Howards End, E.M. Forster | Analysis

2388 words (10 pages) Essay

19th May 2017 English Literature Reference this

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In 20th century London, recognizing a persons social and financial class could be as easy as simply viewing their household. A house during early 20th century London can influence a person’s role in society of how they view themselves and what they are like compared to the other people around them. Essentially, through their household they establish their own identity. In E.M. Forester’s “Howards End,” the house Howards End is essential to the role of each character such that each one has their own meaning of the property. We can understand each character’s role to Howards End by comparing the household to the other homes in the story. When evaluating all these other homes and Howards End, we will see how Howards End is in the middle of it all to the character development of this story.

When comparing the feelings of the characters established through Wickham Place to that of Howards End, typical aspects of living in a household such as emotional attachment and the personal events that occurred there are critical to understanding the character development associated with Howards End. Wickham Place held a special meaning for the Schlegals family. In the beginning of Howards End the Schlegals view their home of Wickham Place as the Wilcox’s see Howards End, as an important and ancestral home. “The Wilcoxes continued to play a considerable part in her…when its takes all sorts to make a world?” (Forster, Ch. 12). Margaret is like what the Wilcoxes stand for, as the “grit” Even practicality of the real world. Although the Schlegels live in their own sphere of intellectual principles and ideals, the Wilcoxes represent a flip side of that way of life. In regards as to how this works with her personal feelings for the house, Margaret views that the house can any place, regardless of shape and size as long as it retains the same safety and comfort as well as possess familiar items that would make it a home. The Wilcoxes see houses as something material live in to go about one’s daily life, although Mrs. Wilcox has similar views of houses compared to Schlegels but with a higher spiritual sense of its meaning. Mrs. Wilcox mentions that she belonged to Howards End just as much as Howards End belonged to her. When we compare Wickham Place to Howards End by social class both houses seem relatively the same, but there exists a very significant difference. As we come to understand, Howards End is an ancestral home, having been passed down through the Wilcox family for many years. Wickham Place on the other hand, although the Schlegels have been raised there, is not owned by Schlegels and therefore exists the possibly of the Schlegels losing their home at any time. Though Wickham Place and Howards End are both on a similar level in terms of social class, there are significant differences which can be discovered that reveal how much more important Howards End is to the story than Wickham Place because of how the characters related to each home react to each of the two homes. After the events in Howards End with Helen and the Wilcoxes love situation, the Wilcoxes decide to move into a Flat close to the Schlegel’s home. They stay there instead of living in Howards End. If Howards End is a perfect home, than why would the Wilcoxes decide to move into a Flat? Let’s take into account the social housing market at the time as well as how Howards End is located outside secluded from the city. The Wilcoxes stay in a Flat in order to take care of business as well as socialize with others of high class. Their new Flat is used for several reasons. First, it is cost affordable for temporary living so they didn’t have to travel to and from Howards End to take care of the marriage business. Also, thos gives Paul a chance to go abroad. This opportune moment living in the flat actual provide the spark needed between Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret to settle the complications with the whole Helen and Paul incident and is the starting point for the relationship that sparks the story’s development on the two as Mrs. Wilcox says that, “… you see I lived at Howards End long, long before Mr. Wilcox knew it. I was born there.”(Forester 54). This speech tells Margaret the reason on why Mrs. Wilcox is so attached to Howards End and then after making a fool of herself with Dolly’s photograph is about to leave but stops when told by Mrs. Wilcox of how lovely the company was and hope to spend more time together. Now to look at the Flats use in a more society way by the way that, “the British class system was at its most rigid… changes in social thought, particularly the rising increase in socialism… and the status of women… in which there could be a more social mobility and people would become more liberal.”(Hattersley 243). This means that though the Wilcoxes are of an upper social class that does not mean that they will not accept lodging from a family member especially when there is business to be done. So the Flats compared to Howards End is more like a strike of good fortune that presents itself for their needs in the city, while unintentionally setting up a relationship that starts and strengthens a relationship that is focused on even after the death of one of the people in the relationship.

