Howards End, E. M. Forster
Howards End E. M. Forster
English novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, and biographer.
The following entry presents criticism on Forster's novel Howards End (1910). See also E. M. Forster Criticism (Volume 1), and Volumes 2, 3.
In Howards End (1910) Forster explored the often violent and disturbing struggle for survival and dominance among English social classes in the first years of the twentieth century. Ultimately arguing in favor of the fundamental integrity of the individual and the primacy of personal relations, Howards End focuses largely on the simplicity of its famous dictum: “Only connect!”
Plot and Major Characters
Howards End begins with the depiction of a series of seemingly unrelated encounters and events that soon cause the lives of individuals in three distinct English social classes to intertwine, with permanent and sometimes shocking consequences. Margaret and Helen Schlegel are sisters who represent the middle level of the English middle class. Financially independent but not wealthy, the Schlegel sisters are categorized as intellectual humanists, devoted to the arts and literature rather than the capitalist interests of the upper-middle-class Wilcox family, who cannot be bothered with intellectual or emotional issues because they are entirely focused on rigid financial and social pursuits. A third class level is illustrated by Leonard Bast, a lower-middle-class clerk at an insurance company who loses his job because of some advice he takes from Henry Wilcox. It is primarily Margaret Schlegel who serves as the bridge among the three social groups. Margaret befriends Henry Wilcox's first wife, Ruth, who is the inheritor of the country house Howards End and who feels an affinity for Margaret that she does not have with any of her family; eventually, she tries to bequeath Margaret the house in her will. Margaret also becomes closely acquainted with Henry, whom she eventually marries. Helen has a child with Leonard Bast, who dies from heart failure after receiving a beating from Henry's son Charles. After a series of misunderstandings and separations, the three main characters—Margaret, Helen, and Henry—are reunited at Howards End, where they all choose to live, along with Helen and Leonard's child. Margaret's famous plea, “Only connect,” beseeching others to observe and unite the various aspects of life—the mundane and the extraordinary—serves as a unifying theme among the disparate classes and characters.
Forster's themes in Howards End are many and varied. Most important is the antagonism among the classes in Edwardian England. The second half of the nineteenth century in England—as well as in America—saw a burgeoning of the middle and upper-middle classes, as industrial spread and businesses, particularly factories, grew. This business class, which had money but few family or social connections to the gentry, was known for its pragmatic approach to living, valuing material acquisition over patronage of the arts and liberal education. The tension between the Wilcoxes and the Schlegel sisters revolves around these differing values. By making the sisters part German, Forster also called to attention to sociopolitical relations between England and Germany at the turn of the century. The sisters' relationship with each other also is important to understanding Forster's themes. With each sister involved with men of different classes, they represent a separate facet of class awareness. The central symbolic image in the novel is Howards End, the house itself, which serves as a symbol of unity and community in an unstable and chaotic social world.
Howards End is acknowledged as one of Forster's greatest achievements in fiction. Critics have noted, however, that Forster seemed uneasy about representing physical relationships. The events that occur between Helen Schlegel and Leonard Bast have received the most negative commentary, with many critics finding their relationship baffling. Nonetheless, opinion of Howards End generally places it among Forster's most important commentaries on Edwardian society.
Where Angels Fear to Tread (novel) 1905
The Longest Journey (novel) 1907
A Room with a View (novel) 1908
Howards End (novel) 1910
The Celestial Omnibus, and Other Stories (short stories) 1911
Alexandria: A History and a Guide (nonfiction) 1920
The Story of the Siren (short stories) 1920
Pharos and Pharillon (nonfiction) 1923
A Passage to India (novel) 1924
Aspects of the Novel (criticism) 1927
Abinger Harvest (essays) 1936
Two Cheers for Democracy (essays) 1951
The Hill of Devi: Being Letters from Dewas State Senior (nonfiction) 1953
Marianne Thornton: A Domestic Biography (biography) 1956
Maurice (novel) 1971
(The entire section is 82 words.)
