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Book Review: “The Good Soldier”; “I know nothing-nothing in the world- of the hearts of Men.”

Updated on July 7, 2017

The book, “The Good Soldier” is as narrated by John Dowell. The timeline of the novel is based on events that transpired before the World War I. The narrator gets down to the story that reveals skewed relationships and irrational decisions by a number of main characters who are influenced by love and relationship ties. The unpredictability of the events that shape the scope of the novel are majorly based on the love and relationship. On this regard, it is necessary to analyze the statement, “I know nothing–nothing in the world–of the hearts of men,” (Ford, 3). The statement is a holistic reflection of what the entire novel on the basis of the theme, style, and format.

“I know nothing–nothing in the world–of the hearts of men” is a passage on the book. The passage, in a very significant way. In fact, it forms the basis of a major premise on which the book is founded. In this regard. There are various perspectives upon which it is evident that the passage is reflected upon in the book. The following is an analysis of the contextual “I know nothing–nothing in the world–of the hearts of men” represents the form, theme, and style of the book, and how this passage relates to the entire book.

A few examples will put the above statement into context. To start with, the content of the passage forms its basis. It is very clear from the context of the book that there are a lot that remains obscured. A few examples from the context of the book will suffice. The author talks about the obscurity that engulfs the matters pertaining relationships (6). He says that the matters of sexual morality are so unclear as to whether anyone should act on the basis of morality or impulse. I don’t know at all (5). The aspect goes to the theme of obscurity that the author comments that he knows nothing at all. Throughout the novel, it is clear that matters of relationship and intimacy remain controversial; to some essence with no predictable path.

Throughout the novel, there are various instances of relationships going sour and cheatings. In this regard, it is clear that there is little is known about the relationships. A story of a woman named Florence is told. She is said to be a woman who faked ailment to stay with Jimmy, and cheat on her lover John (9). However, she still cheated on John with Edward, but upon realizing that Edward was still having an affair with Nancy Rufford (54). At this point, it is unclear how she can choose to commit suicide on an issue that she has continually been engaging in, but when it is reciprocated, she finds it so hard to accept (10). In other words, matters of love are unfathomable.

Another example will help put the issue into perspective. In the context of the novel, there is a sense of lack of moral restraint in matters of relationship. In other words, it appears that the characters have little to about how the treat and approach matters of love. The affair that Edward had with Nancy is baffling (8). To start with, Nancy had to leave the convent to go and start an affair with Edward. Edward plans how Nancy is going to move to India, so that they can marry later, Leonora pretends that she is divorcing Edward so that he can have an opportunity to marry Nancy (8).

On the flipside, with ill motive, she spoils the mind of Nancy by telling her how Edward has had a scandalous sex life (128). Nancy abandons Edward and this leads to Edward committing suicide. In this regard, it is so unclear why Leonora had such an ill-motive, and why Edward chose to commit suicide rather than facing Nancy and seeking to explain himself (128). In other words, there is so little we can know about matters of love.

On the analysis, it is very clear that Edward has had a number of affairs. Therefore, it is never clear why he chose to commit suicide when his relationship with Nancy came to a naught. Therefore, it is no surprise at all when the true import of the statement that “I know nothing–nothing in the world–of the hearts of men” (3). Whatever transpired in his heart is unclear given the choice of suicide on matters that he had had great experience in throughout his life (136).

Based on the style and approach employed by the author in the novel, the use of controversial and deconstruction analysis has been used consistently. On the topic about the matters of the heart, it is clear that he author views them as being unpredictable and incomprehensible. An example here will suffice.

John Dowell, a major character in the novel, marries an heiress who confesses that she does not even love him (139). It is baffling how anyone can make a choice of marrying a person who confesses openly not to even love him. Therefore, the motive and choice of Dowell are not easily comprehensible, or in other words, beyond what the mind can fathom. A claim that, “I know nothing–nothing in the world–of the hearts of men” is absolutely true.

Again, John Dowell is portrayed as being indecisive and he has little capacity to monitor and understand the emotions of the people around him (145). in this regard, even his wife, Leonora, ends up controlling her (145). In matters of the heart, his indecisiveness is the epitome of his vulnerability in the novel. It is sufficiently clear that his decision-making capacity and ability are hugely limited when it comes to matters of relationships.

“I know nothing–nothing in the world–of the hearts of men,” is a reflection of the inconsistent narration of Dowell. On the face of it, the statement is not free-flowing. It is by no means a direct statement. In the same regard, the theme of inconsistent, non-chronological narration is represented in the text. In the novel, numerous instances of these inconsistencies are evident.

On the issue about form, the book is largely based on the narrations of Dowell, who is portrayed as an unreliable narrator (145). In this light, it is sufficiently clear that he cannot really be trusted due to inconsistencies of the information that he offers. However, there is no other choice of whom we can rely on to get the information.

Therefore, the form of narration is uncharacteristically non-chronological. The narrator keeps on moving from one aspect or affair to another in a non-systematic order (5). Eventually, the novel ends up adopting a non-chronological approach. However, the fact that love and relationships ends up making up the major theme of the novels leads to a form that can be predictable in the book.

All along, matters relating to love and intimacy leads to numerous characters having different relationships throughout the book. It is sufficiently clear that the weight of love and the guilt of being cheated on, or malice ends up claiming the lives of three major characters in the novel (60). Eventually, it makes a fourth character mad.

However, the fact that the novel is based on a narration of John Dowell, who is portrayed as an unreliable narrator leaves the reader with the option of having to decide whether to holistically adopt the story as narrated by him or to make changes wherever and whenever he deems necessary (146S). Nevertheless, the form of the novel is based on an ideology of the unfathomable issues relating to the approach that people accord relationships and matters love.

Edward is a soldier. However, the title of the novel, “The Good Soldier” is derived from his character and is a basis of a critical analysis of his approach to different issues in life (79,81). In this regard, this forms a platform of critical analysis, comparison and contrast that is largely the basis of the book. The book is ridden with affairs that are based on selfish and unclear interests. Even the married characters end up having affairs with more than one person after marriage. This is baffling and incomprehensible. It is strange to think that all the persons who end up committing suicide on the basis of relationships going sour have had other affairs. it is difficult to understand the rationale of their decisions having in mind that their character is already used to having multiple partners at the same time.

Thematically, it can only be explained on the basis of how incomprehensible the matters of the heart are. On the same note, the book is based on the events as narrated by an unreliable narrator who leaves gaps in the text for the reader to fill in. however, it is a choice for the reader to decide whether to believe Dowell’s narrations or not. Nevertheless, the unanswered question remains; what can be known about the matters of the heart of men?


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