Maurice Essay - Critical Evaluation

E. M. Forster

Critical Evaluation

During his long life, E. M. Forster distinguished himself with six novels. Two, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) and A Room with a View (1908), are known as the Italian novels because they are set in Italy and because they share certain qualities, themes, characterizations, and tone. Maurice was first written between September, 1913, and July, 1914. Because of its gay-themed content and the tenor of the times, the novel was not published in Forster’s lifetime. Forster published three other major novels in his lifetime, The Longest Journey (1907), Howards End (1910), and A Passage to India (1924).

During the next fifty years, Forster reworked Maurice, and as late as 1960 made substantial revisions, adding a “Terminal Note.” This note describes the novel’s origins, which can be traced to Forster’s visit with the writer Edward Carpenter, who has been called the first modern writer on sex in England. Carpenter heavily influenced D. H. Lawrence but is now virtually forgotten as a significant writer. Carpenter’s lover, George Merrill, had touched Forster at one time, a touch and “sensation,” Forster later said, that “was unusual.” He added, “and I still remember it.” Forster soon began to write Maurice, a novel that is part autobiography disguised as novel and part novel as wish fulfillment. In Maurice, Forster utilizes the epigrammatic theme from Howards End: “Only connect.” In doing so, he writes a novel of a young man’s inner journey toward understanding the nature of his sexual identity.

The genius of Forster’s novel lies in his creation of Maurice Hall, an Everyman who is “someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob.” Maurice’s homosexuality is the “ingredient” that brings Maurice to life: It puzzles him, awakens him, torments him, and finally saves him. In Maurice’s efforts to connect, he first meets Clive, whose Hellenic values attract Maurice and awaken his sexual identity. When Maurice determines that he and Clive will never connect physically, only mentally, he is again tormented. When Maurice connects with Alec...

(The entire section is 911 words.)