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 second novel of the sequence, No More Parades, finds Christopher with the army in France. His efforts are going unrewarded; his wife, Sylvia, is raising a scandal about him; and his love for Valentine has been buried deep under layers of responsibility. At the climax of the novel, he must undergo an extended interrogation to avoid a court-martial on charges of striking a superior officer (who had stormed into his hotel room late at night without identifying himself); that same morning, his command is to be subjected to a formal inspection. The resulting interior monologue invites comparison with Molly Bloom’s final monologue in James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922). In A Man Could Stand Up, the third volume, Christopher has been moved up to the front lines, where he must survive a last-ditch enemy barrage. Shortly thereafter, the war finally ends; it is at last time for his love to surface from under four years of military repression. When Valentine’s name does pop into his conscious mind, he is astonished: “What! Is that still there?” Ford finally grants his lovers their first embrace, though not until the very conclusion of the novel:...
(The entire section is 654 words.)