The Art of Seduction: Parade’s End: ‘No More Parades’ by Ford Madox Ford [1925]

Initially I wanted to read Parade’s End book by book, should I need to take a mental break in between. However, as previously mentioned, Parade’s End has hit me in ways I never imagined it would. You do not often read a book or series that changes the way you think, that digs a hole so deep inside your mind you know it will be the basis of comparison and thought for all future literary endeavours.

No More Parades has been my favourite of the four novels of Parade’s End. Set in France at Christopher Tietjens post near the front line, No More Parades details Christopher’s work in the trenches and Sylvia’s demolition of Christopher’s character in her mission to retain him.

No More Parades is the second book of his four-volume work titled Parade’s End. The subject was the world as it culminated in the war; the story centers on Christopher Tietjens, an officer and gentleman, the last English Tory, and follows him from the secure, orderly world of Edwardian England into the chaotic madness of the First World War. Against the backdrop of a world at war, Ford recounts the complex sexual warfare between Tietjens and his faithless wife Sylvia.Synopsis from GoodReads

Fiction on or involving war is not something I gravitate too, I was fairly certain I would struggle through Ford’s passages on the horror that is war; I was wrong, the portrayal of The First World War is enthralling. Having only really studied The Second World War I am not very well read on The First; thanks now to Ford I cannot wait to delve into literature (fiction and non-fiction) and poetry of the period. Cleverly, Ford forgoes depicting the dramatic overall depravity of WW1 and instead focuses his attention on the banality of war and the lives of these poor soldiers fighting for their country.

We meet Christopher Tietjens at his post as Captain, he is under pressure to conform to the rules with little time or resources to do so. There is such exertion to remain sane while dealing with the trivial amongst the deplorable; soldiers die, but these men got on and did their duty.

Of all the talk of war in No More Parades the following passage affected me most, to the point where I will show it to anyone I can in my persistence to get everyone reading Parade’s End.

“The beastliness of human nature is always pretty normal. We lie and betray and are wanting in imagination and deceive ourselves, always, at about the same rate. In peace and war! But, somewhere in that view there are enormous bodies of men….. If you got a still more extended range of view over this whole front you’d have still more enormous bodies of men. Seven to ten million… All moving towards places towards which they desperately don’t want to go. Desperately! Everyone of them is desperately afraid. But they go on. An immense blind will forces them in the effort to consummate the one decent action that humanity has to its credit in the whole record of history; the one we are engaged in. The effort is the one certain creditable fact in all their lives…. But the other lives of all those men are dirty, potty and discreditable little affairs…. Like yours… Like mine…”Christopher Tietjens

These soldiers are scared, they do not want to be fighting war, however, they understand the greater scope of the roles they are performing.

With one half occupying the war, conversely, the other half of No More Parades deals with the presence of Sylvia in France, desperate to seduce her husband. Sylvia is a delight to read, I both loath and adore her simultaneously, she is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever read. Such is the beauty of Ford’s writing, his characters feel so real; you can visualise encountering any of them.

Sylvia finally begins to realise she is actually in love with Christopher, however, she has no clue how to entice him. Throwing a tantrum Sylvia reverts to childish tactics, unable to win him intellectually she decides to continue to trap him in misery and torment. Sylvia’s constantly forgets that Christopher is protecting her reputation, not her; he cares nothing for her beauty, he is in love with Valentine’s mind.

Unfortunately Sylvia only knows how to use her looks and sexual prowess, she spent so long indifferent to Christopher’s intellect she has no other method to entice him; he is aware of her charms. Sylvia makes the mistake of assuming Valentine is as devious as she is, wrapping Christopher around her finger. However, it is Valentine’s purity and lack of manipulation (or intelligence beyond needing to manipulate) that attracts Christopher.

I have barely touched on Christopher Tietjens journey through this novel; after Some Do Not…, where Sylvia is barely delved into, I found the unveiling of her manipulations in No More Parades as interesting as the depiction of war. No More Parades is Parade’s End’s emotional roller-coaster, and not just romantically! Certainly my favourite of the Tetralogy.

(I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Book Blogs.)

6 thoughts on “The Art of Seduction: Parade’s End: ‘No More Parades’ by Ford Madox Ford [1925]

  1. You know as much as it can be great I find myself becoming so wary of a book that has the potential to change the way I think. I suppose it’s fear of the unknown, but you always kind of hope nothing will put you off a book in that way. I’m intrigued as to how this series is changing your mind though, and it doesn’t sound that it’s bad so I guess that’s one more reason for reading them.

    And an enthralling book involving war sounds good, I’m the same as you on that subject. That’s a powerful quotation.

    I don’t know when I’m going to get to this series but I’m going to aim for within the next few months, and I look forward to it.

    Like

    1. Really, I should tone down my insistence a little, it can be off-putting. I know I become wary when friends tell me over and over I’ll love something – it sets the standard too high.

      I know what you mean about being then put off the book, I would have said a few years ago that The Alchemist was the best book I had ever encountered, but now, not so much. I still love it, and what it taught me, but it hit me at a period in my life where it made the biggest impression. So perhaps, as I continue to develop as a human, something will some along and replace Parades End, however, it won’t replace the impact and influence it has had right here, right now.

      I think that is the mark of a good book, it never degrades in your mind as time passes, you just start to think about it differently.

      Like

      1. Oh no, if anything you’re helping me keep it in mind! I reckon insistence between people who share a love for a subject is fine. You used to love The Alchemist? I feel the same – still love it, but see its flaws. In a way I think it’s good that our favourites are being constantly trumped by others, for the reason you give, developing oneself. We’re constantly educating ourselves and enjoying it every step of the way.

        Differently and with added analysis and debate.

        Like

Leave a Reply to Charlie Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.