Parade's End

Parade's End

by Ford Madox Ford

In creating his acclaimed masterpiece Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford wanted the Novelist in fact to appear in his really proud position as historian of his own time .

The 'subject' was the world as it culminated in the war.

  • Series: Parade's End
  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.91
  • Pages: 836
  • Publish Date: June 1st 2001 by Penguin Classics
  • Isbn10: 0141186615
  • Isbn13: 9780141186610

What People Think about "Parade's End"

Starting Parade's End is a little like reading an ethnologist's report from some alien world. The feeling passes, but it is no accident: part of Ford's argument is that the First World War spelled the end not just for a generation of young men but for a whole mindset, a way of behaving and of being English, that is now utterly gone and cannot be recovered. This odd, not especially likeable character forms the apex of an emotional triangle which, on one level, Parade's End explores across four books. The other two players are his wife Sylvia she is unremittingly awful to him, but he considers it ungentlemanly for a man to divorce a woman and the smart, spiky suffragette Valentine Wannop, who appears to be Christopher's opposite in every way and yet is clearly as perfect for him as he is for her. She is described once or twice as Sadic, but there is also something masochistic going on, as is made clear with a couple of hints to trauma in her past take for instance this passage of extraordinary insight where she remembers an abusive encounter with one of her lovers: The miserable memory would come, ghost-like, at any time, anywhere. She would see Drake's face, dark against the white things; she would feel the thin night-gown ripping off her shoulder; but most of all she would seem, in darkness that excluded the light of any room in which she might be, to be transfused by the mental agony that there she had felt: the longing for the brute who had mangled her, the dreadful pain of the mind. The odd thing was that the sight of Drake himself, whom she had seen several times since the outbreak of the war, left her completely without emotion. This comes back (as all things do in Parade's End) to the war, which for Sylvia is an astonishing word to use an agapemone, or zone of free-love. When Christopher finally decides that the war has done away with the conventions he was used to, and that therefore he will damn well allow himself to have an affair if it will make him and Valentine happy, there is something both moving and hilarious in the blunt way he propositions her before returning to the Front, never previously having exchanged a single word of affection: Will you be my mistress to-night? The ellipsis gradually becomes the primary punctuation mark, and the prose becomes increasingly aposiopetic as can be seen even in the titles of two of the four books, Some Do Not and A Man Could Stand Up. At the same time, Ford can also write with eye-catching economy. I also think the four-act structure makes sense one of the recurring terms of Parade's End is parallelogram, for whatever reason, and I think the fourth book is needed to complete the parallelogram of novels. They make up a thick, wonderful, multitudinous work a powerful character study, an analysis of sexuality, a contextualisation of the war, and a truly great romanceall of which leaves you feeling, at the end, that this alien world is your own world after all, that you are as alien as any of them, and that they are as richly human as you.

This novel is so hysterically confused it reads like a diary of someone chronicling his own nervous breakdown. I cant say how many times I thought this same idea while reading this novel. Another example is how much more sympathetic he is to the character of Sylvia than Ford was. Shes the villain, the harbinger of everything Ford doesnt like about the new world (dis)order. Graham Greene refers to Sylvia as surely the most possessed evil character in the modern novel. Somehow and brilliantly, Stoppard alchemized Sylvia into the most credible and admirable character in the book though Im not sure Ford would have approved of this outcome. Its like Ford had just read Freud and believed obsessively but without much clarity that he was on to something. (Its worth remembering this was written long after both Mrs Dalloway and The Waves, in neither of which does Woolf resort to cheap ellipses to show a mind in turmoil.) At the end of the day Id say there are about a hundred pages of this novel worth reading; that leaves 800Five stars though for Tom Stoppard who for me has proved himself to be a superior artist to Ford Maddox Ford.

I decided to start reading this great First World War novel after seeing the start of the BBC adaptation, but then became caught up by the book and fell behind with watching the TV version.

This is a wonderfully rewarding read, although at times the story seems impenetrable, but stay with it as the book will become a personal favourite, that repays frequent revisits. You had not been for ten minutes in any sort of intimacy with a man before you said: "But I've read all this before." Men are like putty in her hands entranced at first sight, captivated within moments of their first encounter, ' She could, she flattered herself, tell the amount of empressment which a man would develop about herself at the first glance - the amount and the quality too.' Julian Barnes has written a definitive introduction to the Penguin Classics edition (2012) in which he says : 'For Graham Greene , Sylvia Tietjeans is surely the most possesssed evil character in the modern novel. A wife who is bored, promiscuous and up-to-date,tied to a husband who is omniscient, chaste and antique; there's a marriage made in hell.' Certainly Sylvia does not suffer fools gladly; she can be mean, at times sadistically cruel, with a lacerating tongue and utterly self centred. Id rather be a cow in a field Promiscuity and serial adultery lacks the intimacy for which she is searching, and doesn't fill the aching void in her soul, revealed in her stream of consciousness admission, 'Blessed Virgin, mother of God, make him take me, before midnight...He's my husband, it is not a sin.'

