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Literature / Parade's End

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Parade's End is the omnibus name for a historical tetrology by Ford Madox Ford about life in england before, during and after World War I. The novels revolve around "the last Tory", Christopher Tietjens, a statistician from a wealthy, upper-class family who serves in the British Army, and his disastrous marriage to a beautiful but selfish socialite.

The books in the series are:

  • Some Do Not... (1924)
  • No More Parades (1925)
  • A Man Could Stand Up— (1926)
  • Last Post (1928)

It was adapted by Tom Stoppard as a BBC2 miniseries starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Tietjens, Rebecca Hall as his wife Sylvia, and Adelaide Clemens as Valentine.

Contains Examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The Mini Series misses out the last book (set following the war).
  • Adaptational Heroism: The miniseries softens Sylvia up considerably in an effort to make her more well-rounded; for instance, in the books she mocked Christopher's obvious PTSD and memory loss, whereas the series makes it clear she does love Christopher (in a way) and is distressed at his condition, and comforts him. In the books she also enjoys keeping Christopher and Valentine apart because of her sadism, whereas in the series she's clearly suppressing emotion when she tells Valentine to "keep off the grass." Furthermore, the series has her contemplating divorcing (and thus freeing) Christopher, whereas in the books she takes pleasure in making sure he and Valentine stay ruined.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Averted with Christopher in regards to Sylvia and Valentine; his son with Sylvia trapped him in a largely loveless marriage while his child with Valentine is a constant source of worry for the latter, who knows how poor they are.
  • Betty and Veronica: Valentine and Sylvia. While personality-wise they're certainly Betty and Veronica respectively, the fact that Christopher is married to Sylvia makes Valentine the "dangerous" choice.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Sylvia is this to General Campion by the end. Although Sylvia is this to pretty much everyone in general.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the book. Christopher survives the war and is finally able to live in peace with Valentine,(though he unfortunately doesn't divorce Sylvia as he should have and now his lover is pregnant and they are financially struggling.) Sylvia has a change of heart and decides to leave the pair alone, but the couple are in financial difficulties and Mark passes away at the very end. The TV series is a more straightforward happy ending.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: And how! Christopher and Valentine spend three whole books struggling to share the smallest bit of affection. Subverted in the books, where they eventually end up together, but things don't necessarily get better for them.. Played straight in the series, however.
  • The Edwardian Era: The series is a study of how its traditions and demands affect the characters involved, until it starts to crumble following World War I.
  • General Failure: The British military command is seen as this by Christopher and, to some extent, Campion.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: YMMV as to which relationships "Good" and "Bad" apply to.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Christopher and Valentine, in contrast with cynical and selfish Fiery Redhead Sylvia.
  • Happy Ending Override: Whereas A Man Could Stand Up — ends with optimism for Christopher and Valentine's Earn Your Happy Ending and elopement, The Last Post, the final entry in the series, sees the consequences of the decision: while the two truly love each other unconditionally, Christopher's reputation has indeed been blown to smithereens thanks to Sylvia as well as his decision to leave his wife for another woman, forcing them on a modest salary from a small furniture business with a business partner that may be swindling them; Valentine is pregnant and not only acutely aware of their precarious financial position but also worrying that Christopher, who she is practically a carer for at this point, will leave her; and Christopher is still obviously suffering from memory loss and PTSD, and his forgetfulness has fiscal consequences on the family. Furthermore Mark's lifestyle is catching up to him and he's dying, and England at large is suffering from the aftereffects of the war and the old institutions are slowly crumbling.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Deconstructed. Sylvia gains the attention of nearly every man in the room when she enters it, causing their wives and girlfriends to become jealous and move closer to "reclaim" them. While she indeed uses such power to her advantage when she wishes, the mistrustful response annoys her as she has no real interest in them.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Though it takes until the end of the series in both the miniseries and the book, Sylvia does eventually have a change of heart and stops tormenting Christopher and Valentine.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Almost all of high society London thinks Christopher is a pimp, of all things.
  • Honor Before Reason: Christopher tries to embody this sense of "the old ways," much to the frustration of almost all the other characters, who are moving on with society as The Edwardian Era begins to fall apart; he only really stays with Sylvia and gives in to her manipulations because it's the proper thing to do. He does eventually break free of this, however.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Christopher and Valentine.
  • Hypocrite: Nearly everyone except Christopher demonstrates themselves to be one.
    • Sylvia gets enraged at the potential of Christopher cheating, after her own frequent affairs.