SOURCE: Hall, James. “Family Reunions: E. M. Forster.” In The Tragic Comedians: Seven Modern British Novelists, pp. 11-30. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963.
[In the following essay, Hall argues that Forster presents a conservative view of family dynamics in Howards End.]
The breakup and continuance of the family are such consistent themes in E. M. Forster's novels that every reader must understand them in a way. But, asked anything specific about them, he is unlikely to understand much more than that they exist, and even less likely to understand their relation to other themes to which critics have given a more prominent place. So my turning Eliot's title to Forster's feeling for family continuity does not mean to be whimsical but to focus an apparent paradox. Most critics of Forster have made much of his liberalism. But, unlike Eliot, the avowed conservative, who in his plays distrusts a return to family roots, Forster in every novel but one uses a sense of family continuity to make reconciliation with the adult world possible. A conservatism about the family sustains his liberalism about other institutions—though sustains is a simple word for a more dynamic process.
Roughly, two of Forster's novels are about breaking away from the family, two about trying to restore it, and the fifth about trying to live without it. Where Angels Fear to Tread and A...
(The entire section is 7302 words.)
SOURCE: Westburg, Barry R. “Forster's Fifth Symphony: Another Aspect of Howards End.” Modern Fiction Studies 10, no. 4 (winter 1964-65): 359-65.
[In the following essay, Westburg interprets Helen Schlegel's response to hearing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as indicative of her feelings about the various dichotomies the novel suggests.]
Helen Schlegel, one of E. M. Forster's characters in Howards End, envisions “heroes and shipwrecks in the music's flood” when she hears Beethoven's Fifth Symphony at a Queen's Hall concert; and she goes on to imagine “gusts of splendour, gods and demi-gods contending with vast swords, colour and fragrance broadcast on the field of battle, magnificent victory, magnificent death!” (p. 33).1 Purists of the arts would perhaps object to Helen's response to the symphony, because she here interprets music partially in terms of visual—and, as the word “fragrance” suggests, olfactory as well—sensations, a type of “confusion of genres” that Lessing, for one, warned against in his Laocoon. Lessing argued, it will be remembered, that there are essentially two kinds of art: plastic and narrative. Painting and sculpture, he says, differ from poetry and music in that, while the former arts make use of “forms and colors in space,” the latter are based upon “articulate sounds in time”; and one of these distinct modes of...
(The entire section is 3291 words.)
SOURCE: Thomson, George H. “Howards End.” In The Fiction of E. M. Forster, pp. 170-99. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967.
[In the following essay, Thomson examines the symbolic objects in Howards End.]
Rigidity and Chaos, these two forms of the negative are directly opposed to the creative principle, which encompasses transformation, hence not only life but also death. Across the diabolical axis of rigidity and chaos cuts the transformative axis of life and death.
The center of our attention in Howards End is to be the object as archetype rather than the character as archetype. But if we are properly to understand the symbolic objects of the novel, we will have first to take some notice of Mrs. Wilcox, for every one and every thing is a fragment of her mind (p. 331). She is the most inclusive of all the symbols of totality. Knowing this, we may find it especially interesting to observe the way she is first described and the way she first breaks into the action.
Helen Schlegel writes her sister Margaret that early in the morning she saw Mrs. Wilcox walking in the garden. “Then she walked off the lawn to the meadow. … Trail, trail, went her long dress over the sopping grass, and she came back with her hands full of the hay that was cut yesterday …” (p. 4). When...
(The entire section is 13354 words.)
SOURCE: Levenson, Michael. “Liberalism and Symbolism in Howards End.” Papers on Language and Literature 21, no. 3 (summer 1985): 295-316.
[In the following essay, Levenson argues that Howards End “gives the experience of modernity a turn toward politics and toward mysticism.”]
