It seemed appropriate that the first of these posts was about Ford Madox Ford’s great First World War work, Parade’s End. In the penguin edition of the collective works, page 99 is in Some Do Not… – the first book of the tetralogy.
The opening sentence of the page is a great indicator of the work as a whole, and of FMF’s style and emphasis as a writer: “A deep emotion brought her whole white face to life”. It is the depictions of emotion which really bring this work to life and is a hallmark of the impressionist style of FMF’s writing. On this single page the inner emotions and characteristics of four different characters are presented.
First up is Mrs. Duchemin, who, along with her husband Mr. Duchemin, is the host of this gathering. Her opening presentation of emotion sees her flushed with colour and praising the values of Macmaster, focusing on his attributes rather than those of her husband. It becomes apparent that her husband however is both out of control, and the center of focus for all the guests – negatively. The tension in her builds throughout the page, with the emphasis being a 360 view of the scene rather than a focus on her and the different character’s vantage points, showing how everyone there is feeling increasingly awkward and failing to deal with the situation. This accumulates in the completely predictable climax to the page – “Mrs. Duchemin suddenly screamed”
The characters who are shown as responding to Mr. Duchemin’s encrazed state are as follows:
- Mrs Wannop – suddenly exclaims “oh!”
- Miss Wannop – “whose face grew slowly crimson as she continued to peel a peach.”
- Mr. Horsley – “had been preparing, according to his instructions from Mrs. Duchemin, to shout a description of an article he had been writing about…”
- Miss Fox – the light relief of the scene who is “totally deaf” who is completely oblivious to the scene comically begins to shout about the weather.
- Mr. Tietjens – being the constant English Tory Gentleman also tries to distract from the scene by talking to Miss Wannop “as loudly as he could”, though unlike Mr. Horsely he has not been coached to do so,
FMF’s 360 degree presentation of Mr. Duchemin’s outburst shows to the reader that it is not unexpected and that it is a regular occurrence with Mr. Horsley having been coached on what to do in these situations. The fact that this results in Mrs. Duchemin’s scream then shows the deep distress this causes her as whilst it is the unfortunate norm in her live, it still pains her to the extent of exclaiming her distress in a very unEnglish manner – though she is a Scot anyway.
Finally then, of course, the inner feelings of Mr. Duchemin are also presented, and one line gives explanation perhaps to all of his actions in this outburst: “Mr Duchemin, suddenly feeling the absence of the powerful will that had seemed to overweigh his own like a great force in the darkness, was on his feet, panting and delighted.” This suggests Mr. Duchemin is suffering from a psychological fight for his mind, with in this instance the madness winning and bringing him to this passionate fever – panting and delighted.
So then, what does this show of the book of large and of Ford Madox Ford? For me, I see that there is a mastery at work of presenting scenes to the reader with each perspective working to build up the moment – not one authoritative narrative voice or one protagonist’s view, but everyone working to build the picture.