Chapters 1-2 Summary
Edward Morgan Forster (popularly known as E. M. Forster) published Howards End in 1910 at the age of thirty-one. Howards End was his first big literary success and is considered by many critics to be his masterpiece. As described by a 1910 critic in London’s Guardian, Forster wrote the novel with “what appears to be a feminine brilliance of perception.”
Howards End opens with three letters written by Helen Schlegel to her sister Margaret (“Meg”) Schlegel from the countryside, where she is staying with the Wilcox family. In the first letter, Helen describes the grand house and surrounding gardens where she is staying. Howards End is the name of the Wilcox manor. The grandeur of the place reminds Helen of fancy hotels she and her sister have stayed in during their travels in Germany. It was in Germany that Helen and Margaret met the Wilcoxes and received an open invitation to visit them at Howards End.
Helen is impressed with the Wilcoxes, though she does not relate to them in several different ways. Because she disagrees with some of their manners and ways and discusses how some of the things they do are silly, at the end of her letters, Helen tells Meg to burn the letters after she has finished reading them.
The Wilcoxes are very lively physically, Helen writes. They enjoy playing an assortment of popular games, such as croquet. In her first letter, Helen mentions hearing the sound of the mallet hitting the croquet ball early in the morning. When she checks, she finds the oldest Wilcox son, Charles, outside practicing the game. Later the father joins his son.
Mrs. Wilcox, whom Helen thinks might not be in good health, loves to wander through the gardens, and she often brings in plants she has gathered in her walks. Unlike her husband and older son, Mrs. Wilcox does not seem to suffer from hay fever. Mr. Wilcox and Charles, on the other hand, have to come back inside the house when they start sneezing because of the pollen that is released when the hay is cut. Helen admonishes her own brother, Tibby, for complaining about his allergic reaction to pollen. Charles Wilcox, Helen writes, handles it much better than Tibby does. Helen complains because Meg had to cancel her visit to Howards End because Tibby was not feeling well enough to travel because of his hay fever.
In Helen’s second letter, she tells Meg that the Wilcoxes must be the happiest family in the world. They seem to get along so well. Helen respects them, and she embarrasses herself when she makes a comment about women’s suffrage in front of Mr. Wilcox one day. Mr. Wilcox finds no reason why women need equal rights. Although Helen thinks women deserve these liberties, she cannot come up with any reasons why, and she feels ashamed.
Helen’s third letter is extremely short. In it, she merely mentions that the younger Wilcox brother, Paul, has just arrived a few days before—and that she...
(The entire section is 775 words.)