Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Ford Madox Ford was a prolific writer, both of fiction and of criticism. He founded several literary reviews and was an important editor. The Good Soldier is considered to be the best of his novels. In fact, Ford himself labeled it as his best work. He began to write it on his fortieth birthday, December 17, 1913. A dedicated craftsman, Ford consciously set out to put into The Good Soldier all that he knew about writing. His mastery of plot, characterization, and especially point of view show that he knew much. He had originally intended to call the novel “The Saddest Story,” but his publisher recommended against that title; the year of its publication, 1915, was a grave time as the “sad story” of World War I spread across Europe. Pressed to come up with a different title, Ford impulsively chose The Good Soldier, a decision he always regretted; though the title fits the story of Edward Ashburnham well, the author did not want his novel confused with a story of the war. Along with the tetralogy Parade’s End (1924-1928), often known as the Tietjens novels (for their main character), The Good Soldier stands as the high point in Ford Madox Ford’s career.