(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Parade's End

Ford Madox Ford

(Born Ford Hermann Hueffer; also wrote under the pseudonyms Fenil Haig, Daniel Chaucer, and Baron Ignatz von Aschendrof) English novelist, poet, critic, biographer, historian, essayist, and autobiographer.

The following entry presents criticism of Ford's tetralogy Parade's End. For a discussion of Ford's complete career, see TCLC, Volumes I and 15; for a discussion of his novel The Good Soldier, see TCLC, Volume 39.

A major figure of the Modernist movement in English literature, Ford was a prolific author who produced works in a variety of genres. His fiction is noted for its intricate structure and impressionistic rendering of characters and events. In Parade's End Ford presented his most comprehensive treatment of the dominant theme in his work: social decay and alienation in post-Edwardian England.

Plot and Major Characters

Parade's End comprises four novels: Some Do Not, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up, and The Last Post. The protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, is referred to as "the last Tory," because of his devotion to conservative Edwardian traditions of honor and propriety, despite what appears to be the systematic dismantling of his well-ordered, mannerly world. Annoyed by Tietjens' unflagging desire to do what he believes is right, his wife Sylvia often acts as his nemesis, attempting to destroy his credibility and security through deceitful plots and extramarital affairs. Although in love with the young suffragette Valentine Wannop, Tietjens refuses to compromise his moral principles and marriage vows. In No More Parades and A Man Could Stand Up—, Ford vividly depicts the devastation of war through Tietjens' experiences on the front lines in World War I. As the world of honor he values continues to erode, Tietjens suffers a breakdown and is nursed back to health by Valentine, who finally becomes his lover. The Last Post focuses on Tietjens' adaptation to the new order, represented by Sylvia's destruction of a tree at Tietjens' ancestral home. Symbolic of the conflict between tradition and progress, the felling of Groby Great Tree allows Tietjens to successfully move into the future with Valentine and their unborn child.

Major Themes

Written during the 1920s, Parade's End addresses the moral uncertainties of Ford's times, documenting the sense of disorder, degeneration, and chaos he believed were the fruits of "the first modern war," the end of the Edwardian era, and the emergence of a society notable for its superficiality and rejection of such traditional values as loyalty and personal honor. Through Tietjens, who perseveres in spite of the relentless destruction of all that he values and has labored to protect, Ford suggested that humanity will survive political and social upheaval.

Critical Reception

Critics are divided on the question of whether the Tietjens series should be considered a tetralogy with four separate but equal elements, as supported by commentators Neil D. Isaacs, Robie Macauley, and William Carlos Williams, or a trilogy with a sequel, the position taken by such critics as Graham Greene and John Meixner. Even those who assert that The Last Post is an essential component of the Tietjens saga conclude that it is structurally inferior to the first three novels. Critics also dispute the function of Sylvia in the series. While some scholars believe she signifies an evil antithesis to Tietjens' values, others argue that she is a necessary impetus to Tietjens' ultimate acceptance of change.

John W. Crawford (essay date 1926)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ford Madox Ford Adds a Volume to His Epic of the War," in The New York Times Book Review, October 24, 1926, p. 7.

[In the following review of A Man Could Stand Up, Crawford characterizes Ford's Tietiens series as a modern-day epic.]

Ford Madox Ford has now reached the third of his monumental series of novels. There are those who say the epic is a dead form which can never be made to function in such a complicated and rational and disillusioned age as ours. The epic is not dead, for its impulse has surely impelled the setting down, in passionate narrative prose, of the adventures of Christopher Tietjens. If the heartbreaking, quixotic Christopher is not of the stuff of great legends, a sort of contemporary Bayard, with much honest fear and many undeserved reproaches, then there is no heroism left. If the personal and public battles in which Christopher takes part are not action, in the strict epic sense, then contemplation and indecision and irresponsibility have been the lot of the twentieth century. The only point where Mr. Ford may possibly be conceded to have omitted to write an epic in fiction is in his language. The tone of these three novels is not elevated and noble. It is as if men, in a house about to be blown up, knowing that a time fuse has been set, calmly occupy themselves with getting their cigars well lighted and talk of ordinary things in the vernacular of the day.

