Style and Technique
Forster adds wordplay to symbol in “The Celestial Omnibus.” Mr. Bons, for example, represents apparent good (bon) only; he is actually pure snob, as his name spelled backward indicates. His poetry is an ornament to be worn, something to be quoted, corrected, or criticized rather than a faith to be held or a trust to be kept. He demands that Dante return him to the world because he has “honoured . . . quoted . . . and bound” him, but Dante replies that he (his works) are the means, not the end. Mr. Bons’s death is mere poetic justice.
Though Marxist critics have savaged this story as an escapist response to bourgeois oppression, Forster intended no political implications at the time he wrote it. The socially conscious Forster would emerge in A Passage to India (1924) and in the prewar political essays, but “The Celestial Omnibus” is an intelligently written fantasy, filled with the scholarly enthusiasms of a bright young man who has recently come down from Cambridge.