Liberalism and symbolism, both unwieldy terms, become more unwieldy when brought together. They seem to belong to such different orders of description and such different strains of modernity that it provokes a small mental shudder to recall that John Stuart Mill and Charles Baudelaire were near contemporaries. Although no one would mistake E. M. Forster for either Mill or Baudelaire, liberalism and symbolism are prominent in his ancestry, and Howards End (1910), which occupies a place in both lineages, marks a striking point of connection between political hopes and literary tropes. The only thing more vivid than Forster's perception of social constraint was his perception of imaginative escape. Looking at the world from the standpoint of both historical necessity and visionary possibility, he saw depth in modern experience, but also incongruity, because he saw with one liberal and one symbolist eye. It is necessary to correct for the parallax. Howards End gives the experience of modernity a turn toward politics and toward mysticism. It asks what happens to the self when its own modes of...
(The entire section is 8964 words.)
SOURCE: Hoy, Pat C., II. “The Narrow, Rich Staircase in Forster's Howards End.” Twentieth Century Literature 31, no. 2-3 (summer-fall 1985): 221-35.
[In the following essay, Hoy discusses Howards End as a record of Forster's disillusionment with nineteenth-century idealism.]
Forster's earlier novels, as well as Howards End, were shaped by his desire to do for modern England what Arnold and Ruskin had tried to do for Victorian England: deliver her from the repressive forces that were destroying her spirituality, her redemptive power. But Howards End is different. Earlier, Forster had advocated the body not the mind as the primary source of redemption; yet his was a cry, not for hedonism but for a radical revision of the terms of Progress in modern culture. Implicit in those earlier novels was his rejection of an “enlightened deliverance” growing out of pure rationalism. He kept reminding his readers that the body as well as the mind knows; he did so by setting passion, intuition, feeling, and vitality above reason, intellect, social respectability, and culture.
In Howards End Forster imagines a salvational scheme that is more purely English and in so doing rearranges his priorities, tries to set mind above body. He deprives Howards End of the saving power of Italy. The mind and its byproduct, the ideal, are paramount. And even though a...
(The entire section is 6398 words.)
SOURCE: Pinkerton, Mary. “Ambiguous Connections: Leonard Bast's Role in Howards End.” Twentieth Century Literature 31, no. 2-3 (summer-fall 1985): 236-46.
[In the following essay, Pinkerton finds that Forster's treatment of the character Leonard Bast in Howards End prefigures his ending of A Passage to India.]
E. M. Forster, in “The Challenge of Our Time” (1946), clarified what he saw as the dilemma of Victorian liberal humanism:
The education I received in those far-off and fantastic days made me soft, and I'm very glad it did, for I have seen plenty of hardness since, and I know it does not even pay. … But though the education was humane, it was imperfect, inasmuch as we none of us realized our economic position. In came the nice fat dividends, up rose the lofty thoughts, and we did not realize that all the time we were exploiting the poor of our country and the backward races abroad, and getting bigger profits from our investments than we should. We refused to face the unpalatable truth. …
All that has changed in the present century. The dividends have shrunk to decent proportions and have in some cases disappeared. The poor have kicked. The backward races are kicking—and more power to their boots. Which means that life has become less comfortable for the Victorian liberal, and that...
(The entire section is 4676 words.)
SOURCE: Daleski, H. M. “Howards End: Goblins and Rainbows.” In Unities: Studies in the English Novel, pp. 111-25. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1985.
[In the following essay, Daleski examines personal fragmentation in Howards End.]
About midway through Howards End—in a passage that is right at its center—the novelist describes a pervading condition of personal fragmentation:
Margaret greeted her lord with peculiar tenderness on the morrow. Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born …
It did not seem so difficult [i.e., for Margaret to help Mr. Wilcox]. She need trouble him with no gift of her own. She would only point out the salvation that was latent in his own soul, and in the soul of every man. Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.
(The entire section is 7408 words.)
SOURCE: Feltes, N. N. “Anyone of Everybody: Net Books and Howards End.” In Modes of Production of Victorian Novels, pp. 76-98. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
[In the following essay, Feltes examines the ways in which Forster's narrative strategy in Howards End reflects the history of the publishing industry at the time.]
