In Ford Madox Ford’s first book of Parade’s End, titled Some Do Not… there are several characters which are not only introduced, but are the focus of the first book’s plot. The following people are greatly characterized throughout the first book: Christopher Tietjans, Sylvia Tietjans, Vincent MacMaster, Mark Tietjans, Valentine Wannop, Edith Ethel Duchemin and General Lord Edward Campion.
The plot centers on the overly pleasant and considerate Christopher Tietjans, who is considered the last of the Tories. Being raised with the silver spoon, Christopher is the “son of a Yorkshire country nobleman,” maintaining a code of morals based on tradition (5). His marriage to his wife Sylvia, locates Christopher in a position of submission as he tolerates her punishing ways. Christopher eventually has an affair with Valentine Wannop. Even at this stage of his marital problems, he will not divorce his wife, until she decides it is necessary. Knowing that a divorce is the best possible remedy for his problems, Christopher still feels that “No one but a blackguard would ever submit a woman to the ordeal of divorce” (6). Christopher is described as being “twenty-six, but, very big, in a fair untidy, Yorkshire way, he carried more weight than his age warranted” (5). With a desktop job in London which requires Christopher no physical efforts, he surprisingly volunteers to serve his country in the British Military. Soon after being designated to the front line, he is wounded and sent home.
The doll-like appearance of Sylvia Tietjans is one the main factors her husband, Christopher, puts up with her antics. Physically, Sylvia is “immensely tall” with “reddish, very fair hair” and an oval face (28). Knowing that she could go wherever she wanted, Sylvia took advantage of having “all men at her feet” (28). Serving as a trophy wife for Christopher, Sylvia does everything in her power to upset and make his life a living hell. These acts include committing multiple affairs with several men. Sylvia admits throughout the novel that she despises her husband. She dislikes the war and disapproves of the English’s involvement. Although she is physically attracted to Christopher, her main objective is to crush him for being such a pushover in maintaining the code of ethics which his noble heredity taught him.
Vincent MacMaster, a financially strapped Scotsman, who is accepted nonetheless seems to be Christopher’s one and only friend. The consideration of MacMaster as a true friend is somewhat sketchy, as it may appear his friendship with Christopher is based on the money he has borrowed from him. Despite this, Christopher admits “he had a very deep affection—even a gratitude” for MacMaster (5). MacMaster was physically described as:
“smallish; Whig; with a trimmed, pointed black beard, such a smallish man might wear to enhance his already germinated distinction; black hair of a stubborn fibre, drilled down with hard metal brushes; a sharp nose; strong level teeth; a white, butterfly collar of the smoothness of porcelain; a tie confined by a gold ring, steel-blue speckled with black—to match his eyes” (4).
MacMaster eventually becomes financially secure when marrying his former mistress, Edith Ethel Duchemin. She is described as having a “dark complexion,” “pebble blue eyes,” “waved hair” and a “pointed chin” (53). Duchemin becomes a widow after her husband; "a scathological-- afterwards a homicidal--luncatic" dies (191). She than becomes romantically involved and furthermore, marries MacMaster the day after her husbands death. She devotes her life to harassing Christopher and his newly acquired love, Valentine.
Valentine Wannop, a smart and caring young lady becomes the love interest of Christopher Tietjans. Meeting one evening, they randomly chase a criminal in a horse drawn carriage. Getting lost they spend the night together, as their relationship becomes the basis of talk and rumors. Her reputation is also tarnished because of her pacifist beliefs, which many people think is the result of her secretly being a German supporter. She is also highly caught up with the suffragette movement of the time period, which highlights the hatred of women in Edwardian society (Parrinder 14). Even though Valentine realizes the near impossible situation that exists between her and Christopher, she continues to think about him.
Mark Tietjans barely knows his brother Christopher, who is fourteen years younger. Mark acknowledges that his disconnection to Christopher is because he can not stand Sylvia. Mark thinks that his brother should divorce Sylvia, for his new love interest, Valentine.
Although, General Lord Edward Campion is brilliant when it comes to military issues, his judgment of character seems to be incompetent. This is proven as he always praises his godson’s wife, Sylvia, and recommends Christopher to patch up his marital problems with such a breathtaking lady.
Through this brief, yet informative character sketch, the characters of Ford Madox Ford’s Some Do Not… are outlined for readers who wish to engage with supplementary material regarding the novel.
Ford, Ford Madox. Parades End. Penguin: London, 2002.
Parriner, Patrick. “Ford and the Spirit of Edwardian England.” History and
Representation in Ford Madox Ford's Writing. Ed. Joseph Wiesenfarth. Rodopi: Amsterdam, 2004. 5-18.