Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Parade's End pop quiz

Note: see the update for partial clarification

The name of Christopher Tietjens’ son in Parade’s End is
a) Tommie
b) Michael
c) Mark junior
d) All of the above

The correct answer is D, all of the above. Or at least I think it is. Through Part One, Chapter Four of The Last Post I have seen all three names used so far. There may be an additional name or two that shows up before I finish the book.

From Some Do Not…:
To his sister Effie, on the day after his wife's elopement, Christopher had said over the telephone: “Will you take Tommie for an indefinite period? Marchant will come with him. She offers to take charge of your two youngest as well, so you'll save a maid, and I'll pay their board and a bit over.”

The voice of his sister--from Yorkshire--had answered: “Certainly, Christopher”. She was the wife of a vicar, near Groby, and she had several children.

To Macmaster Tietjens had said: ”'Sylvia has left me with that fellow Perowne.'” Macmaster had answered only: “Ah!”

Tietjens had continued: “I'm letting the house and warehousing the furniture. Tommie is going to my sister Effie. Marchant is going with him.”

I won’t mention what a “decent Tommie” does and doesn’t do, as mentioned later in the book since Tommie may be passed off as a common term of endearment or a name for anyone in general.

From No More Parades:

She went on with her uninterrupted sentence to Cowley: Of course he may never be going to see his only son again, so it makes him sensitive...The officer at Paddington, I mean...”

She said to herself: “By God, if that beast does not give in to me to-night he never –shall- see Michael again...”

From The Last Post:

The boy was asking him if he would not speak to them. He said he was Mark’s nephew, Mark Tietjens, junior.

My limited experience with Ford shows that he can be both scrupulous and sloppy at the same time. In The Good Soldier, Ford's determination to use the same date for significant events makes for some clumsy blips in the timeline.

In Parade’s End, Ford's inability to be consistent with Christopher’s son’s name probably doesn’t say much in and of itself, but it makes it difficult to know how much to read into other inconsistencies. I have pointed out a couple of minor word changes when characters recall poems. I have not pushed these errors too much because of just such inconsistencies in other areas. In addition for this area, Ford gives Christopher an ‘out’ by saying that poetry isn’t his strong suit despite total recall in almost every other area. So when misquotes change meaning drastically, it’s hard to say what was intended and what wasn’t. I would love to say Ford intentionally undermined the characters' intent by the change of a word or two, but it's difficult to ascribe too much meaning in inconsistency when a character has a different name in each volume.

Update: Oh ye of little faith. And by "ye", I mean me. Ford usually gets around to clearing things up and I should have given him the benefit of the doubt. However he waited until Part Two to clarify the name differences.

The boy had originally been baptised and registered as Michael Tietjens. At his reception into the Roman Church he had been baptised "Michael Mark." Then had followed the only read deep humiliation of her life. After his Papist baptism the boy had asked to be called Mark.

This doesn't take into account "Tommie" in the first volume, but I'm sure Ford didn't know how much of a role the son would play at that point. On a side note, we finally find out what it takes to humiliate Sylvia.


Mel u said...

I think the misquotes and the confusion over names are an essential part of one of the themes of the work-that of partial knowledge or the invalidity of the concept of full knowledge of reality-I wonder how many of the large number of literary, historical and artisitic references are not a bit off?-I am reading the work as if these errors are intended-it makes it a better work if we do that, I think and it fits the themes of the work-it was a pleasure to read along with you!

Dwight said...

I want to believe such things are intended...yet something keeps holding me back. And some of the changes are minor, such as the difference in Mark and Christopher's age. Is it 15 years (Some Do Not) or 14 years (The Last Post)? Obviously it could be both unless they shared the same birthday. But as these little differences pile up I begin to wonder if Ford's just sloppy.

Ford is such an interesting character. The other day I had to re-read Hemingway's comments on him in A Moveable Feast. Hemingway initially comes off as a jerk ("to see if his coming fouled my drink" indeed). But at the closing of that chapter you begin to understand Ford's diminishment in their eyes.