Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Howards End

Howards End. Modest farmhouse near Hilton owned by Mrs. Wilcox, an hour by train north of London, England. E. M. Forster based the house on his boyhood home, called Rooksnest, in Hertfordshire. Both Rooksnest and Howards End are just outside the suburban ring of 1910 London. Although it takes Aunt Juley an hour to get to Hilton by train, following the Great North Road, this is still a journey too far for Paul Wilcox to commute to the city daily for work. As he says, it is somewhere between country and town.

The house is heavily symbolic. To Ruth Wilcox, “it had been a spirit, for which she sought a spiritual heir.” On her deathbed Mrs. Wilcox tries to leave Howards End to Margaret Schlegel. Both Howards End and Mrs. Wilcox are tied to the past of working farmers with owners and laborers living side by side, not of manor houses, domestic servants, and vast estates. The house and grounds stand for England itself and embody the native mythology of the countryside. Modern England is seen to be encroaching on this land: The Wilcox children and their father are ill-suited to it, and they all end the novel inside while Helen and her son are out in the fields. Meanwhile, the “red rust” of the city is moving nearer.


*London. Capital of Great Britain and city in which the Schlegel family has a house. The Schlegel’s Wickham Place address is a middle-class row house in the fashionable southwest section of the city. The house is to be...

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