E. M. Forster was not a prolific author. He is well known to students of fiction, however, as a thorough critic as well as an important novelist in his own right, and his Aspects of the Novel (1927) is a major contribution to study in that field. Prior to his best work of fiction, A Passage to India (1924), Howards End was ranked as his most mature novel. Particularly important in Forster’s fiction are his subtle and complete characterizations, his deft use of irony, the careful plotting of action, and the contrasts between illusion and reality. Howards End is second only to A Passage to India in illustrating these characteristics.
The country house has long been an important image and symbol in English literature. From its appearance in an early seventeenth century poem such as Ben Jonson’s “To Penshurst,” to its celebration by Alexander Pope in the eighteenth century, to its centrality in the nineteenth century fiction of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, and Henry James, to its prominence in the modern works of E. M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh, the manor house has provided not only a dramatic setting but also an embodiment of certain social, moral, and spiritual values. Despite its various literary manifestations, the apotheosis of the country estate is in essence a reaction against the introduction of the mercantile ethic, its manifestation in the phenomenon of industrialism, and the consequent growth of...
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