Amongst the many confusing things about Parade’s End – the steam of consciousness, the ambiguities, the time jumps – is that for the modern reader the action harks back to a bygone period just before the Great War, while for the main protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, the belle epoque is the future, and much to be lamented. He was not impressed by 20th-century or even 19th-century values.
“By God!” Christopher exclaimed. “I loathe your whole beastly buttered-toast, mutton-chopped, carpet-slippered, rum-negused comfort …”
So if that ‘new’ era was what Christopher Tietjens was against, what was he for? Ford Madox Ford tries to explain, in a single sentence:
“Tietjens had walked in the sunlight down the lines, past the hut with the evergreen climbing rose, in the sunlight, thinking in an interval, good-humouredly about his official religion: about the Almighty as, on a colossal scale, a great English Landowner, benevolently awful, a colossal duke who never left his study and was thus invisible, but knowing all about the estate down to the last hind at the home farm and the last oak; Christ, an almost too benevolent Land-Steward, son of the Owner, knowing all about the estate down to the last child at the porter’s lodge, apt to be got round by the more detrimental tenants; the Third Person of the Trinity, the spirit of the estate, the Game as it were, as distinct from the players of the game; the atmosphere of the estate, that of the interior of Winchester Cathedral just after a Handel anthem has been finished, a perpetual Sunday, with, probably, a little cricket for the young men. “