Thanks for putting that doc together, Sarah. I added my info there.
A couple of thoughts as I await whether we’re zooming or discussing here–
I don’t think I fully grasp why Dowell is such an unreliable narrator. Is it something inherent in his character? Is he just oblivious to reality and therefore how could we trust anything he says? Is he devious on purpose?
My sense was he’s certainly oblivious, if we’re to believe he really didn’t know of anything Florence was up to. But when I think “unreliable,” I think of a narrator purposefully telling lies or misconstruing the truth. I didn’t really pick that up from Dowell, but I admit I may have missed some big cues or hints.
Dowell considering the Ashburnhams ‘good people’ resonates with me. I think my default position is to assume the best in people, and at times, in a bad way, this quality perhaps creates a bit of naivety in me. I think Dowell’s standard of goodness seems mainly class-based, along with an inherent assumption of goodness in people ‘like’ him. I think, whether or not I want to admit this, I have a bit of this default setting in myself.
I found myself sympathetic to Leonora, even really enjoying her during the first half of the book. I think she also has Stockholm syndrome, or (psychological) battered woman’s syndrome by the end, and she turns into a tragic character as I felt her loss of control with regard to Edward in a visceral way. Seems that she was fighting an impossible battle to harness Edward’s wandering eye, though she retained hope, largely, throughout. I thought the reference to Rodney Bayham having a mistress was a cherry on top of Leonora’s misery.
I don’t really sympathize with Edward much. I guess if his nature is truly so sensitive and big-hearted he just can’t help himself with all these mistresses, but come on, I was having a tough time feeling any sympathy at all. In fact, I was kind of glad Nancy stiffed him in the end, as I feel like that’s what Leonora had to feel for years and years. That said, I think the real “Good Soldier” is Dowell, if he’s to be believed and trusted. Followed by Leonora. Dowell faithfully takes care of of Florence for years and years, then takes care of Nancy at the end. In this way he is soldiering through duties. I think it’s a shame Dowell and Leonora can’t end up together.
I didn’t find myself really ‘liking’ any of the characters. I was sympathetic to Leonora, and felt bad for Dowell, and think Nancy was used like a pawn, but nothing in the book made me like any of them. I wasn’t really rooting for anybody or anything, more reading to see what happened as a curious, impartial observer.
I think I was satisfied with how the novel ends. As I wasn’t attached to anybody, I wasn’t really ‘rooting’ for anything. Seems like a lot of unhappy people who, for the most part (maybe Nancy excepted as she was young when dragged into all this) remain unhappy or die unhappy. Kind of reinforces the notion that life can suck no matter your station in life, the difference with these people is that they sort of made their beds. That sounds a little cruel but oh well.