In the story Margaret travels with the Wilcoxes takes her to two places Oniton Grange and Ducie Street. Though the two are in the same class as Howards End they are different in feeling to the characters for many reasons both personal and geographically. First in response to Oniton Grange the first look we see of this is when Evie wedding is going on Margaret travels to the ancient estate with the Wilcoxes as Henry’s fiancé although Henry already wanted to liquidate anxiously. After the wedding Helen, Leonard and Jacky appear blaming Henry for Leonard losing his job because he recommended the job change. After Margaret gets Henry to talk to Leonard about a new job, Jacky talks up calling Henry “Hen” (Forester 166). This humiliating Henry exposing the affair he had with Jacky while with Mrs. Wilcox and tells Margaret that her plan to embarrass him had succeeded in telling her that she is release from her contract to him in marriage. Now when Henry was having the affair with Jacky women were not seen as more as people that men were with to look good to society. Then during the current time period, “The suffragist/suffragette movement helped to shatter the lingering ideals of womanhood.”(Eastaugh and Sternal-Johnson). This explains another reason that Margaret does not feel bad about what Henry did because she is secure with herself and that it’s really Mrs. Wilcox who should be ashamed because she was married to him while he was with Jacky. Then with how Henry wanted to liquidate the estate already can be explained by his, “My motto is concentrated. I’ve no intention of frittering away … “You’re clever little women, but my motto’s concentrate” (Forester 135). He believes in focusing intently on his own goals and just seeing what he wants to see in the world (or rather, what’s beneficial to him), He goes on always about business and Parliament or whatever goes on in society, but in reality he uses this because he is too afraid to show his emotions so he hides behind the business side of the world. Now Margaret would love to stay at Oniton Grange but Mr. Wilcox makes an excuse about the atmosphere not suitable for living. Next in the upper class Ducie Street comes into play as another plausible living place for Margaret’s new life with Mr. Wilcox. As Margaret was vacationing with Aunt Juley in Swanage, Margaret receives a letter from Mr. Wilcox, saying that he is moving to a different house and would be willing to rent the Schlegels his old one. He asks Margaret to come and inspect it. Margaret has a sudden premonition that he means to propose to her, but she dismisses the notion as silly. She makes the trip back to London, and takes a tour of the house with Mr. Wilcox–who, quite suddenly, does propose. But unfortunately they can’t live there either due to Henry saying, “… Only Ducie Street has huge drawback. There’s a mew’s behind” (Forester 130). Which he is saying without saying that he does not have pleasant memories there but it is a nice upper class neighborhood with beautiful homes all around. Though these two homes are on scale with Howards End, Oniton Grange is too far away to realistically living there. While Ducie Street in the London area has memories and reputation that could hinder the relationship of any kind for the two of them living there. Then in the case with Howards End it is a more proficient location to access the industrial rising London and have a calming effect of living that can support the growth of a relationship. Although Henry is still adamant about finding another home instead of just going to Howards End and makes the excuse that he leased out for three years and they couldn’t. That is how though the three are of the same scale it’s the characters responses to the places that truly make them different in the eyes of the beholder.

Now for Leonard’s Place, this would be the opposite poles of the scale with Leonard’s on the bottom and Howards End on the top and still finding meaning to the story on the class opposite to Howards End and the events that occurred because of this place. Leonard’s place is anything but upper class, one it’s a basement, two it’s smaller than a dorm room in a college, and finally he owns nothing even the bed he sleeps in. For his part, Leonard is poor, but not desperately so: He has just enough education and sufficient possessions to assert that he is not inferior to the rich. Although when Leonard is with the Schlegels he thinks, “If only he could talk like this, he would have … leisured women, who had been reading steadily from childhood?”(Forster 31). Leonard is overwhelmed by the cultural wealth of the Schlegels – he is limited by his own social background, and feels as though he could never possibly catch up. Though Leonard lives in on the edge of nothingness he thinks, “The boy, Leonard Bast, stood at the extreme verge of … nothing counts, and the statements of Democracy are inaudible.”(Forster 35). Poor Leonard Forster condemns him to a lifetime of inferiority in this single paragraph, based on his problematic existence between classes – he’s not at the extreme lower end of the spectrum, and is just genteel enough to have the desire to possess what the rich have…culture. Then after taking Mr. Wilcox’s advice on jobs he is tipped into the abyss and loses everything he had or in his situation rented and is left with books and china on the side of the road. Along with Jacky… enough said. In all when we look at Leonard’s Place in comparison to Howards End clear opposites of each while Howards End is warm, comforting and has the potential for growth. Leonard’s Place is dreary, cramped and lacks all potentials for a future that can sustain any sort of family.

In the novel Howards End and the action and people that are in it are expressed as if Forster realistically knew these actions first hand. In a way he does but not how the story tells it, Forster tells how he grew up by using the Wilcoxes as a surrogate for his father’s family while the Schlegels are representatives for his mother’s side. In his life growing up, “Forster’s father, an architect, died when the son was a baby, and he was brought up by his mother and paternal aunts. The difference between the two families, his father’s being strongly evangelical with a high sense of moral responsibility, his mother’s more feckless and generous-minded, gave him an enduring insight into the nature of domestic tensions,…”(E. M. Forster 1). So in his daily livings of these tensions between his families, he received firsthand knowledge of both side of the spectrum to broaden his horizons more on life. Now in the novel Forster portrays Howards End as a place down to earth and geographically away from most of civilization in a secluded area. Why, well Forster goes into, “A reconciliation of humanity to the earth and its own imagination may be ultimate ideal, but Forster sees it receding in a civilization devoting itself more and more to technological progress.”(E. M. Forster). He also uses the actions done by the Schlegal sisters and Mrs. Wilcox to show his appreciations for, “The values of common sense, goodwill, and regard for the individual, on the other hand, can still be cultivated, and these underlie Forster’s later pleas for more liberal attitudes.”(E. M. Forster). In all Forster uses Howards End, the place and actions that took place there in order to voice his beliefs in a non-imposing manner.

In the novel Howards End the house Howards End has been used to central the meaning to the story as each character has a different response to the property. To understand these feelings better the other homes in the story to be used describe how each house is different from Howards End by using their importance to branch from Howards End. Using such places as Wickham Place to Howards End in feeling from what the characters think of each other. Then understanding how different the Flats are to Howards End though both are homes the Wilcoxes live in. Also why places such as Ducie Street and Oniton Grange are still different from Howards End though all three are of the same social standing of each other. Then how places such as Leonard’s Place are on the opposite side of the poll to that of Howards End but still have meaning to it. Then explaining how Forster can express Howards End so well that it seems he himself has lived there. At the end of evaluating the other homes and Howards End the alongside the Forster explanation it is clear that Howards End is the core to which all the other homes branch from and make the story flow.

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