This very quality of Mr. Ford's style is indubitably a chief factor in enabling him to speak directly to a reader where he lives. This series makes it apppear that literature is, after all, not a superfluous affair. Books, such books as these three, do matter, and matter enormously. It is incredible that a reading of them can leave a receptive mind untouched. It means a definite and ponderable gain in experience, a measurable and welcome deflection of the course of being. And it is all done with such simplicity and absence of exclamation that the full brunt of the thing is not felt until some time after the last page has been turned. A Man Could Stand Up, like its predecessors, lives on, happily, in the reader's mind, when the printed page is no longer before the eye, and the materials of the novel incite endless associations and recreations and suppositions as if it actually were a block out of the reader's own life.

That is not at all to say that Mr. Ford has been faithful to life. It is just his triumph that he has taken notable and identifiable landmarks, scattered them throughout his three books, and yet left them significantly books and nothing else. Some Do Not—dared to take the heated years of the woman suffrage militancy in England, boil them down to one intense passage on a golf course and present the first meeting of Valentine Wannop and Christopher Tietjens as a contact of personalities, which took on a little color from a political conflict. Yet that episode gave a more vivid picture of the suffragette fight than volumes upon volumes of more pretentious history. No More Pardes called up a graphic vision of a civilian population and corridors upon corridors of intriguing Government officials behind a small outfit of men on their way to the front. A Man Could Stand Up gives a more complete picture of what fighting meant and what the war was about to the men actually in it than oceans of rhetoric might do or have done. It's all there in the title, in fact.

Mr. Ford has a felicitous knack for titles. The name of the present book calls up lines of stooping men, cramped in their lungs, soggy in their feet, waiting for a bit of "Morning Hate," ordered by their own superiors to surprise those boresome gray men over yonder, or by the German superiors to impress the Allies. The aching wish to stand up once more on a hill in the sunlight and the enforced duty, instead, of digging for two buried men in a pit of slime, with the roar of a shell still in the ears, is Christopher at...

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William McFee (essay date 1928)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tietjens Once More," in New York Herald Tribune Books, January 15, 1928, p. 3.

[McFee was an English writer best known for his tales of adventures at sea. In the following excerpt, he offers a mixed review of The Last Post.]

Readers will have this opinion and that about these novels by Mr. Ford. They will be enthusiastic, and they will remain mildly indifferent to a very highly-specialized glamour. But they will all fail to agree with the announcement on the jacket-flaps of The Last Post that the novels deal with the lives of a small group of representative individuals. That word "representative" needs some qualification. Those individuals may be...

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Robie Macauley (essay date 1950)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford, Alfred A. Knopf, 1950, pp. v-xxii.

[Macauley is an American author and educator. In the following introduction to the first edition of Parade's End, he affirms that the tetralogy should be considered as a single work rather than as four separate novels published together for the first time.]

The year before he died Ford Madox Ford used to walk around the campus at Olivet College like a pensioned veteran of forgotten wars. We took him for a kind of vast, benevolent and harmless Uncle Toby, leaning on his stick in class or sitting in his dark little basement office and wheezing out his stories of Henry...

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Paul Pickrel (essay date 1950)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Parade's End in The Yale Review, Vol. XL, No. 1, September, 1950, pp. 189-91.

[Pickrel is an American author, educator, and critic whose reviews have appeared in Commentary, the New York Herald Tribune, and Book Week. In the following excerpt, he suggests that Parade's End reflects Ford's belief that people will attempt to avoid loneliness and isolation at all costs.]

The chief character in Parade's End is Christopher Tietjens, the younger son of a great Yorkshire family, a man who calls himself "the last Tory," who regards himself as a survival of the eighteenth century: a gentleman, a scholar, and (with a...

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Caroline Gordon (essay date 1950)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Story of Ford Madox Ford," in The New York Times Book Review, September 17, 1950, pp. 1, 22.

[Gordon was an American author and educator whose works include The Good Soldier: A Key to the Novels of Ford Madox Ford (1963). In the following excerpt from a review of Parade's End, Gordon contends that the work is best understood from a historical distance.]

