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56 VALENTINE VJANNOP AND THEMATIC STRUCTURE IN FORD MADOX FORD'S PARADE'S SKD By Marianne DeKoven (Stanford University) How bleak is Ford Madox Ford's vision in his tetralogy Parade's End? Most critics agree with John I.leixner that the novels "are, in large measure, a lament for the world that expired."! Meixner is so convinced of the bleak vision that he sees Parade's End as a pessimistic trilogy, with the more optimistic Last Post "externally impressed upon the action" (p. 221). Those critics who do see some brightness in Ford's vision tend to formulate it in the essentially negative terms of Tietjens learning, in the course of the tetralogy, to survive in a tragically altered world.¿ A few critics see a double or dialectical thematic movement in Parade's End, with Eord's evident pessimism balanced by an equally important optimism.^ That is the position taken in this essay. However, while the problem of Ford's bleakness or brightness is generally tackled through an analysis of Tietjens' development alone, this essay focusses on the female characters of the tetralogy ; and particularly on Valentine Wannop, who will be seen as the pivot of Ford's optimism. The refrain "times are changing" is repeated so often in Parade's End that one could easily accuse Ford of protesting too much. It is the Theme of the tetralogy, with a very capital T. Ford dresses up this overriding theme in several different costumes, but its essence remains unchanged: England and the world have gone to the dogs. Anything is liable to become a symbol of "the last of England," the end of the world: two vulgar men at a golf club, leaves rotting in August, a bank mistake which isn't really a mistake, tobacco smoked brazenly under the roof of Groby. World War I itself becomes a complex symbol of the demise of hope and glory, where parades disintegrate in the mud of the trenches, and England betrays her allies. The world is rotten, upside down, foundering. No one will ever be impressed again. There seems to be no question that the traditions which were so rapidly going by the board embodied, at least for those who benefited by them, what was right and good in English life. Yet Ford's overall attitude toward these traditions is complex and ambiguous. For example, does Ford agree with Tietjens that when "Breakfast Duchemin's" guests ignore his lewd latin outburst, it is the culmination and justification of English social etiquette' And there is a strong note of Ford's irony in the baldness of Christopher's statement about Macmaster's social climbing: "I quite approve. It's the game as it has always been played. It's the tradition, so it's right."* The old England, where the ruling class really ruled, is idealized almost to the point of absurdity by Tietjens, with his fantasies about Herbert at Bemerton and his contention that Mrs. Wannop's 57 novel is the only thing worth reading since the eighteenth century . Tietjens himself is seen as the last of the kind that made England great - the Tory landed gentry, who knew how to keep politics clean. The new breed, the Macmasters, distinctly did not. They were behind everything reprehensible in the changed society, from boorishness on the golf links to the gigantic demoralization that was the war. They were the "cynically carefree intriguers in long corridors who made plots that harrowed the hearts of the world. All these men toys: all these agonies mere occasions for picturesque phrases to be put into politicians' speeches without heart or even intelligence."5 These men, the Scottish grocers and Welsh miners, are no more (or less) than the fruits of democracy and the industrial revolution, both of which Tietjens detests because they deify ambition and wealth. In fact, Tietjens seems to detest the twentieth century itself, with its worship of the applied science which manifests itself in useless gadgets and the horror of trench warfare. He would gladly fight in the French Foreign Legion to defend the eighteenthcentury against the twentieth; but with England in the war he must use the eighteenth century to fight...


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pp. 56-68
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