Howards End (Thorndike Classics Series)

Howards End (Thorndike Classics Series)

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by E. M. Forster, E.M. Forster
     
 

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The self-interested disregard of a dying woman's bequest, an impulsive girl's attempt to help an impoverished clerk, and the marriage between an idealist and a materialist--all intersect at a Hertfordshire estate called Howards End. The fate of this beloved country home symbolizes the future of England itself in E. M. Forster's exploration of social, economic,

Overview

The self-interested disregard of a dying woman's bequest, an impulsive girl's attempt to help an impoverished clerk, and the marriage between an idealist and a materialist--all intersect at a Hertfordshire estate called Howards End. The fate of this beloved country home symbolizes the future of England itself in E. M. Forster's exploration of social, economic, and philosophical trends, as exemplified by three families: the Schlegels, symbolizing the idealistic and intellectual aspect of the upper classes; the Wilcoxes, representing upper-class pragmatism and materialism; and the Basts, embodying the aspirations of the lower classes. Written in 1910, Howards End won international acclaim for its insightful portrait of English life during the post-Victorian era.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Readers familiar with E. M. Forster will recognize the words "only connect" as the anthem of his 1910 novel, Howards End, in which he portrays the often-strained relationships between the bohemian Schlegels (Margaret, Helen, and their brother Tibby, so labeled both because of their expressiveness and their passion for the arts and because of their part-German ancestry) and the coolly aristocratic Wilcoxes. Forster further uses these relationships to explore the changes taking place in Edwardian England, including the rise of the middle and working classes and the first hints of the crumbling of the British Empire. Margaret first becomes connected to the Wilcox family when she befriends Ruth, the matriarch, with whom she feels a kinship that transcends both family and class lines. Ruth's dying wish — to leave her family's country house, Howards End, to Margaret — reveals the depth of their bond, but the Wilcoxes close ranks and vow never to disclose this wish to Margaret, determined to save their heritage from the racially mixed and caste-defying Schlegels. Ironically, Margaret later marries Henry Wilcox, Ruth's widower, and so comes into possession of Howards End anyway. But their marriage is doomed, in part, by their irreconcilable temperaments, and Margaret late in the novel expresses her wish for her overly reserved husband, the one thing that might save him: "Only connect."

This all-too-often-quoted line has, in my opinion, done both Forster and the novel more harm than good, burying the novelist's otherwise avidly political writing under a wave ofmushysentimentalism. "Only connect" has left too many readers with a mistaken impression of Forster the spiritualist, Forster the proto-new ager. This impression has only been augmented by the Merchant-Ivory-ization of the novels into films that have largely ignored and glossed over the quite oppositional political stances that Forster's novels advocated. Instead, to appreciate the complexity of Forster's writing, we need to read "Only connect" in its parallels to Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?" — a lovely sentiment, but one that the embedded structures of race and class conflict in our culture make all but impossible. To take Forster's "Only connect" too literally is to ignore both the irony and the critique implied in the line. Time and time again we see in Forster's work that merely connecting, just getting along, simply isn't enough in a world divided by ideological conflict.

Many of Forster's overtly political pieces — particularly his radio broadcasts — are collected in Two Cheers for Democracy, in which Forster not only takes a firm anti-Nazi stance, but also turns that critical lens on Britain itself, pointing out that :
[I]t is very easy to see fanaticism in other people, but difficult to spot in oneself. Take the evil of racial prejudice. We can easily detect it in the Nazis; their conduct has been infamous ever since they rose to power. But we ourselves — are we guiltless? We are far less guilty than they are. Yet is there no racial prejudice in the British Empire? Is there no colour question?
These are the sorts of questions that haunt the pages of Forster's novels. In A Passage to India, perhaps the most obvious example, a Muslim doctor is wrongly accused of assaulting a young English woman. In the stridency of the reaction of the Anglo-Indian community — and the vehemence with which that community turns on the young woman when she realizes her error and withdraws her charges — we see the ways in which racial prejudice was an inescapable component of the Empire. This prejudice is so strong, and the division between the ruling class and the "natives" so distinct, that no amount of "connecting" can undo its damage. We watch, heartsick, at the end of the novel, as the now-exonerated doctor and his lone English defender, once on the verge of a genuine friendship, part for the last time, the doctor claiming that only when the English have been driven out of India will they be friends:
"Why can't we be friends now?" said the other, holding him affectionately. "It's what I want. It's what you want."
But the horses didn't want it — they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, "No, not yet," and the sky said, "No, not there."
And again, the mystical here is not the end to be settled with, as though the eternal, unchangeable nature of man dictates the separation of the races. It is, rather, a cover for the human politics that have created this separation, seen in the oppositions of temple and jail, palace and Guest House.

In other Forster novels, the politics in question are less national and more personal in tenor. In A Room With a View, Lucy Honeychurch must defy her family, her class, and all of British convention in order to marry George Emerson, a passionate young man who may be the son of a socialist. And, more notably, in Maurice, a novel written in 1913 but not published until 1971, Forster depicts a young man confronting his homosexuality, creating an overwhelmingly sympathetic — and far in advance of its time — portrait of the possibilities of genuine love between men. But it is in Howards End that we see the personal and the political most intertwined. While Margaret is embarked upon her adventure with the Wilcoxes, her sister Helen takes under her wing a young clerk who is struggling to rise out of the working class. They do connect — in more ways than one — but this relationship is ultimately disastrous for the young man. Despite the Schlegels' infinite goodwill, their unthinking manipulation of this man brings him into conflict with the power of the Wilcoxes and finally destroys him.