Ford's work—the body of it—may be compared to a huge stone cast into a pond; only the water which is displaced by its presence will have intimate contact with the stone, but the tiniest ripple will in time carry its impact to the shore. Ford was the best craftsman of his day; we are only...

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Lloyd Morris (essay date 1950)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ford's Masterpiece Now Reappears," in New York Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review, October 1, 1950, p. 4.

[Morris was an American biographer, critic, social historian, essayist, and pioneering educator who is credited with introducing contemporary literature courses to the American university system in the 1920s. In the following review of Parade's End, he suggests that Ford is the literary equal of James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Franz Kajka.]

Here, finally presented as its author wished, is one of the major English novels of the twentieth century. Parade's End brings together four books by Ford Madox Ford, first published between 1924 and 1928,...

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Hamilton Basso (essay date 1950)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Christopher Tietjens: His Life and Times," in The New Yorker, Vol. XXVI, No. 32, October 7, 1950, pp. 126, 129-30.

[An American novelist, biographer, and critic, Basso is best known for Sun in Capricorn (1942), a novel which, like much of his work, explores the societal structure and cultural mores of the American South. In the following review of Parade's End, he calls the tetralogy "a minor performance," asserting that Ford was unable to create a convincing portrait of a politically conservative character.]

Parade's End, by Ford Madox Ford, is an omnibus collection of four books that make up a single novel, along with an introduction by...

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John R. Tobyansen (essay date 1950)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Parade's End, in Shenandoah, Vol. 1, No. 3, Winter, 1950, pp. 29-36.

[In the following essay, Tobyansen offers a thematic overview of Parade's End and discusses the novel's principal characters.]

Parade's End is a single volume containing four of Ford's earlier novels, Some Do Not, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up and The Last Post, and an introduction by Robie Macauley. The four novels, published originally over a five-year period (1924-1928), achieved only brief popularity. When they first appeared, they were considered as merely another group of "war novels." In the Knopf volume they appear as what they...

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William Carlos Williams (essay date 1951)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Parade's End," in Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams, Random House, 1954, pp. 315-23.

[Williams was one of America's most renowned poets of the twentieth century. Rejecting as overly academic the Modernist poetic style established by T S. Eliot, he sought a more natural poetic expression, endeavoring to replicate the idiomatic cadences of American speech. In the following essay, which was first published in 1951, he focuses on the significance of Sylvia in the transition of Christopher Tietjens throughout the novel, and suggests that Tietjens is not "the last Tory," but rather the first of a new, more enlightened generation of Englishmen.]


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Joseph J. Firebaugh (essay date 1952)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tietjens and the Tradition," in The Pacific Spectator, Vol. 6, No. 1, Winter 1952, pp. 23-32.

[In the following essay, Firebaugh contends that Parade's End is best read as an allegory. ]

Now that the extraordinary tetralogy, Parade's End, has been republished, we ought to reconsider it in the light of the message which Ford Madox Ford meant it to convey. For he did intend the "Tietjens Saga" to teach a lesson, although he was too much a product of his post-pre-Raphaelite times not to feel that he sinned against his literary gods by that intention. The meaning of the novels, however, is so much richer than his avowed purpose of denouncing warfare...

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E. V. Walter (essay date 1956)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Political Sense of Ford Madox Ford," in The New Republic, Vol. 134, No. 13, March 26, 1956, pp. 17-19.

[Walter is an American author and educator. In the following essay, he disputes the critical opinion that a well-crafted novel cannot be a political novel, citing Parade's End as an example of both.]

Ultimately, when critics write about Ford Madox Ford, they write about his technique, and since he is, if anything, a virtuoso of the well-made novel, it is appropriate that they insist on this side of his work. Still, in Paade's End, the Tietjens tetralogy (Some Do Not ;No More Parades; A Man Could Stand Up—; The Last...

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Kenneth Young (essay date 1956)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Tietjens Tetralogy," in Ford Madox Ford, Longmans, Green & Co., 1956, pp. 28-35.

