Thursday, 14 September 2000

Ford Madox Ford: A Man Could Stand Up (1926)

Edition: Penguin, 1982
Review number: 615

The third of Ford's Parade's End series also has a title which looks to the end of the First World War; it is a remark made by one of the men in the trenches that peace will make it possible for a man to stand up without risking being killed. However, when the end of the war comes, Christopher Tietjens is not in a position to stand up; he is suffering from shellshock exacerbated by the treatment he receives from his dreadful wife Sylvia. The outer two thirds of the novel are about this period in his life, the central part being a flashback to the last few months of the war when he was on the front line.

A Man Could Stand Up is the weakest of the four novels in Parade's End, not really advancing the plot nor giving any new insight into the characters. What it does is perform the task of informing the reader that Christopher (and, of course, the English gentleman he symbolises) was transformed to the point of destruction by the war. He wasn't completely destroyed, but he would never be the same, a shadow, almost a mockery of his former self.

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