"Howards End deals with  the fate of England based on conflicting values." Discuss.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Conflict in this novel is very prevalent, between the more traditional and materialistic Wilcox family and the bohemian, liberal Schlegel family then between the classes, with this conflict finding its most acute expression in the conflict between the Basts and the Wilcoxes. At the time of writing this novel, England was going through a number of massive social changes with issues such as the threat of war, mercantile expansion and women's emancipation creating a deep sense of unease about what the legacy of England was.

One way of viewing this novel is to see the house of Howards End as a tangible symbol of England. Ruth Wilcox, its first owner, comes from the yeoman class and can be said to stand for England's history. She bequeathes the house to Margaret Schlegel rather than her family because she feels that Margaret understands the spiritual significance of the house, rather than her family who just see it as another commodity. Ironically, however, Margaret Schlegel, through her marriage to Henry, gains Howards End anyway, and is left to reflect on her "triumph" in the final chapter of the novel:

Margaret did not answer. There was something uncanny in her triumph. She, who had never expected to conquer anyone, had charged straight through these Wilcoxes and broken up their lives.

The ending of the novel suggests one possible future for England, as both the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes reside together in Howards End. Note too that the heir to the house is Helen's illegitimate son, which some critics argue points towards a future where the divisions between the classes are over.


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