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144 TIETJENS TRANSFORMED: A READING OF PARADE'S END By T. J. Henighan (Carleton University) Although The Good Soldier has received more attention in recent Ford criticism, Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford's "Tietjens tetralogy," has been the subject of much perceptive writing.1 There seems to be general agreement that this novel is about the transformation of English society related to and partially coinciding with the First World War, that Götter- and Götzen—Dämmerung of Victorian England. Christopher Tietj'ens, Ford's central figure - the man who survives has been measured by various yardsticks of artistic and moral success, Ford himself suggested the image of a static character, hanging on in sheer doggedness. William Carlos Williams was one of the first to discount this view. A comprehensive reading of Parade's End, one w&ich sets the novel in the context of Ford's other work of the period and pays due attention to the structure of its imagery, may resolve some of these old differences, and enable us to place Ford's achievement as a novelist in a new light.2 I should like to begin with a brief mention of six relatively uninteresting books written by Ford just previous to Parade's End these offer us a useful entrée to the tetralogy's concerns. During the war, in which Ford had seen service in spite of his advanced age, he published two books of anti-German propaganda, as well as Zeppelin Nights, a rather j*ejeune book of historical sketches, written with Violet Hunt. These we pass over to consider On Heaven, a collection of poems published in 1918. The title poem, probably written about 1914, depicts a kind of earthly paradise, and the agonies of a man "loved, guessed at, pledged to, in your Sussex mud." Although the Provençal landscape and the vision of a God who is "a good man" and "a kind man" do not seem to bring peace to the central, suffering consciousness, the direction is significant. After the war Ford settled down in a country cottage with Stella Bowenj his writing continued to deal with the problem of reintegration after catastrophe. No. Enemy, a book of commentary, was written about this time. Gringoire, the Daudet-inspired hero, meditates on the earth. Greater to him than "the war strain" was "a strain concerning itself with the English country." He seizes on the vision of "an inviolable corner of the earth" and imagines that "a field gray tide of mud" is about to overwhelm the "small verdure-masked homes." These houses and their gardens are the world's only hope. Wars are "food riots" in a civilization that is going to become "a beehive of workers and drones." Gringoire will escape nightmare by digging in in the face of destiny. A House, Ford's long poem of 1921, develops this theme of the saving drive toward contact with a "new earth," dramatizing the rootedness that man and society ultimately need. Here, the unborn child that waits for the light is seen as having to face a world in which the parents are barely able to earn a living, in which their house is "the house a child draws," a mere hut. Mister Bosphorous and the Muses, another long poem, published in I923, though essentially a 145 literary satire, presents a surrealistic version of the poet's flight to a new soil, toward an earth in which renewal is possible. These books hint at a solution to the tensions which the final two "preparations" for Parade's End deal with. The Marsden Case. a novel, and Women and Men, an essay, explore the chaos of family relationships and the sexual warfare of a decadent society. Individual psychic dislocation and social upheaval are connected in the metaphor of "war," but the "peace" invoked in the earth images of the poems just referred to, is not explored. It was left for the tetralogy to define the movement of psyche from inadequate synthesis, through destruction and chaos, toward renewal, and to measure this individual passage against the direction of society as a whole. Ford's account of the writing of Parade's End is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 144-157
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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