During his long life, Ford Madox Ford published eighty-one books, of which thirty-two were novels, but of these only The Good Soldier (1915) and the tetralogy with the collective title Parade’s End are generally regarded as having the status of major works. Parade’s End is many things: a portrait of an English country gentleman before the cataclysm of World War I, an individual’s experience of the hardships of that war, a vivid picture of a terrible marriage, and a romantic story with a happy ending.
Each of the four novels that form Parade’s End makes use of impressionistic methods. Critical scenes carry most of the narrative burden, as the action moves with little transition from one scene to another, while the narrative moves backward and forward in time. An episode that concludes the sixth chapter of part 2 in the first novel, Some Do Not . . . , is, for example, not explained until part 1, chapter 3, of the second novel, No More Parades; the aftermath of that scene is not resolved until the final chapter of the third novel, A Man Could Stand Up. Jumps in time include that between the 1916 beginning of part 1 of Some Do Not . . . , when Tietjens, his memory shattered by his combat experiences, is preparing to return to the front from London, and the end of the same part four years earlier.
Ford’s style in these novels also includes experiments with point of view, and the narrative voice switches from Tietjens to the object of his love, Valentine Wannop, to Sylvia, with brief stops along the way to the minds of other characters. In the final novel, The Last Post, Christopher Tietjens’s older brother Mark becomes the central character, and most of that novel takes place in Mark’s mind. Each of the main characters is portrayed not only by a third-person narrator but also through interior monologues in a stream-of-consciousness style. Contemporaries, including James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, were using similar techniques, but Ford created an idiosyncratic combination of narrative stream of consciousness and time shifts.
The four novels of Parade’s End cover most...
(The entire section is 899 words.)