E. M. Forster

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What according to E.M. Forster are the adverse impacts of having properties?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "My Wood," Forster discusses the land he bought with royalties from A Passage to India. The land weighs on him for a variety of reasons. For example, once you own land, he says, you feel under pressure to improve it, and this can feel oppressive. Also, you become possessive of it and selfish, not wanting other people to walk on it or use it. Suddenly, Forster says, he doesn't like the idea of people taking his blackberries or picking his foxgloves. He notes that we are material beings who live in a material world, but we have yet to learn how to own our possessions well.

In an earlier work, his 1910 novel Howard's End, Forster criticizes the wealthy, materialistic Wilcoxes for buying properties and selling them on a whim, rather than becoming rooted in one spot. He shows that it is a good thing that Howard's End, a quaint property owned by the Wilcoxes, but not felt by them to be fitting to their wealth and status, falls into the hand of the Schlegel sisters. Howard's End represents the old, traditional England, and it is best that it be cared for by people who will maintain its traditions and put down roots. The Wilcoxes, in contrast, represent the adverse impact of becoming dissatisfied with property and wandering from place to place.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In terms of Forster's view of owning properties, he relates this to the larger issue of materialism.  In Forster's mind, anytime someone becomes occupied with the desire for material wealth, he believes there is a loss of self perception.  In his essay, "My Wood," Forster argues that the desire for materialism creates a "heavier person."  This weight is associated with the idea that we believe that we are more superior than we actually are because we associate the idea of acquiring wealth with out notion of self.  This derives from the view that our material desires represent us, and are an extension of ourselves.  We view material wealth as a part of us, as opposed to separate to us.  In Forster's view this creates a "heavy" and distorted view of self.  In addition to this, Forster believes that an adverse impact of material wealth is that it is endless.  We continue to seek more and more acquiring wealth, creating a  more unhappy sense of self.

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