Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Good Soldier: A chronology

The Good Soldier does not lend itself very well to discussion by chapters or parts, I’ll approach it in a different manner. I will start with a chronology, discuss the main characters, cover themes and motifs, review the 1981 TV movie version, and throw in anything else that makes sense in covering this challenging book.

Since John Dowell, the narrator of The Good Soldier skips around on the story, I thought it might be helpful to have a timeline of events. Please add a note if there are any errors. I hesitate to attempt this since it defeats the purpose of Dowell's narration--assembling a storyline separate from the telling of the story takes away from the effect. But at the risk of detracting from the novel, here’s a pass at the chronology:


1868: John Dowell born
1870/71: Edward Ashburnham born
1873: Leonora Powys born
August 4, 1874: Florence Hurlbird born
1892: Nancy Rufford born

1892: Edward and Leonora married

1897: La Dolciquita affair; Ashburnham’s move to India

1898: Mrs. Basil affair begins

August 4, 1899: Florence sets out on round-the-world trip with uncle and Jimmy

August 4, 1900: Florence starts affair with Jimmy

August 4, 1901: Florence and John Dowell marry, sail to Europe

1903: Maisie Maidan appears on the scene

July 1904: The Dowells meet the Ashburnhams at Hotel Excelsior in Nauheim
Note: At one point Ford says they met in August, but elsewhere said they had dined together for about a month before the next event happens. One other mention has Florence and Edward’s affair starting in 1903.

August 4, 1904: Trip to castle at M---; Maisie’s death

1904 and 1905: Edward visits the Dowells in Paris several times

1910: Leonora attempts to have an affair with Rodney Bayham but fails

July 30, 1913: John Hurlbird (Florence’s uncle) dies at age 84

August 4, 1913: Florence commits suicide

August 1913: Dowell goes to Waterbury to settle Florence’s uncle’s estate and Philadelphia for business (first visit to U.S. since 1901)

September 1, 1913: the Ashburnhams return to Branshaw

October 6, 1913: Edward Ashburnham gives a horse to Selmes

October 20, 1913: Nancy Rufford reads of the Brands’ divorce

Between Oct 20 and Nov 12: Edward announces he has written to Colonel Rufford that Nancy should go visit him

November 12, 1913: Leonora goes to Nancy’s bedroom to say Edward was in love with her; Nancy announces her intention to go to Glasgow (after receiving letter from her mother); Edward insists Nancy will go to India

November 13, 1913: Edward White telegraphs saying he will take Nancy’s mother to Italy

Nov/Dec 1913: Nancy comes to Edward’s bed, but Edward rebuffs her

Nov/Dec 1913: Dowell goes to Branshaw

December 1913: Edward’s suicide

Dec 1913/Jan 1914: Nancy, in Aden, sees of Edward’s suicide and loses her mind

January 1914: 10 days after Edward’s death Leonora tells of Florence’s suicide and unfaithfulness to Dowell

February 1914: Dowell begins writing the story; finishes most of it by August 1914

End of 1914: Dowell goes to Ceylon to bring Nancy back to Branshaw

Uncertain: Leonora marries Rodney Bayham

End of 1916: Dowell finishes the book

There are several contradictions and errors in Dowell’s story, likely errors by Ford but quite in character with Dowell’s uncertainty in telling the story. Ford’s insistence on pegging so many monumental events to August 4th (Germany invaded Belgium and thus Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914) caused a few things to move out of alignment.

Events from November 1913 onward are a little looser—events happen that don’t always line up or agree with the season. Many events have specific dates, but other events that are supposed to happen in between these dates may throw the alignment out of order. One of the more humorous errors has Dowell finishing the book in 1916 when Ford has it published in 1915.


Unknown said...

This is so amazing. I'm really glad you made this. I'm writing my thesis on The Good Soldier and it's extremely difficult to keep things straight. However, I noticed you're missing the Kilsyte case. I know it occurs prior to La Dolciquita, however I'm not sure of the exact date.

Dwight said...

I'm glad you found this helpful. I can't find my original notes, but I think I tried to include only events that could tied to a specific year. For the most part, anyway.

Good luck on your thesis!