What are the main themes in E. M. Forster's novel Howards End ?
The epigraph to Howards Ends ("Only Connect") contains the major theme of the novel: the power and the difficulty of sustaining connections among humans. Forster explores the themes of class conflict, of human connections and relationships, of spiritual and material lives and of the future of England in the twentieth century in the face of fast social changes. The novel opposes the values of the Wilcoxes and the Schlegels and, because of this opposition, the connections between the members of the two families prove difficult to maintain. The Wilcoxes represent social conventions, materialism and a business-like attitude to life while the Schlegels stand for idealism, humanism and the pursue of one's personal realization in spite of social pressure and demands. In spite of the conflicts that oppose the two families throughout the novel, at the end both the Wilcoxes and the Schlegels live at Howards End. If we take Howards End to be a symbol for England, this may hint to a reconciliation of the two sets of values and Forster's aspiration to a society devoid of class conflicts.