The Good Soldier Part 4, Chapters 5-6 Summary

Ford Madox Hueffer

Part 4, Chapters 5-6 Summary

Nancy was on a boat to India when she heard of Ashburnham's death. By the time her father came to the dock, Nancy no longer would communicate. Her eyes were blank and she could only repeat a Latin phrase.

Leonora received a telegram from Nancy's father, appealing to her to come to India to save his daughter. Doctors had told him that if Nancy saw something familiar, she might come back to her senses. Leonora refused. Instead she asked Dowell, who traveled with the nursemaid who had helped raise Nancy. However, there was nothing they could do other than see that each day Nancy was cleaned, dressed, and fed. Though Dowell still loved Nancy and wanted to marry her, doctors and lawyers told him no one could marry Nancy yet. She must understand what she was doing. So once again, Dowell acted as caregiver to an invalid, to someone incapable of loving him.

The details of the captain then unfold. After Nancy left, Edward committed suicide. Dowell had been staying with the Ashburnhams at the time. When Nancy left, Dowell was astonished to see no emotional response from Nancy or Edward. Later, minutes before his death, the captain told Dowell he was tired. Dowell had seen the knife in the captain's hand but done nothing to stop him.

Years later, Leonora remarried and became pregnant. She wed an ordinary man with whom she had a brief, unsatisfactory affair while still married to Edward. Dowell describes the man as slightly deceitful but says Leonora was slightly deceitful too, and cruel. He blames Leonora for driving the captain to suicide, conveying how Leonora badgered him until he could not think straight. Dowell says Leonora was also responsible for Nancy's state of mind.

Nancy was equally as cruel. Before she left, Nancy told Edward she no longer loved him and never would. Her love had kept him alive. Nancy chose to listen to Leonora, who exposed all the captain's weaknesses. Leonora destroyed Nancy's romantic vision of Edward. She painted her husband as a womanizer with no consideration of a woman's needs or emotions.

The story is a sad one, Dowell concludes, because no one got what they wanted. He also remarks on how deceptive people can be. On the surface, Leonora, the captain, and Nancy all appeared to be good people. However, having lived with all of them, Dowell was well acquainted with their negative aspects.