[Young is an English author and editor whose works include book-length studies of D. H. Lawrence and Ford Madox Ford. In the following excerpt, he focuses attention on the characters of Parade's End and their function in what he considers to be Ford's melancholy treatment of society in transition.]

To pass from [Ford's novel] The Good Soldier to [his] Parade's End is to emerge from a room heavy with discharged passion into a city street full of vivid personalities. Up they pop like freshly painted jack-in-the-boxes: 'Breakfast' Duchemin, so called from...

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Neil D. Isaacs (essay date 1959)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ford Madox Ford and the Tietjens Fulfillment," in The Lock Haven Review, No. 1, 1959, pp. 58-65.

[Issacs in an American author and educator. In the following essay, he contrasts Parade's End with The Good Soldier, evaluating the two works based on Ford's own criteria as a literary critic.]

In the dedicatory letter to an American edition of The Good Soldier (1915), Ford Madox Ford says that he put into that novel everything he knew of the technical art of writing. He also says that he expects to be considered homo unius libri and that The Good Soldier is the one book. Elsewhere he claims that The Last Post (1928) was no...

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Ambrose Gordon, Jr. (essay date 1962)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Diamond of Pattern: The War of F. Madox Ford," in The Sewanee Review, Vol. LXX, No. 3, Summer, 1962, pp. 464-83.

[Gordon was an American author and educator. In the following essay, he offers a structural and thematic overview of No More Parades, the second novel of the Tietjens tetralogy.]

How we find any writer is so often a matter of where we first came in—of how we first encountered him, with what expectations and hopes. In the case of Ford Madox Ford there are over sixty wrong places for a first encounter and there is perhaps only one right one, since, as Ford knew, first impressions stick. The beginning reader should probably not begin with...

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John A. Meixner (essay date 1962)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tietjens, the Great War, and England," in Ford Madox Ford's Novels: A Critical Study, University of Minnesota Press, 1962, pp. 190-256.

[Meixner is an American author and educator. In the following excerpt, he analyzes Some Do Not, the first of the four Tietjens novels, and asserts that Parade's End should be considered a trilogy with a sequel rather than a tetralogy.]

The four novels of the Tietjens series, although published separately, have in recent years been gathered together under the comprehensive title of Parade's End. But should Ford's work be considered, in fact, as a tetralogy? Or is it more accurately a trilogy, with...

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Carol Ohmann (essay date 1964)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Parade's End," in Ford Madox Ford: From Apprentice to Craftsman, Wesleyan University Press, 1964, pp. 112-74.

[In the following excerpt, Ohmann compares Parade's End with The Good Soldier.]

More obviously than The Good Soldier, the four novels Some Do Not (1924), No More Parades (1925), A Man Could Stand Up— (1926) and The Last Post (1928)—all republished in the United States in 1950 as Parade's End—are the culmination of Ford's efforts to record and to evaluate the life of his times. In their breadth of scene and their length, these novels are reminiscent of Victorian and Edwardian...

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Bernard Bergonzi (essay date 1965)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Retrospect II: Fiction," in Heroes' Twilight, second edition, The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1980, pp. 171-97.

[In the following excerpt Bergonzi discusses the effects of World War I as presented in Parade's End.]

Parde's End is a trilogy or a tetralogy, depending on whether one accepts the final volume, Last Post, as an integral part of the total design. The first section, Some Do Not, came out in 1924, No More Parades in 1925, and A Man Could Stand Up in 1926. Last Post appeared in 1928; it seems that Ford wrote it because of the importunate desire of a woman friend to know what happened to his characters, and a...

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Frank MacShane (essay date 1965)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Parade's End," in The Life and Work of Ford Madox Ford, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965, pp. 170-90.

[An American author and educator whose publications include well-received biographies of Ford, Raymond Chandler, James Jones, and John O'Hara, MacShane has specialized in studies of the so-called "stepchildren of literature. "MacShane's works combine narrative and critical insight in an effort to rescue some relatively forgotten authors from what he considers their undeserved obscurity. In the following excerpt, he examines form and technique in Parade's End.]

Parade's End is an immensely suggestive panoramic novel that at the same time provides...

