Saturday, March 31, 2007
Ford's Life Experiences Reflected in Some Do Not...
The characters and plot of Parade’s End are introduced in the first book, Some Do
Not…Many of these characters and their beliefs are reflections of Ford Madox Ford’s own living experiences. Some of the characters are either based on acquaintances or friends taken from some point of the author’s life. For example, the character of Christopher Tietjans is actually based on Ford’s friend Arthur Marwood (Gose 445).
According to Ford, Marwood was labeled the Last Tory, a man who “was physically very strong and very enduring. And he was, beneath the surface, extraordinary passionate—with an abiding passion for the sort of truth that makes for intellectual accuracy in the public service” (Gose 445). Marwood was also “a man of infinite benevolence, comprehensions and knowledges” (Gross 445). When hearing these characteristics of Marwood, which are further developed in Ford’s 1933 memoir, It Was the Nightingale, the reader instantly thinks of the novel’s protagonist, Christopher Tietjans, who is introduced on a “railway carriage” talking to his friend MacMaster about the struggles of his marriage (Parade’s End 3). Although it appears that Ford modeled his character after his friend Marwood, there are traits and experiences from Ford’s own life that appear in Tietjans’ character. Ford discusses himself as a “theatrical figure,” a man who acknowledges himself and the effects of his actions on those who surround him. This self-consciousness is shown throughout the novel, as Tietjans stood “rather clumsy and worn out, but completely expressionless. He had looked straight into the reflection of her [Sylvia’s] eyes and then looked away. He moved so that his profile was towards her” (Parade’s End 386). The significance of this passage comes from the stuffed head of the elk which is previously mentioned lingering on the wall, and the riding whip which he holds in his hands. Tietjans marriage to Sylvia is symbolized through the “whip” as he was constantly being ridden by her. Through this description Ford gives Tietjans his “own theatrical sense of the perfect ‘blocking’ of a scene” (Green 21).
Another comparison exists in that Tietjans, a man who worked behind the desk, participated in WWI, a reflection of the novelist, Ford, and his wartime experience where he reached the position of second lieutenant. Like Ford, Tietjans becomes wounded and suffers from weak lungs making him ineligible to participate in further battle, eventually being discharged from additional duties (Gose 446). Both men also feel the pressures in having to act like a gentleman, yet still act on their desires in regards to their relationships with love interests other than their wives. Ford eventually leaves Violent Hunt to be with the much younger Stella Bowen, similar to Tietjans eventually wanting to be with Valentine Wannop.
Ford wanted German citizenship in order to divorce his wife and become the husband of the much older Violet Hunt. In 1913, it appeared obvious that he would not attain citizenship, so Ford returned to England and suspicion of his connections to Germany grew. This portion of his life is evident in the character of Valentine Wannop. She is a woman who is criticized because of her peacekeeping beliefs, which as a result labels her in the public eye as pro-German, in a time where the English despised the Germans, labeling them as the obvious enemy.
Many of the comparisons between the life of Ford and the characters introduced in his first book, Some Do Not…are more distinguished than others. With even a brief biographical sketch of Ford, the reader of Parade’s End can see traces of Ford’s own life clearly flickering through the characters of his novel.
Ford, Ford Madox. Parade’s End. London: Penguin Books, 2002.
Gose, Jr, Elliott B. “Reality to Romance: A Study of Ford's Parade's End.” College English 17.8 (1956): 445-450
Green, Robert. “The ‘Exploded Traditions’ of Ford Madox Ford.” ELH 48.1 (1981): 217-230.