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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Parade's end as a comic novel Kennedy, Alan Edward


This thesis attempts to establish that Ford Madox Ford's tetralogy Parade's End is in structure and essence a comic novel. The first chapter deals briefly with the fourth novel, The Last Post. The suggestion is made that it provides a comic conclusion to the tetralogy. Its vision is positive and promises a better world for mankind. Chapter Two follows the suggestion that Parade's End is comic with a theoretical analysis of the nature and form of comedy. The theory is taken largely from Northrop Frye's work Anatomy of Criticism. The central point made is that in comic action there is a motion from one type of society to another. In the new society, which is more humane than the old, the romantic hero and heroine are finally able to achieve happiness. There is a freeing of artificial bonds imposed by the old society, which is characterized in the tetralogy by the term "parade". When the old society has finally been defeated, a comic saturnalia breaks out in A Man Could Stand Up. That Parade's End so closely follows a comic pattern suggests that Ford was using the pattern very consciously. Chapter Three deals with Ford's technique of impressionism and discusses the relation of this technique to the mode of irony as defined by Frye. Ford's ironic vision is discussed with reference to his dual view of Tietjens' character as both heroic and "villainous". "Parade" is also to be considered ironically in Ford's work. The old code has produced a system which is apparently very beautiful and very virtuous but all systems are found to be inhibiting and deleterious. Using the concept of the dual vision, the rest of the thesis discusses some of the characters in the comic action. They are seen to be suffering from a bondage to a social code which represses man's instinctual nature. The code of repression leads to comic scenes such as the one in which Duchemin disrupts the elaborate breakfast party with his obscenities. Tietjens is the main concern and he is considered as an inhibitor of festivity who gradually, through the experience of war, is born into the comic hero, breaks with society and sets out to establish a new society in the pastoral world of the fourth novel. The war itself is seen as an extension of the nature and activities of society. A society which has imprisoned intimacy, communication, sexuality, love, explodes into war because it has an inadequate vision of the necessities of human existence. The novel, Parade's End, is, in part, an argument against rigid social institutions. The comic action moves away from rigidity towards a sense of flux. The old order decays, falls, but this fall is not tragic nor epic; it is found to be salubrious and comic. Tietjens sloughs off his old skin, his old principles, and frees his instinctual nature to become more human. What was feared is not to be feared; the passing of generations is one of the things that is. The other thing that is is Tietjens' character. His system goes but he himself does not. In contrast, his brother Mark, totally identified with the system, dies. The romantic hero and heroine, however, are saved, as they always are in a world of comic fiction.

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