the lives of his friends. Remember to take everything with a grain of salt, though, because we are still not certain about his reliability as a narrator. These "revelations" have to do with the adultery and affairs of Mr. Ashburnham.
The narrator begs us, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, to not be mad at Mr. Ashburnham. He claims that he feels sorry for him because he was dealt a bad hand in life. Would you extend your sympathy to him knowing that he ruined someone's life? Or is there more to the story we don't know and should know?
What did Florence do to Mrs. Maidan that John believes pushed her death along?
Mr. Ashburnham is in financial trouble and refuses to tell his wife what is going on. His wife, who has the intentions of also knowing about his affairs and adultery, demands to read all his correspondence. Violation of privacy? Or marital right? You decide.
Think about the main message the narrator is telling us about how spouses sometimes take care of and cover up for their spouses--rather than just loving them. In what ways do John and Leonora cover up for their spouses? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Mr. Ashburnham's excuse for not being honest with his wife is that he doesn't want her to think that the world has dishonest and despicable people in it. He claims he wants to protect her view of the world. Sincere intentions? Or shameful denial? You decide.
What seems to be an underlying purpose of the narrator in the narration of this story?
According to the narrator, Mr. Ashburnham was quite the humanitarian. He helped people who couldn't help themselves. Does this change your view of him?
The narrator suggests that Leonora befriendsFlorence because she is afraid that she will spill her family secrets and affairs. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer is an appropriate term to describe the situation here.
What "situation" do both Leonora and John talk about accepting? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Part 1 - Chapter 6
Watch the following video on tone and mood. You will be asked to determine and evaluate the mood and tone in questions through the rest of this novel. (This annotation contains a video)
What word best describes the author's tone in this passage?
This is a reference to a New Testament verse that Jesus spoke to his disciples about the cost they would have to make in order to be his followers. He told them that they must take up their crosses. Calvary is where Jesus was crucified on a cross by the Roman empire. One usually "bears a cross" for a good cause; Leonora bears a cross for an adulterous husband. (This annotation contains an image)
This Latin phrase basically means "rest in peace." It is a benediction spoken at a funeral to honor the dead. John claims that he is going to let God judge his wife and the Ashburnhams--not him. However, one is left to really wonder why he seems so complacent about his wife's death and all the wrongs that were done to him. Do you think he really loved her?
John's sudden shift in tone, and the feelings of hatred he expresses towards his wife, provide what overall impression or mood in this section of the story?
Leonora screamed because Maisie reminded her that they were both Catholic. Leonora obviously is very defensive of her faith and probably felt a mixture of emotions--shame, disrespect, confusion--when Maisie brings up the sore point that they both have failed in such a big way and both belong to the same religion that is supposed to keep them from doing this.
Part I Quiz
Part 2 - Chapter 1
Nine years pass between Mrs. Maidan's death and another tragic event (which we are not privy to by the author yet.)
Which line from this paragraph can be used to infer that Florence had little interest in marrying for love?
General Braddock is the British general who led their army into battle against the American colonists. He is pictured below. Florence's family supported him, making themselves Tories, or supporters of King George III of England. There were many colonists who showed loyalty to the crown. (This annotation contains an image)
What warning signs does John encounter in his courtship with Florence? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
What tone does John seem to convey towards Florence in this highlighted description of her?
John describes the intricate lie that his wife told him about her heart. From the beginning of their marriage, Florence tells John that she has to be taken care of. We learn about this dynamic earlier in the novel, but John is going into greater detail here about how it affects his marriage early on.
What is the most likely intended effect the author attempts to have upon the reader through this admission of the narrator?
Venus is the goddess of love, sex, and fertility. She is the wife of Zeus, yet had many other lovers. The use of this allusion here is intentional--it communicates the way that John feels about his wife. She is a sneaky adulteress. An image of Venus is shown below. (This annotation contains an image)
What metaphor does John use that suggests his lack of love for his wife?
John admits that he probably would have just let his wife continue in her affair. Isn't he supposed to be her husband? Shouldn't he be jealous? His attitude is odd, but it reveals a more serious theme in this novel--the morality of marriage.
What is the "useful lie" that John mentions here?
Even though it would seem that John should hate Edward, he, supposedly, admires him. Why does he admire him so much?
Another theme in this novel has to do with duty. There are many questions about duty that center around the husbands and wives in this novel. For example, does John let his "duty" to care for his wife cloud his judgment? Or does Leonora's duty to stay married based on religious principles justify her acceptance of Edward's affairs? The questions that arise about duty in this novel are meant to make the reader define his or her own view of what duty is.
What generalization does the narrator make in this line about English people?