In her book on Mudie's Library, Guinevere Griest's answer to her own question, “Who killed the three-decker?” is neither precise nor satisfying. She rightly dismisses the proud claims of individuals, of George Moore or his publisher, Henry Vizetelly, or of other publishers who had independently issued single-volume novels in the 1890s, but she then cites only “years of economic pressure” before shifting her attention completely: “What is remarkable about the end of the three-volume form is the completeness and rapidity of its disappearance.”1 Royal Gettmann, in the other extended study of the sudden disappearance of novels in the three-volume format, is more specific in assigning a cause—“the three-decker was bound to disappear because it had ceased to be profitable to the libraries”2—but he then becomes too engrossed in the “pounds, shillings and pence” of Mudie's diminishing profits (257-58). Gettmann's analysis is based on the account books and correspondence of the house of Bentley, so that his explanations...
(The entire section is 8904 words.)
SOURCE: Meisel, Perry. “Howards End: Private Worlds and Public Languages.” In The Myth of the Modern: A Study in British Literature and Criticism after 1850, pp. 166-82. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.
[In the following essay, Meisel explores the influence of major writings and thoughts of the Bloomsbury group on the themes in Howards End.]
The senior Forster's Howards End recapitulates the myth of the modern at the level of story while simultaneously putting it into question at the level of narration. The manifest thematic that leads Forster, quite ironically, to ask that we “Only connect” in the book's epigraph turns out to be evacuated by the conspicuous connections systematically demonstrated by the behavior of its language, especially those between the supposedly sundered realms of the private and the public. Like The Mayor of Casterbridge, Howards End has a calculating myth of the modern that is the wittingly defensive function of a belatedness that its rhetoric takes into account.
Like The Waste Land, however, the novel as a whole appears to be the romance announced at its conclusion, replacing at its terminus the loss of Leonard Bast with the gain of a pastoral child—a lost one now found—who serves as the ideal of a primal harmony that is as wishful as the elf's own ritual invention. Howards End itself, of course, is a...
(The entire section is 7259 words.)
SOURCE: Delany, Paul. “‘Islands of Money’: Rentier Culture in E. M. Forster's Howards End.” English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 31, no. 3 (1988): 285-96.
[In the following essay, Delany discusses Forster's “lifelong preoccupation” with the privileged lives of upper-class Britons as revealed in Howards End.]
When he was eight years old E. M. Forster inherited eight thousand pounds from his great-aunt Marianne Thornton, who came from a well-to-do family of Victorian bankers. His widowed mother had about the same amount of capital, ensuring him a comfortable home, and a Public School and Cambridge education. The Longest Journey deals with the emotional consequences of this secure and sheltered upbringing; Howards End, though not directly autobiographical, examines Forster's economic origins. The novel's motto, “Only connect …” is usually read as a plea for emotional openness; but Forster is equally concerned with the subtle connections between a class's mentality and how it gets its means of life. I want to show that Forster had a lifelong preoccupation with the morality of living on unearned income; and that in Howards End his aim was to move from his own experience of privilege to a comprehensive judgment on the kind of country Edwardian Britain was, and should be.
Like Marx and Freud before him, Forster is possessed by the...
(The entire section is 5288 words.)
SOURCE: Schneidau, Herbert N. “Safe as Houses: Forster as Cambridge Anthropologist.” In Waking Giants: The Presence of the Past in Modernism, pp. 64-102. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
[In the following essay, Schneidau explores the ways in which Howards End evidences “autochthony,” or “an ideology of sacred space,” as symbolized by the house Howards End.]
Can what they call civilization be right, if people mayn't die in the room where they were born?
