Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Parade’s End is a series of four novels depicting the meeting, courtship, and ultimate fulfillment of two modern heroes, Christopher Tietjens and Valentine Wannop, despite social condemnation, personal travails, and World War I. Into these novels Ford poured his own experiences as a writer, as a lover, and as a soldier; he used the techniques of literary impressionism to transform them into an utterly believable narrative. Some people have felt that, taken as a whole, these four novels constitute the best record available of the revolution in English society caused by the Great War.
The first novel of the sequence, Some Do Not . . ., begins just before the outbreak of World War I and records the creation of an emotional bond between Christopher and Valentine during a police pursuit, a breakfast party, and a fog-shrouded late-night carriage ride. Ford presents his hero and heroine as two of the last moral human beings left in Western society; while all around them friends, relatives, and nations succumb to their passions, Christopher and Valentine, as the title puts it, do not. At the same time, they are being judged according to these others’ standards, and thus their fornication is presumed on all sides. As a result, acquaintances will cut them, employers will demote them, and even their parents will endure bitter disappointment; and because Parade’s End is not a fairy tale, these reactions will never be wholly resolved....
(The entire section is 654 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Christopher Tietjens is probably the last real eighteenth century Tory in the England of pre-World War I. A thoroughly good man, he is so much a gentleman that he will not divorce his wife, Sylvia Tietjens, even though she is flagrantly unfaithful to him. It is even doubtful that the child she gave birth to is his, and she had earlier gone off for several weeks with another man; Christopher, however, holds that no gentleman should ever publicly disgrace a woman by divorcing her or even by admitting her infidelities. Sylvia hates her husband blindly because she could never break down his reserve, and all of her plots and meanness were for that purpose alone. She detested the various men she lived with, but she hated Christopher’s virtue more.
Christopher’s old-fashioned type of virtue grew out of his family background. His oldest brother, Mark, who had inherited the estate of Groby and its vast income, lives with a Frenchwoman whom he will probably never marry and who will certainly have no children, and the estate will one day belong to Christopher. The brothers fear that their father had committed suicide, for Sylvia had manipulated the old man into believing that Christopher lived off the earnings of immoral women and that he had sold her, his wife, to influential friends. Christopher thinks his father’s suicide had been a sign that the family is weakening; consequently, he will not accept one penny of the estate for himself. Mark, therefore, had...
(The entire section is 1821 words.)