This is the saddest story I have ever heard.
This is the line written by John Dowell that opens the novel. He prefaces his story with his own judgment, saying that the "tale of passion" he promises will also be a tragedy. The word choice in this quotation is very important. This is the saddest story that Dowell has ever heard. The word "heard" implies that he has not lived the story or experienced the events, but merely "heard" about them. His statement is accurate. Although Dowell was present in many of the scenes he described, his eyes were closed to the reality of what was occurring. He was so blind, ignorant, or naive, that the significance of the events can only be felt as he writes and reflects upon what has happened.