    • Edith Duchemin insinuates that Valentine had an abortion, rolls her eyes at her offended denial, and then has the audacity to toss her out of the carriage when Valentine points out Duchemin's own adultery. A true friend.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Sylvia uses this successfully on every male she wants to, except it doesn't work on Christopher. There's some suggestion that she loves him partly because of this, although it's also a major frustration.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Christopher is the only one more or less immune to Sylvia's powers, which both frustrates and attracts her.
  • Karma Houdini: In the miniseries, not so much the book: Although Sylvia doesn't end up with Christopher as she originally wanted, she doesn't wind up any worse off at the end, despite her bad behavior - the miniseries leaves it hanging whether Campion will accept her marriage proposal, although in the script he does deny her, which doesn't discourage her from the idea whatsoever.
  • Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Christopher's employer expects him to fudge the numbers to help their political allies. Christopher's not happy about it.
  • Love at First Sight: In the series, Valentine and Christopher both declare that they fell in love "from the first moment." Actually averted in the books, where Valentine isn't really attracted to Christopher when they first meet, but genuinely falls in love with him over time.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Leads to Sylvia and Christopher's Shotgun Wedding.
  • Manly Tears: Christopher breaks down several times; particularly when he realises he's fallen in love with Valentine but will have to make amends with Sylvia, and when he learns his mother's died.
  • Meaningful Name: Valentine, Christopher's true love.
  • Modern Major General: Most of the army officers except for Christopher. Especially Captain McKechnie.
  • Moment Killer: When Christopher is in Sylvia's hotel room in Rouen and Potty tries to barge in.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Christopher and McKechnie with their sonnet competition.
  • Only Sane Man: Christopher can come across as this, given the hypocrisy of just about every other character. On the other hand, his constant attempt to uphold the 'parade' of pre-war society exasperates just about everyone around him.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Christopher puts up with Sylvia's cheating and verbal abuse for years until she has the Groby tree cut down, via Mrs. de Bray Pape in the book.
  • Rags to Riches: McMaster is very conscious of the difference between his own background and his friend Christopher's upper class privilege.
    • Inverted with Christopher in the last volume, going from a life of upper-crust privilege to a modest life with Valentine, where she's mending her own underwear.
  • Sex Is Evil: Deconstructed. Valentine isn't even aware that sex can be used for anything other than baby-making at first and is horrified and disgusted at deriving joy from it, especially when she begins to have her own fantasies. She later comes to terms with her own sexual desires and even allows her students to read a supposedly scandalous book about married sex to help them develop healthy marriages.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Christopher suffers memory lapses after a head injury in the war.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Between Christopher and Sylvia, after she falls pregnant with a baby that might not even be his.
  • Skewed Priorities: General Campion walks right past the men Christopher has just dragged from the trenches and demands to know why Christopher is so dirty. In the middle of a war, after Christopher survived German shells.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Christopher is considered an extreme example even by other Edwardians. The scene where he learns of his mother's death is a masterclass.
  • The Hero: Christopher; unlike other war novels, the story focuses more on Christopher's moral and psychological growth rather than the war, even through he's part of it.
  • Tragic Hero: Christopher; although he survives the war, life doesn't get better for him due to his reputation being ruined thanks to Sylvia and his choice to leave his wife for another woman instead of divorcing her as he should have.
  • The Baby Trap: after having a quickie on a train, Sylvia tricks Christopher into marrying her when she discovers she's pregnant to avoid ruin since because of her promiscuous ways the poor man's probably not the father and he knows it. it says a lot that he marries her anyway, forgives her(maybe) and comes to love the child. He does ultimately leave Sylvia for good when she has Groby tree cut down at the end.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Potty Perowne.
  • The Vicar: Reverend Duchemin comes across as the Dirty variety with his ranting about corsets and organs.
  • War Is Hell: Ford wrote the novel after his own experiences in World War I and he doesn't pull any punches, nor does the miniseries.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: The paternity of Sylvia's son is unclear. In the novels, Michael's father is likely Drake, Sylvia's married lover — but in the BBC series it's possible Christopher is his father after all.
  • We Used to Be Friends: While Christopher still treats Macmaster with politeness, it's implied that Macmaster using Christopher for his job (and getting a knighthood for it) has ended their friendship.
  • World War One
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Inverted when Sylvia's boyfriend, Potty, is scared that Christopher will beat him up, and Sylvia tells Potty he needn't worry because "[Christopher] would not do anything to a girl like you."
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Sylvia pretends to be dying of cancer in yet another bid to manipulate Christopher into staying with her. The cutting down of Groby tree which Sylvia was responsible for, becomes the last straw for Christopher and he finally decides to severe all ties with his old unhappy life and leave Sylvia for Valentine.