Many agree with Lionel Trilling that Howards End is “undoubtedly Forster's masterpiece.”1A Passage to India, written much later, may have reached a wider audience, partly because of the topicality of its antiracist and anticolonialist sentiments, and of course Forster enthusiasts can make cases even for the earlier works. But for those interested in the twentieth-century novel, this creation of “1908-1910” counts as a high-water mark for Forster and the genre. The British novel just before the Great War attained a level it has not, in general, reached again, and the best novels of the 1920s were written by those who had attained maturity and mastery before 1914. The War harrowed English sensibilities and sent several of its writers into spiritual exile, ironically imitating James Joyce's prewar remove. Their...
(The entire section is 15706 words.)
SOURCE: Kazin, Alfred. “Howards End Revisited.” Partisan Review 59, no. 1 (winter 1992): 29-43.
[In the following essay, Kazin examines Howards End from the perspective of historical events of the later twentieth century.]
Howards End appeared in 1910, a date that explains an idealism important to our understanding of the book. It was E. M. Forster's fourth novel. He had written in rapid succession Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), and A Room with a View (1908). Howards End was the last novel he was to publish for fourteen years. The next, A Passage to India (1924), was certainly worth waiting for, but it is not as serene and hopeful as Howards End. The “Great War,” the most influential event of the twentieth century and the onset of all our political woe, had intervened between Forster's two major novels and certainly darkened the second. The reality of British imperialism, bringing the threat of racial politics to Forster's belief in personal relationships as the supreme good, was something unsuspected in Howards End.
In 1910 Forster was thirty-one. In the next sixty years he was to publish only one novel more. Maurice, a novel about homosexual love that had been circulating privately for years, was published soon after Forster's death in 1970. All these dates and gaps in...
(The entire section is 6956 words.)
SOURCE: Olson, Jeane N. “E. M. Forster's Prophetic Vision of the Modern Family in Howards End.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 35, no. 3 (fall 1993): 347-62.
[In the following essay, Olson argues that Forster's families in Howards End prefigure modern family structure.]
That contemporaneous reviewers of E. M. Forster's Howards End [hereafter referred to as HE] failed to recognize his prescient image of a radically new family structure is hardly surprising. In 1910 the institutional, middle-class family in England—static, authoritarian, and based on consanguinity and primogeniture—was still assumed as a given by most readers and novelists. As a result, few readers or novelists at the beginning of this century questioned the accepted institutional model of the family or foresaw the possibility of rejuvenating it to enhance individuality and equality in the family circle.
Thus D. H. Lawrence set the opening chapters of The Rainbow at a farm significantly called “The Marsh,” but he employed the symbolism of that name narrowly, focusing on women's defiant seizure of sexual freedom rather than remolding the entire family. Expanding on the metaphor, one might say that just as a marsh is a protected nursery richly supplied with the elements necessary for the nurturance and protection of young marine life, so a more expansive and flexible...
(The entire section is 6940 words.)
SOURCE: Niederhoff, Burkhard. “E. M. Forster and the Supersession of Plot by Leitmotif: A Reading of Aspects of the Novel and Howards End.” Anglia 112, no. 3-4 (1994): 341-63.
[In the following essay, Niederhoff examines similarities between Forster's discussion of novels in Aspects of the Novel and Howards End.]
In Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster writes about Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, “The book is chaotic, ill-constructed, it has and will have no external shape; and yet it hangs together because it is stitched internally, because it contains rhythms.”1 To illustrate what he means by “rhythms”, Forster mentions a leitmotif well known to the readers of the Recherche. “There are several examples […], but the most important, from the binding point of view, is his use of the ‘little phrase’ in the music of Vinteuil. This little phrase does more than anything else […] to make us feel that we are in a homogeneous world” (113 f.). Forster does not tell us in so many words that Proust's novel needs the binding and stitching provided by its rhythms, because it is otherwise lacking in structure and cohesion, but the passage at least implies a relation between the absence of one kind of narrative unity, which he does not specify, and the presence of another, which he does specify: the coherence created by rhythms,...
(The entire section is 8952 words.)
SOURCE: Born, Daniel. “Private Garden, Public Swamps: Howards End and the Revaluation of Liberal Guilt.” In The Birth of Liberal Guilt in the English Novel, Charles Dickens to H. G. Wells, pp. 120-39. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
[In the following essay, Born considers Howards End “the most comprehensive picture of liberal guilt in this century.”]