The narrator admits that he is foolish to have believed Edward was guilty of infidelity. His descriptions of Edward convey that he believed him to be a hero incapable of doing any wrong. Remember that this is the man who had an affair with his wife. Do you think he seriously thought this highly of Edward the whole time he knew him? Or do you think that he doesn't want us to realize how much he really doesn't care about his wife?
Part 2 - Chapter 2
The nonchalant tone that John uses as he recalls events from the past--even tragic ones--gives the reader the impression that he is which of the following?
The narrator claims that up to this point he has had no knowledge of the affairs of his wife. Leonora hid it from him because she didn't want to hurt his feelings. Florence was really good at hiding it. Edward was too honorable to mention it. Can we believe the author was really this naive?
What about this description of Bagshawe creates a contradiction in the reader's understanding of John's judgment? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
According to John, Florence commits suicide after she sees him talking to Mr. Bagshawe. He leads us to believe that this was the first time he had knowledge of her infidelity, and that she was too ashamed to continue living. Think carefully, though, about his explanation of events. How likely is it that he really didn't know? Is he trying really hard to make her look bad so that he can be excused for not caring?
Part 3 - Chapter 1
Based on the context of this French phrase, what does the highlighted section most likely mean?
Recall the high estimation John has of Leonora's character. He explains her religious devoutness as an example of her high morality. How does this flippant comment she makes change the way you think of her? It hardly seems like something a spiritual and compassionate person would say.
Which line from this passage best indicates the breakdown of the narrator's perception of the "truth"?
This phrase is an example of what literary device?
Catalepsy, shown below, is the state in which the body causes itself to remain in a fixed physical position or state. This concept was popular during the time this novel was published. It was studied mostly in people who suffered from extreme cases of schizophrenia. The narrator is being exaggerative. (This annotation contains an image)
What does this line suggest about the way Edward has changed throughout this story?
Things are not always as they seem. Every character in this novel, even minor ones, have to come to terms with the true character of each other. The knowledge of what people are really like is disillusioning. Have you ever had a hero or celebrity you looked up to disappoint you with their behavior?
What event ultimately causes John to doubt the authenticity of marital love?
What does John suggest actually killed Edward?
John explains that one of man's greatest needs is his desire to be affirmed and given value by his wife. Although Leonora gave "respect" to Edward on the surface, she actually disrespected him in many ways by letting him have affairs, ruin their finances, and destroy their marriage. Because she couldn't control his passions, she ultimately controls him by micro-managing his affairs. She allows him to destroy himself--this is her payback.
John delivers a crushing blow to morality. He states that people are only good because they want to appear good. Do you believe this?
How do John's comments here support the theme of appearance versus reality? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
What do the narrator's comments reveal about his feelings towards his wife?
John's comments come across as very harsh. Do you think he is really serious? Or do you think he is giving off the appearance of not caring so as to make himself seem stronger?
Part 3 - Chapter 2
What event seems to have most influenced Nancy to be so paradoxically strict and wild?
The narrator's lack of a filter causes him to reveal many personal thoughts that contradict much of what he says. For example, we get the sense that he believes in the innocence of Nancy and looks upon her as a child. His passionate comments about her attractiveness, however, are surprising and reveal, again, how he says one thing for appearances but really feels another way inside.
What is different about the concept of "duty" in the eyes of Leonora?
Florence lied to her own husband about her heart disease so she could manipulate him and get her way. Ironically, though, she couldn't tell Edward the truth--even though he was who she really wanted.
Why do Edward's actions at the end of this chapter have such an effect on Leonora's mood? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
Part 3 - Chapter 3
John attributes Leonora's decline to her not having to "be vigilant" anymore. In other words, her modus operandi, her main purpose in life--taking care of Edward and micro-managing his messy life--is over. She has no purpose. Psychologically, there is truth to this phenomenon. Some believe that people who work high-stress jobs often die shortly after they quit working.
Why does the narrator flashback to explain the way in which Edward and Leonora met and were married?
What can you infer about Edward based on his reaction to her during their first quarrel?
Two very big issues come to the forefront of Leonora and Edward's marriage--his resolve to be a good Catholic and his resolve to be a good landlord and person. Can you see how this might cause a schism between two people? Both people felt so strongly about their own beliefs that they were unwilling to acknowledge and compromise with the other person.
What does Edward's wife lack that causes so much friction in their relationship?
A Roman Catholic. There were two major religions in England at this time--Anglicans and Catholics. Both had been at odds with each other for years over issues about the same religion.
What causes Leonora's "morbid frame of mind" mentioned here?
Part 3 - Chapter 4
Why does the narrator feel the need to provide more details (many already mentioned) about Edward?
