How is Forster represented as a feminist in Maurice?

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

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Arguably Forster is presented as anything but a feminist in this novel, which is concerned more with homosexuality and male emancipation than the feminist agenda. This is because the female characters, who all remain minor and undeveloped, are depicted as remaining firmly entrenched in their class and societal identities, whereas the force of the novel concerns Maurice's struggle to break free from his and find a new way of living life free from the hindrances and restrictions of society. Before he achieves this freedom, Maurice is very much a man of his age, ruling his home with his mother and two sisters as if he were a "promising suburban tyrant." The text states that he "ruled his home" and that his sisters accepted, eventually, this rule. No opportunity or freedom is given to them.

In Chapter 20, when Clive falls ill at Maurice's home, Ada shows herself to be hopelessly committed to society and its expectations. For example, she reveals that she was sitting up late so that she could meet the nurse herself, as her explanation to Maurice reveals:

Mother said I must sit up, because the nurse mustn't be let in by a man--it wouldn't look well.

When Maurice tells her how ridiculous this is, she responds by saying, "We must keep the house a good name." When Maurice responds with laughter, the narrator comments that his sisters and mother "disliked him entirely, but were too confused mentally to know this." The women in this novel are not emancipated and are presented as being bound by class and societal conventions, where appearance and being seen to do the right thing is everything, which Maurice, during the course of this novel tries to break free from. There is therefore very little evidence of Forster at work as a feminist in this novel.

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