“I know that personal relations are the real life, for ever and ever.”
—Helen Schlegel, in Howards End
“We merely want a small house with large rooms, and plenty of them.”
—Margaret Schlegel, in Howards End
“Reality” and “realty” derive from the same root word, so it is not too surprising that the Schlegel sisters' premium on personal relationships, the “real life” named by Helen, reveals itself to be equally preoccupied with the business of real estate. Of what, after all, does the “real life” consist? Friendships or property?
The question is never put quite that baldly, and Forster endows it with equally serious, equally comic proportions. But such a query goes to the heart of what has been variously called the liberal “dilemma,” “paradox,” or, as pejoratively denoted by Marxist critics, “the liberal...
(The entire section is 9410 words.)
SOURCE: Langland, Elizabeth. “Gesturing Towards an Open Space: Gender, Form, and Language in Howards End.” In E. M. Forster, edited by Jeremy Tambling, pp. 81-99. London: Macmillan, 1995.
[In the following essay, Langland explores sexual politics in Howards End, focusing on Forster's own homosexuality and admitted misogyny.]
E. M. Forster is a difficult writer to approach because he appears simple. His work presents none of the stylistic resistance and technical virtuosity characteristic of his notable contemporaries like Joyce and Woolf. Further, he seems to have recourse to a nineteenth-century liberal humanism in resolving his novels, an emphasis that sets at naught the complexities of literary modernism.1 So, at best, Forster claims a precarious stake in the twentieth-century canon. But Forster accomplished something difficult and important in his novel Howards End that a gendered politics of reading can uncover. In his personal embattlement with gender and his embattlement with patriarchal culture, Forster exposes the constructed nature of gender and his own ambivalent relationship to traits coded ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in his culture.
This gendered politics of reading begins with an acknowledgment of Forster's homosexuality and outspoken misogyny, a textual politics that is tied to a sexual politics. There is substantial evidence...
(The entire section is 7702 words.)
SOURCE: Womack, Kenneth. “‘Only Connecting’ with the Family: Class, Culture, and Narrative Therapy in E. M. Forster's Howards End.” Style 31, no. 2 (summer 1997): 255-69.
[In the following essay, Womack examines Forster's social criticism regarding family issues in Howards End.]
Although David Lodge's Nice Work (1988) provides a surprising narrative of reconciliation between the academy and industry, its concluding pages allude to an even more pervasive cultural dilemma that has haunted English life for centuries—the mostly silent war that rages unchecked between the classes. Robyn Penrose, the novel's academic protagonist, recognizes the acuity of class and cultural distance that separates her students from a young black gardener tending the campus lawn. “The gardener is about the same age as the students,” Lodge writes, “but no communication takes place between them—no nods, or smiles, or spoken words, not even a glance. … Physically contiguous,” Lodge continues, “they inhabit separate worlds. It seems a very British way of handling class and race” (277). Lodge's depiction of the tacit acceptance of England's rigid class structure and the interpersonal distance that it produces in Nice Work signal the narrative's place in an historical tradition of British novels that highlight the social and economic discrepancies of life on the sceptered isle and its...
(The entire section is 6917 words.)
SOURCE: Hoffman, Michael J., and Ann Ter Haar. “‘Whose Books Once Influenced Mine’: The Relationship between E. M. Forster's Howards End and Virginia Woolf's The Waves.” Twentieth Century Literature 45, no. 1 (spring 1999): 46-64.
[In the following essay, Hoffman and Haar explore parallels between Howards End and Woolf's The Waves.]
