by Ford Madox Ford
Structured like a fireside storytelling, the protagonist explores the personalities, motivations and character of his respected, married, but habitual womanizer of the title's soldier, Edward Ashburnham, Edward's wife, the other women Edward falls in love with, himself and his own wife, who cheats on him with Edward.
It's somewhat darkly amusing that the character talks about the incident with such an unemotional, analytical perspective, like me writing this review about the novel, except he discusses the story of his own wife cheating on him as if he was helpless party to an overall driving narrative that he couldn't control.
(Mulling over Edward, who cheated with his wife). And yet again you have me. If poor Edward was dangerous because of the chastity of his expressions-and they say that that is always the ahll-mark of a libertine-what about myself? For I solemnly avow that not only have I never so much as hinted at an impropriety in my conversation in the whole of my days; and more than that, I will vouch for the cleanness of my thoughts and the absolute chastity of my life. At what, then, does it all work out? Is the whole thing a folly and a mockery? Am I no better than a eunuch or is the proper man-the man with the right to existence-a raging stallion forever neighing after his neighbour's womenkind?Interspersed throughout the book were mullings on the nature of relationships and on the characteristics of human nature that rang true, despite this being written in so long ago in 1915:
I don't know. And there is nothing to guide us. And if everything is so nebulous about a matter so elementary as the morals of sex, what is there to guide us in the more subtle morality of all other personal contacts, associations, and activities? Or are we meant to act on impulse alone? It is all a darkness.
Upon my word, I couldn't tell you offhand whether the lady who sold the so expensive violets at the bottom of the road that leads to the station was cheating me or no; I can't say whether the port who carried our traps across the station at Leghorn was a thief or no when he said that the regular tariff was a lira a parcel. The instances of honesty that one comes across in this world are just as amazing as the instances of dishonesty. After forty-five years of mixing with one's kind, one ought to have acquired the habit of being able to know something about one's fellow beings. But one doesn't.Also, I found this to be a random, but humorous line as well.
I chuckle over it from time to time for the whole rest of the day. Because it does look very funny, you know, to see a black and white cow land on its back in the middle of the stream, It is so just exactly what one doesn't expect of a cow.Lastly, I wanted to mention that it was refreshing reading an "older" fiction novel that had a distinctive American perspective, after being forced to read so many British historical novels in high school (ugh Thomas Hardy.) The references to American history and some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Britain always came as a surprise for some reason.
Anyhow, perhaps the older writing style takes some getting used to, but the overall story and the philosophizing on human nature can provoke one to think on one's own personality and relationships.