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Alan Kennedy (essay date 1970)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tietjens' Travels: Parade's End as Comedy," in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 16, No. 2, April, 1970, pp. 85-95.

[In the following essay, Kennedy identifies comedic elements in Parade's End.]

One can easily see Tietjens as a model of integrity, of morality, of pre-Edwardian honour and Christian long-suffering; as an innocent who is the victim of "an old bitch gone in the teeth." The ease of such a vision may be an indication that it is the best, most correct reaction to Parade's End. One need not, certainly, be always looking for complications. Tietjens' story does appear to have a direct simplicity, and one cannot be too far wrong in saying...

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James M. Heldman (essay date 1972)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Last Victorian Novel: Technique and Theme in Parade's End," in Twentieth Century Literature Vol. 18, No. 4, October, 1972, pp. 271-84.

[In the following essay, Heldman contends that the progression of the fiction techniques used in the four novels in Parade's End represents the transition from Victorian to modern writing.]

In a letter to Percival Hinton in 1931, Ford Madox Ford wrote: "I think the Good Soldier is my best book technically unless you read the Tietjens books as one novel in which case the whole design appears." The most complete description of that "whole design" had appeared in his 1925 dedication of No More...

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Malcolm Bradbury (essay date 1976)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Denuded Place: War and Form in Parade's End and U.S.A. "in The First World War in Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Holger Klein, The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1976, pp. 193-209.

[An English man of letters, Bradbury is best known as the author of such satiric novels as Eating People Is Wrong (1959) and Stepping Westward (1965). In the following excerpt from his comparative examination of post-World War I epic novels, Bradbury suggests that Ford juxtaposed in Parade's End Edwardian realism with Modernist experimental techniques to demonstrate the passing of Tietjens' way of life.]

Parade's End is the...

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Sondra J. Stang (essay date 1977)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Parade's End," in Ford Madox Ford, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1977, pp. 94-123.

[Stang is an American writer and editor specializing in the study and criticism of the works of Ford Madox Ford. In the following excerpt, she provides an overview of Parade's End, focusing particularly on the symbolism of the main characters and their interactions with one another.]

Parade's End is, of course, a "war novel"—really an antiwar novel, Ford called it, for he intended to show "what war was like" without overstating its physical horrors. W. H. Auden called Parde's End a "four-volume study of Retribution and Expiation"; Graham Greene...

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Alfred Kazin (essay date 1979)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ford's Modern Romance," in The New York Review of Books, Vol. XXVI, No. 18, November 22, 1979, pp. 31-2.

[A highly respected American literary critic, Kazin is best known for his essay collections The Inmost Leaf (1955) and Contemporaries (1962), and particularly for On Native Grounds (1942), a study of American prose writing since the era of William Dean Howells. In the following review of the first paperback edition of Parade's End, which appeared more than fifty years after the four novels of the tetralogy were originally published, Kazin examines Romantic elements in Parade's End.]

Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford's...

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Norman Page (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Living as Ritual in Parade's End," in Studies in the Literary Imagination, Vol. XIII, No. 1, Spring, 1980, pp. 43-50.

[Page is an English author, editor, and educator whose works include studies of Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and D. H. Lawrence. In the following essay, he examines Ford's treatment of ritual and conformity as hallmarks of social stability in Parade's End.]

Certain novelists, in common with many of us who are not novelists, betray an addiction, usually unconscious, to certain words or turns of phrase; and in them, as in us, the reiteration may be more than a trivial mannerism—may, indeed, offer an insight, through a tiny verbal crack in...

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Further Reading

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)


Braybrooke, Neville. "The Walrus and the Windmill: A Study of Ford Madox Ford." The Sewanee Review 74 (1966): 810-31.

Considers the marital and extra-marital relationships of Ford's protagonists within the context of the sexual mores and political climate of late Victorian England.

Gordon, Ambrose, Jr. The Invisible Tent: The War Novels of Ford Madox Ford. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964, 153 p.

Study of Parade's End and three other novels Ford wrote.

Gose, Elliott B., Jr. "Reality to Romance: A Study of Ford's Parade's End." College English 17, No. 8 (May 1956): 445-50....

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