So when I watched BBC version of Parades End, and read Warwicks review of the novel, I knew I have to give Ford another chance. I knew what to expect of a modernist novel - I like the period - but the sheer number of such remarks coming from people who had the literacy and the stamina to go through it was intimidating. The subject matter lets say this is another novel for grown-up people. It is largely set during World War I; the loss of freedom is manifested in ones inability to stand up (one of the books is entitled (A Man Could Stand Up, which refers to one characters wish to stand up on a hill and not be shot at), but the focus is not on physical suffering, but rather mental torture. Men might stand up on hill, but the mental torture could not be expelled." Reading Parades End, I learned two things about WWI that were completely new to me one was how emotionally disturbing, distracting it was for soldiers to keep contact with their family, lawyers, keep track of their affairs during wartime thanks to improved comunication.It's that they won't let us alone. Rather, the war gave people chaotic, evil, selfish people - the chance to shatter whatever harmony was left in the world (the novel is narrated from the PoVs of "Quality", mostly). The post WWI order is one of modernist chaos, uncertainty, and despair, in which the protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, strives to function with his new family. Christopher is a Job-like figure, whose socialite wife turns his life into a nightmare, probably in order to exert some kind of emotional power over him, and who is routinely betrayed by everyone, and let down by debtors. And, of course, thus political life can be kept clean!...So you can't make money.The representation of upper class morality is fascinating: characters seem very preoccupied with the issue of who fathered who, and make most outrageous guesses; protecting oneself against STDs is what a gentleman does so as not to cast a bad light on his sphere as we learn from the internal monologue of Christophers brother; central to the plot is the fact that gentlemen do not divorce, for divorce would mean dragging ones woman through the mud - even when the woman is mud itself. It is Christopher's and Valerie's sense of responsibility which makes the main love scene of the novel look like this:We never finished a sentence. The only thing the two women have in common is their good physical shape sport for Sylvia being a way of maintaining her stunning figure and spending more time around men, for Valerie a part of her moral, hygienic, modern education.

Reading this (consisting of four books: "Some Do Not...", "No More Parades," "A Man Could Stand Up--," and "The Last Post), for me, was like chewing a single piece of gum for a month. I started to worry that maybe something is now wrong with my brain after reading too much and playing chess too much, so I checked some of the reviews and see several praising the novel without even reading all four books, like they tasted one dish in a food buffet and announced all the rest as outstanding (really? So if he's alive, in front of me, I may be yelling right now to him, asking him to answer the question if he had actually finished reading all four books and not if the novel is great as I am not asking him that question.

But it's in my mind easily the strongest of the four books--most comic and best use of modernist techniques, namely the time shift (which Ford coined).

The characters were constrained and at times understated but that did add to their power on the page.

there are not many English novels which deserve to be called great: Parades End is one of them. In those days, before kids and domestic distractions, I created, as I continue to do, my own courses of study, but, of course, had much more time to concentrate and ruminate.: Finally, one day dark winter day in my little studio on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul I picked up the big book and began to read. Parades End has been called the last Victorian novel. It is in my mind a transitional novel, the last hurrah of the Victorian and a first tentative peek at the modern. Or more properly perhaps, the first description of the Modern by a Victorian: No more hope, no more glory, not for the nation, not for the world I dare say, no more parades. Those who have read The Good Soldier will recognize some familiar themes, but in Parade End will enjoy Ford at his most expansive.

It had been so difficult for me to read, in fact, that I found myself trying to skim, and resisting, just barely. I didn't particularly want to read a book about marital machinations and moves, I wanted to read a book about WWI. Sylvia cheats on her husband and tries to ruin his life (and hers with it, since for some reason she would not divorce him, though her Catholicism is less than nominal) because she "hates his immoral opinions". Since I never really encountered an opinion of Tietjens - not to mention a deed - that was immorally appalling, I had a hard time seeing Sylvia do what she was doing for any reason other than the author's strings, pulling at her.

Ford Madox Ford was the author of over 60 works: novels, poems, criticism, travel essays, and reminiscences.