Saturday, 24 March 2012

No More Parades being the Second Book of Parade's End

In former times keeping up a good front involved passive-aggressive behavior as one of the great amenities of an advanced civilisation that perforce required the intermediation of tactful servants. In more reduced circumstances one might be constrained to leave notes - ‘I hate your fitted carpets, a gentleman’s rooms should have varnished boards with fine Persian rugs’ I seem to recollect.

Tietjens had offered her the protection of his home and therefore that should still be the case. He was not obliged to frequent her in any way. Think now of this proud and insolent woman used to making a prey of any man she chose to being left to her own. Her freedom is merely a desire to injure and to frustrate, Ford makes it clear that she does not sexually entertain any of those men that she fascinates, other than the one she initially went off with. The bizarre behavior that this flouting of her powers evokes is at the heart of the tetralogy. Still a man must stay with his commitments and go on parade.

This ‘parade’ is like the strange attractor of the various oscillations within the novel. It is the matter of pulling yourself together and presenting a face to the world. Ones luck has not been good, still:

Tietjens said:
‘Still sir....there are....there used to be... in families of .....position.... a certain.....’ He stopped.

The general said:

‘Well....’

Tietjens said:

‘On the part of the man... a certain... Call it parade!’

The general said:

‘There had better be no more parades...

The general talking to him is his O.C. Campion, best friend of his father and his godfather also. Due to a contremps in a hotel behind the lines involving Sylvia’s former lover, a drunken general and Tietjens himself Campion feels that Tietjens must be sent to the thick of the fighting where a big push by the Germans is expected. All in the name of good order and discipline. 

In Some Men Do he has been to the front and been invalided home due to shell shock with his memory impaired. In No More Parades he is back but this time because of his medical classification is in charge of logistics at a large base where men are gathered together for sending to the front by truck and train. Rouen pronounced Ruin by the Sargent is the name of the place. This is not exactly a place of safety either as shells are constantly landing. His regiment is a Welsh one and his strained nerves are shattered by the death in his arms of 09 Morgan whom he has refused permission to return home.

A man, brown, stiff, with a haughty parade step, burst into the light. He said with a high wooden voice:
‘Ere’s another bloomin’ casualty.’ In the shadow he appeared to have draped half his face and the right side of his breast with crape. He gave a high, rattling laugh. He bent, as if in a stiff bow, woodenly at his thighs. He pitched, still bent, on to the iron sheet that covered the brazier, rolled off that and lay on his back across the legs of the other runner, who had been crouched beside the brazier. In the bright light it was as if a whole pail of scarlet paint has been dashed across the man’s face on the left and his chest. It glistened in the firelight - just like fresh paint, moving!

One of the constant reports about men who fought in the Great War, the war to end all wars, was that they never talked about it. There were exceptions of course but few with the literary powers of Ford.

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