In a letter to Ethel Smyth on 21 Sept. 1930, Virginia Woolf spoke of her friend Morgan Forster as “E. M. Forster the novelist, whose books once influenced mine, and are very good, I think, though impeded, shrivelled and immature” (Letters 4: 218). In earlier letters Woolf had often alluded to Forster's influence, even insisting on one occasion that “I always feel that nobody, except perhaps Morgan Forster, lays hold of the thing I have done” (14 June 1925; Letters 3: 188). By 1930 this literary friendship had continued for more than two decades and was characterized by the kind of edginess that often marks the relationships of highly competitive artists. During the same year, Forster recorded his own anxieties about Woolf in a note that we find in his Commonplace Book: “Visit to Virginia, prospects of, not wholly pleasurable. I shall watch her curiosity and flattery exhaust themselves in turn. Nor does it do to rally the Pythoness” (54). These comments, written when both writers were well launched as established...
(The entire section is 8127 words.)
SOURCE: Sillars, Stuart. “Howards End and the Dislocation of Narrative.” In Structure and Dissolution in English Writing, 1910-1920, pp. 31-61. New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc., 1999.
[In the following essay, Sillars examines Forster's allusions in Howards End to other texts of the Edwardian period in England to gain an understanding of the novel's “duality.”]
In many ways, Forster's Howards End is the central text of the Edwardian years. I mean this not in the sense that it demonstrates values that are fundamental to the period—even though, as I shall later show, it addresses many of the age's main concerns—but rather in the sense that it demonstrates that duality of assertion and retreat, continuation and refusal, that I have claimed as the basic mode of so much writing of the time.
To call the structural principle at the heart of the novel a kind of irony would in some measure be valid, but it would also diminish the complexity of the discourse. This complexity has, I think, been the reason for a significant number of misreadings at the hands of otherwise sensitive critics. As Ann Wright has reflected, Howards End ‘has been condemned for an arbitrary or inadequate motivation of plot or psychology, or for awkward transitions from narrative realism to utopian vision, and embarrassingly obtrusive symbolism’ (2). Perhaps we should not be...
(The entire section is 13080 words.)
SOURCE: Turner, Henry S. “Empires of Objects: Accumulation and Entropy in E. M. Forster's Howards End.” Twentieth Century Literature 46, no. 3 (fall 2000): 328-45.
[In the following essay, Turner examines the meaning of money, objects, and accumulation in Howards End.]
[T]here seems something else in life besides time, something which may conveniently be called “value,” something which is measured not by minutes or hours, but by intensity, so that when we look at our past it does not stretch back evenly but piles up into a few notable pinnacles …
—E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel 19
One of the evils of money is that it tempts us to look at it rather than at the things that it buys.
—E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy 6-7
Speaking to a BBC audience in 1946 on the topic of the “Challenge of Our Time,” Forster addressed with candor and typical irony a dilemma that he felt keenly and unapologetically: his attempt to reconcile the ubiquity of the “New Economy” with the “Old Morality” that he felt was disappearing and which was to remain so indispensable to him in later years:
But though the education [I received] was humane it was imperfect, inasmuch as we none of us realized...
(The entire section is 7804 words.)
Barrett, Elizabeth. “The Advance beyond Daintiness: Voice and Myth in Howards End.” In E. M. Forster: Centenary Revaluations, edited by Judith Scherer Herz and Robert K. Martin, pp. 155-66. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982.
Examines Forster's attempt to create an English mythology in Howards End.
Bradbury, Malcolm. “Howards End.” In Forster: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Malcolm Bradbury, pp. 128-43. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
Comments on Forster's ironic tone in Howards End.
Mezei, Kathy. “Who Is Speaking Here? Free Indirect Discourse, Gender, and Authority in Emma, Howards End, and Mrs. Dalloway.” In Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology and British Women Writers, edited by Kathy Mezei, pp. 66-92. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
Contends that in Emma, Howards End, and Mrs. Dalloway, the narrators and characters struggle against one another to depict the heroines.
Park, Clara Claiborne. “Henry Wilcox, Babbitt, and the State of Britain.” In Rejoining the Common Reader. Essays, 1962-1990, pp. 123-34. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991.
Examines Forster's depiction in Howards End of...
(The entire section is 494 words.)