It is indisputable that the sense of connections across class and racial lines embodied in Margaret's injunction to "only connect" is a key element, for Forster, in solving many contemporary political crises. But it is the complex, nuanced exploration of the connections between the political and the personal, the material and the spiritual, that is the great strength of Forster's work. The "only" in that injunction is as much a critique of Margaret's easy liberalism as it is a benediction, reminding us that, while the world might be different if we could all just get along, some substantive things need to change before the getting-along can begin.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786276899
Publisher:
Gale Group
Publication date:
06/23/2005
Series:
Thorndike Classics Series
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
567
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)

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Howards End 4.4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 12 reviews.
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Personal Review I really enjoyed the novel Howards End by EM Forster. I found it to be a very intriguing and classical book about the difference between two families in the nineteenth century. During some parts of my reading I also noticed that I was able to become very interested in the book. Since I had such a strong liking of the book I would highly recommend it. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys classical texts, but also to anyone who would like to expand on the type of books that they read. Literary Analysis Two of the main characters in Howards End are the Schlegel sisters. The sisters are Helen and Margaret (aka Meg). Helen was a little irresponsible but yet charming. Margaret was the more responsible one but also was known to ask questions at the wrong time. ¿You would say the wrong thing to a certainty you would. In your anxiety for Helen¿s happiness you would offend the whole of these Wilcoxes by asking one of your impetuous questions- not that one minds offending them,¿ Said their Aunt Juley about Margaret. At the beginning of the story I noticed that the sisters were very close. As the story kept going I noticed different events that seemed to be moving them apart from each other. One of the major events that I thought showed this was Margaret¿s marriage to Henry. Since Henry and Helen did not particularly get along, Helen and Margaret didn¿t see one another as often. There was an instance towards the end of the story when Margaret didn¿t even know where Helen was. To get a hold of Helen again she wrote a letter to her saying that their Aunt had become very ill, this was the only idea she could come up with to get Helen to visit. I think the author created these characters to show how different conflicts really can take place. I find the characters in the story to be very believable. This is something that I think is important in a story in order for the story to even seem realistic. The setting of this story was in England during the early nineteen-hundreds. During this time there was some conflicts between the English and the German. This is also part of the reason that I believe they chose to use the Schlegel¿s and the Wilcoxes. They were two very different families. A specific place that the climax of the story takes place is at Howards End. This is the house that the Wilcoxes owned before Margaret inherited the property from her husband Henry¿s mother. This property creates a place that all of the characters are very familiar with. It is also the place where Helen stayed with the Wilcoxes causing the two families to have such a strong connection. After reading the book I was able to observe something I found interesting about the home. I believe that it is a comfort zone for the family, a place where they can all connect. Another important aspect to the story is the point of view. The point of view the author has in this story is third person. An example of this view is proved by the following piece of text: ¿She recovered herself, but not before Charles had observed her. Stupid and attentive, he was watching the scene.¿ This piece of text from the book shows the words she, he, and her, which are all examples of words used in third-person point of view. This point of view doesn¿t cause the reader to choose sides with any of the characters. Instead the reader can choose their own sides and also know what all of the characters think. That is the reason why I believe that the author chose to use third-person view. This was an amazing novel by EM Forster that encourages me to read more of his novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be very descriptive and artistic, I love the way the author describes all his characters, even the lesser ones. (For example, the wife of Charles Wilcox.) He puts things in a way that seems to be the makings of a very beautiful film, though I am sure there probably is a movie out already about this book! I would reccomend this to just about any classic book lover, perhaps even to Jane Autsen fans!
Guest More than 1 year ago
E.M. Forster's Howard's End draws an excellent image of life in England during the early part of the Twentieth Century. Forster's setting and diction are very well written. While I was reading, I was able visualize the scene in my mind. The first few chapters of the novel seem slow. I find that novels and short stories that begin the first paragraph with a letter to some other character irritating and a turn-off. It was not until Leonard Bast was introduced that I started to become more interested in book. I was cheering for Leonard throughout the novel. On the contrary, I felt that Henry Wilcox was cold and ruthless. He did not realize how important it is to help out other people who are less fortunate. It was no surprise that in a recent movie adaptation of Howard's End, in the movie the role of Henry Wilcox was performed by Anthony Hopkins. The characterization was also developed very well. Every character was tied in to the main plot in some manner. The novel was in my opinion a little too long. It was complex reading mainly because it was written in early Twentieth Century British English. There was a great deal of conflict between many of the important characters. To me that was one of the high points of the novel. It kept my interest in the book. But I found it very hard to understand what Margaret Schlegel saw in Henry in the first place. Certainly it wasn't that he had good looks and a great sense of humor! I would recommend Howard's End to other readers, especially those who enjoy early Twentieth Century British literature. The story was entertaining. This novel is without a doubt a British classic. >