The Longest Journey

by E. M. Forster

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What is the meaning of chapter 28 in The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster?

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Chapter 28 of E. M. Forster's The Longest Journey is one of the most philosophical chapters in the novel, and it is essentially a meditation on the meaning of the soul and life's true values. It mentions no characters and essentially refers to the context of the narrative up until that point and maybe even the context of the entire book in general.

The chapter is connected to Rickie's glorification of his deceased mother's morality. Rickie held his mother at a very high standard, but when he learns that she's had an illegitimate child, his image of her shatters and he begins to question what are the real values in life and what should we consider the highest ideal.

The question, therefore, is what do we value the most? The human soul can "have her bankruptcies," as we can undervalue and overvalue things and people and might end up richer or poorer in experience for it. Forster argues that humans, as mortal beings, are as "liable as the soul herself to err." However, if we value only God as the highest ideal, we'll have a clean conscience and our soul will be "incorruptible."

There is, indeed, another coinage that bears on it not man's image but God's. It is incorruptible, and the soul may trust it safely; it will serve her beyond the stars.

In this sense, the chapter also connects to religion and spirituality. Forster, however, implies that the choice to have our values determined by faith might not be worth it. It might seem as the safest choice for the clarity of our soul, but it requires great sacrifices, as we lose all things we consider joyous and pleasurable and the things that make us human.

But it cannot give us friends, or the embrace of a lover, or the touch of children, for with our fellow mortals it has no concern. It cannot even give the joys we call trivial—fine weather, the pleasures of meat and drink, bathing and the hot sand afterwards, running, dreamless sleep.

Thus, Forster asks the question,

Will it really profit us so much if we save our souls and lose the whole world?

You can read The Longest Journey here.

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