The anecdote about Carter helps the narrator make a point about how people, in general, can be prejudicial towards others for no good reason. His nephew, for example, was thought by his relatives to be a horrible person merely because he had different political views than they did. He could have actually been a bad person for other reasons, but the narrator's point is that it is important to form an opinion based on facts--not on reputation.
What concept does the narrator deconstruct in this passage?
The song below was written for the operatic play "Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner. Listen to just a minute or two of the song, and think about how this music might be appropriate or not to Edward. In Lohengrin, the lead character, a mysterious knight from an unknown land or name, comes to the aide of a German dutchess. He asks only that she never ask him his name; she does. He reveals that he is the Knight of the Holy Grail, and must now leave her after their brief union. She tragically dies. Lohengrin is seen as a man of virtue, strength, and honor above all others in the tragic story. Another interesting note is that the "wedding song" comes from this play. (This annotation contains a video)
What did Edward do that would be considered his feudal duties as an Englishman?
According to some statistics and current research, over 90% of marriages end in divorce because one or more of the couples do not feel supported by their spouse.
The priest tries to rectify Edward and Leonora's marriage by suggesting that Leonora take him to a place where he can let down his hair. We are told that this was a failure.
A French phrase that means "beautiful eyes."
The Byronic hero is characterized by moodiness, passion, and resolve. In what ways does Edward fit this description? Use evidence from this chapter to support your response.
Lord Byron is an English Romantic poet known for poems that focus on the melancholy and alluringly dark aspects of life. The following lines are from one of his more famous poems about a pirate hero: He knew himself a villain—but he deem'd/ The rest no better than the thing he seem'd;/ And scorn'd the best as hypocrites who hid/ Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did./ He knew himself detested, but he knew/ The hearts that loath'd him, crouch'd and dreaded too./ Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt/ From all affection and from all contempt./
Part 3 - Chapter 5
Most tragedies build up the drama in increasingly suspenseful events. This story, however, as tragic as it is, does not crescendo the same way a Shakespeare tragedy might. In fact, the structure of the novel actually reverses the traditional tragic structure by placing the bulk of the tragic events at the front of the story. The author lays it all out, big-picture, and then provides the more minute causes as the story progresses.
According to the facts set forth in this chapter, in what way does Leonora micro-manage Edward?
Chitral is actually in present-day Pakistan. During the 19th century, many countries in Europe practiced Imperialism, a belief that they should expand their empires in countries they deemed less civilized. An inevitable part of the Imperialist efforts were that they became involved in local disputes and wars. This is why Edward was in India in the first place. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the author suspect is the main reason Edward had so many affairs?
In what way were the couple most likely "very ill"?
Part II Quiz
Part 4 - Chapter 1
What does John apologize for in the introduction in this chapter?
In literature, the apology is a common device used when an author, or narrator in this case, apologizes to the reader about how the story is told, what may be missing from the story, a controversial point that must be elaborated upon. Plato and other philosophers are also known for offering apologies at the beginning of their works.
How does this generalization hurt Leonora?
The narrator highlights a cultural problem that exists in England--the church can, at times, be a negative influence. As people devote themselves to a religion, they tend to adhere to rules that actually cause them harm. The belief that men are "just that way" greatly influences Leonora to underestimate what a great marriage could really be.
What tone does the narrator convey in this passage about Edward and Leonora?
The Protest is the document that Martin Luther nailed upon the door of a Catholic church. It leveled a number of complaints against their practices and beliefs, and began one of the most significant moments in Western history--the Reformation. The image below depicts Martin Luther hammering his protest to the door. This document is also deeply symbolic in this text because it represents an affront to all that Leonora believes in. Catholics were still at odds with the Anglican church (which came out of the Reformation). (This annotation contains an image)
A person who legally is married to more than one person.
What behavior does Leonora exhibit that indicates she is not coping well with her unfaithful husband? Use evidence from this chapter to support your response.
Part 4 - Chapter 2
A device used to send messages. It is basically a telegraph machine, but at this point in history, private telephones were not widespread. (This annotation contains an image)
What is ironic about the request that Mr. Hurlbird makes with his money?
An unusual phrase that means, most likely, showing off through death.
What event most likely changes Leonora's attitude about her husband from one of disgust to pity?
What themes do these lines bring to the surface of this novel?
The heroism of the good soldier begins to break down. It is clear that his choices have made a tragedy of his life and ruined his marriage, friendships, and life. However, it is worth noting that, like the narrator, the definition of a hero could be difficult to define. The following site contains a great video on the Byronic Hero: http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/byronic-hero-definition-characteristics-examples.html#lesson. Visit the site and watch the video on a "different" kind of hero. (This annotation contains a link)
What characteristic does Edward have that most infuriates Leonora?
