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ON THE TIME-SCHEME OF THE GOOD SOLDIER By R. W. Lid (University of California, Santa Barbara) In one of her more aberrant moments, in THE FLURRIED YEARS, Violet Hunt tells of discovering the manuscript of Ford Madox Ford's THE GOOD SOLDIER in a dust bin, its pages shredded into a hundred fragments, which she then had to piece together before the manuscript could be sent to the publisher John Lane. It does not take much of a wag to conclude that perhaps this incident is responsible for the disrupted chronology of the novel. Of course such a wit would be wrong, for the finely wrought structure of the novel hinges on Ford's use of a fragmented time-scheme; yet there is a series of discrepancies in Ford's use of time which should be cleared up, or, where that is impossible, at least noted, for in a novel of broken time segments the touchstones to chronological sequence are important. In the sequence concerning the elopement of Dowel 1 and Florence, for example, it is impossible to know exactly what happened over the four day span, as it is even to be sure what happened on each day. The interview with the aunts and Dowell's discovery in the evening that Florence is gone occur on the 1st of August. On the 2nd Dowel 1 goes to New York to procure passage, but whether it is on the 2nd or 3rd of August that he tracks down Florence and has his interview with the uncle it is impossible to say. A minor point, but there are other confusions in THE GOOD SOLDIER that are more important. The most important discrepancy in Ford's use of time is the date August 4, 1904. The third chapter of Part One (p. 21 in the Knopf Vintage edition) opens with August of that year, and the time seems to refer to the meeting of the two couples. But, then, after the confusion ¡n Dowell's mind about dating the trip to M____ ("I can't remember," Dowel 1 remarks on p. 37, "whether it was in our first year of acquaintance . . . but it must have been in the first or second year"), he is able to date the trip with certainty, because it occurred on the same day as Mrs. Maidan's death (p. 67), which he then tells us occurred on the 4th of August (p. 77). Thus the meeting of the two couples and the trip to M____ and Mrs. Maidan's suicide would all have to have occurred ¡n a space of four days. This can't be, however, since we have already been told (p. 51) that Mrs. Maidan died after the first month of their acquaintance. Further confusion comes when Dowel 1 identifies the 4th of August as the day on which the couples met (p. 98). What has happened is that Ford has used one date for two separate events. A minor series of errors follows in the wake of this: the Ashburnhams were to be with Colonel Hervey in Linlithgowshire for the month of September commencing with either the 11th or the 18th (p. 55), and yet Dowel Is' diary reveals that Edward was in Paris with them until the 21st of that month (p. 98); Florence tired of Jimmy and took over Edward in 1903 (p. 90), which would be a year before the couples met; Edward was twenty-seven at the time of the Kilsyte case (p. 157), but the affair of La Dolciquita occurred in 1895 (p. 56) when he would have been merely twenty-four—and the Kilsyte case occurred before the incident at Monte Carlo (the discrepancy here might be accounted for by the fact that in the portion of the novel printed in BLAST Edward's age 10 in I904 was thirty-six, which would have made him twenty-seven in IG95). There are other minor discrepancies in time, but it should be pointed out that, with the exception of August 4, 1904, the discrepancies cause surprisingly little trouble to the reader. V/hat saves the sequence is very simply the fewness of important events around which the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 9-10
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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