Themes and Meanings
Maurice depicts the suffocating effects of society and its conventions on the individual’s search for self-knowledge and the harmony produced by a fusion of heart, body, mind, and instinct. The institutions of society—family, school, church, class structure, government—all join to push the individual to an uncritical acceptance of conventions, a death in life. This is symbolized clearly in places such as the gray, prison-like British Museum and Penge, Durham’s decaying country estate. In contrast, Forster describes ancient, pre-industrial Great Britain, when the greenwoods covered the island, providing spaces where man was free to act as he pleased in natural harmony. The happiest day in Clive and Maurice’s relationship is an escapade outdoors, away from Cambridge (Scudder is always associated with nature and the outdoors). Forster also skillfully uses the archetypal journey motif, light and dark imagery, physical sickness as symbolic of psychic ills, foreshadowing, and mirror scenes to emphasize this theme.
Another thematic thread is Forster’s suggestion that forces beyond those recognized by human intellect exist and influence man’s life. Maurice’s childhood dream, for example, which promises him a friend whose lifelong love will give him joy, becomes an inner goal. Maurice is also aware of the presence of someone or something hovering over his shoulder in his room at Penge. The night he cries “Come” out the window, he has no idea that anyone can hear him, yet Alec appears. Even though not the novel’s chief concern, this mysticism, like Lawrence’s, is linked with the individual’s deep instinctive subconscious self.