The following video is from 12 Years a Slave, a movie that depicts the hardships of Solomon North, an African American man who is wrongfully sold into slavery as a free-man. In this scene, Patsy, a slave of a southern cotton farmer, is assaulted by his jealous wife. The intense emotions portrayed in this scene are similar to those that Leonora expresses here. (Warning: this video contains a few racial slurs). (This annotation contains a video)
Was Leonora justified in wanting to torture Edward? Justify your response using evidence from the text.
Part 4 - Chapter 3
What is most apparent about Nancy as we learn about her reactions to this story?
The bubble that Nancy has lived in has burst. Her belief about marriage was extremely idealistic. Reading this story breaks down her view of what she thought was a blissful union for every upper-class couple. Her confusion stems both from her sheltered life in the convent and her privileged upbringing in the upper class of society.
Henry VIII radically changed many traditions in Europe because of his love affairs. Learn about this in the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What competing emotions does Nancy struggle with?
Part 4 - Chapter 4
What does the highlighted description of Nancy suggest?
Notice the contrast between Nancy, who wears a white dress, and Leonora, who wears a black dress. What do you think the color contrast represents?
Why does Edward's command have such a profound affect on Nancy?
Nancy appears to be a helpless victim caught up in some pretty nasty marital issues. We are led to believe by the narrator that she knew nothing of Edward's affections. Be that as it may, Leonora still blames her for Edward's decline. At this point, Leonora is just looking for a scapegoat--a person to shoulder the blame even if innocent. Do you think Nancy is not to blame? Or does she should some responsibility?
Does it seem like the characters in this novel are driving themselves crazy? . They have made bad choices. Leonora should have left Edward. She was more concerned with remaining a devout wife because this is what Catholics do. Edward loved Nancy more than any other women, yet, he too, didn't act upon it because he believed it to be wrong in the eyes of society. Doing the "right thing" or being "good" is a central source of conflict in this novel.
Part 4 - Chapter 5
Is Leonora "more normal" than her spouse and Nancy? The narrator uses this word, but as readers we might cringe when he does so because, from the outside looking in, it doesn't seem that anything she has done or is doing is "normal." The theme of "What is normal?" has emerged in other parts of this book, but we get another dose of it as both Leonora and John inevitably must decide how to live out their lives after their crazy marriages.
Why does Nancy seem to utter only that phrase?
A Latin phrase that means "I believe in the one, omnipotent (all-powerful) God."
One of the biggest criticisms that John Dowell has received is that he displays a consistent disinterestedness to everyone he encounters. The way he says things makes it seem as if he merely participates in life, rather than living it deeply and passionately. He is commanded by life -- not the other way around. For him to say that he is like Edward, seems absurd. He is not as nearly passionate or compassionate, for that matter. This is a common literary analysis of his character. What do you think?
In what way is John's comment ironic? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
What is John's viewpoint on normal? Explain what normal means within the context of the main characters. Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Hamartia is a Greek word for a tragic flaw. In literary analysis, many tragic characters, like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet, are analyzed for their hamartia, or tragic flaws. Hamlet's tragic flaw, for example, is his indecisiveness--he cannot make up his mind about whether to tell his mother the truth or not. Most tragic characters have an obvious hamartia. The highlighted phrase is Edward's--he let his emotions rule him.
How does Leonora play upon Edward's tragic flaw in order to cause him more pain?
Part 4 - Chapter 6
Edward is generalizing about women and their behavior. He is basically saying that woman won't go after a man if he is the mean one in the relationship because women have an instinct to stick up for other women. Have you ever known a girl to hate her best friend's ex-boyfriend even if he did nothing wrong to her personally? This is what John means by "suffering femininity"--women stick together in times of distress. Realize that this is just a generalization, though. You as the reader have to decide if this generalization is true here in this context.
What intended effect do the narrator's highlighted comments have on the reader?
Define this word. Which of the following words is an antonym in meaning to the word as it used in this sentence?
The full quote comes from a the poem, "Hymn to Proserpine," by Algernon Charles Swineburn, a British poet. The poem is about a man lamenting the prevalence and rise of Christianity. He prefers the pagan Greek gods because he believes that they are more enjoyable than the Christian religion. The complete line is: "Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath; We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death." The pale Galilean is a reference to Jesus of Nazareth. Edward is mocking Leonora, whose religious convictions have overshadowed her ability to love him and his passionate nature.
A shuttlecock is part of the equipment of badminton, a popular European game that is like tennis, but requires that each side keep the "birdie" or shuttlecock in the air after it passes into their territory. The reference to this object is highly symbolic, as explained in the story by Leonora. (This annotation contains an image)
Part III Quiz