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Howards End



Margaret Schlegel, engaged to the much older, widowed Henry Wilcox, meets her intended the morning after accepting his proposal and realizes that he is a man who has lived without introspection or true self-knowledge. As she contemplates the state of Wilcox's soul, her remedy for what ails him has become one of the most oft-quoted passages in literature:

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.

Like all of Forster's work, Howards End concerns itself with class, nationality, economic status, and how each of these affects personal relationships. It follows the intertwined fortunes of the Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, and the Wilcox family over the course of several years. The Schlegels are intellectuals, devotees of art and literature. The Wilcoxes, on the other hand, can't be bothered with the life of the mind or the heart, leading, instead, outer lives of "telegrams and anger" that foster "such virtues as neatness, decision, and obedience, virtues of the second rank, no doubt, but they have formed our civilization." Helen, after a brief flirtation with one of the Wilcox sons, has developed an antipathy for the family; Margaret, however, forms a brief but intense friendship with Mrs. Wilcox, which is cut short by the older woman's death. When her family discovers a scrap of paper requesting that Henry give their home, Howards End, to Margaret, it precipitates a spiritual crisis among them that will take years to resolve.

Forster's 1910 novel begins as a collection of seemingly unrelated events--Helen's impulsive engagement to Paul Wilcox; a chance meeting between the Schlegel sisters and an impoverished clerk named Leonard Bast at a concert; a casual conversation between the sisters and Henry Wilcox in London one night. But as it moves along, these disparate threads gradually knit into a tightly woven fabric of tragic misunderstandings, impulsive actions, and irreparable consequences, and, eventually, connection. Though set in the early years of the 20th century, Howards End seems even more suited to our own fragmented era of e-mails and anger. For readers living in such an age, the exhortation to "only connect" resonates ever more profoundly.

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Recent Forum Posts on Howards End

The fatal umbrella

Hi! I'm currently working on E.M. Forster's Howards End and as there are a few terms/sentences which I don't understand I hoped someone could help shed light on them, as I didn't find a good translation of the novel in my mother tongue. Right now, I'm focusing on the passage of the forgotten umbrella, Margaret scolds Helen for taking Leonard Bast's umbrella and she answers : "Don't you talk, Meg! You stole an old gentleman's silk top-hat. Yes, she did, Aunt Juley. It is a positive fact. She thought it was a muff. Oh, heavens! I've knocked the In and Out card down. Where's Frieda? Tibby, why don't you ever--No, I can't remember what I was going to say. That wasn't it, but do tell the maids to hurry tea up. What about this umbrella?" She opened it. "No, it's all gone along the seams. It's an appalling umbrella. It must be mine." I wondered what the "In and out card" exactly means. Because of the "card", I guessed it was something she was holding up her sleeve in case Margaret blamed her for her carelessness but the "In and out" puzzles me... Then, earlier Leonard Bast describes Margaret as follows Her figure was meagre, her face seemed all teeth and eyes I wondered if "all teeth and eyes" was a typical expression and how it was conotated... That's it for now... Thanks in advance :D

hi anybody who has read the novel howards end

I need help with this novel. Anybody care to help me.

Howard's End - A2 study :]

I've recently studied E.M Forster's symbolic novel, Howard's End, and felt that it was a brilliant piece :] I have just completed my coursework on the novel, achieving the top grade, which was certainly surprising! However, I don't quite know how to define 'The Great Wilcox Peril', so if anyone could help, that would be brilliant! Anyone else enjoy Howard's End? :] or even studying it at A2? xxx

Past Three of the clock . . .

- on a decidedly cold and frosty morning. Whether I can legitimately reduce it to the Findus Fish Provencal, the cheap Hungarian Merlot or the absurdity of life I do not know - but all three might have contributed to the waking in the early hours, the reading of a chapter of this infuriating book and the igniting of a brain that refuses to lie down and die. Another meal ( Fish pie was in it, however briefly). Two little asides - one concerning a clergyman with the expressed opinion, "Their Emperor wants war; let him have it." The other concerning the rich man's socialist - a construction to be knocked down easily - and other people's socialists, more robust. In a book published in 1910, four years before the First World War and seven before the Russian Revolution? The Kaiser (easy) and Lenin (harder)? And off my brain went :flare: . Forster is writing about a society he doesn't like, characters he has little sympathy for (although great empathy with) and beliefs he thinks groundless. The authorial persona (whoops, bit of fish - or the calcified accretions of too much education?), the voice Forster adopts to tell the story, is distinctive: It worries some as too smarmy, too arrogant, too distanced - but I think it is a self defence mechanism. Edwardian England - rich, prosperous and wealthy; Empire ridden, and undergoing a construction boom (incidentally, much better building work than the late Victorians - The suburbs still stand, Victorian terraces, Jerry built, foundation thin, fall quickly): An England smug and doubtful at the same time, enduring 'a peace', and predicting a war; rushing off for holidays in the country, but building ever higher in the cities where the money is made. Rich men in their clubs, and at their dining tables, demonising a socialism they don't actually understand whilst Lenin and the revolutionaries sit in smoke filled, London cellars, around clothless tables, and plot the downfall of the capitalist (or the socialist's capitalist?) dictatorships. At another table, poor old Edward Forster, pen in hand, trying to make some sense of it all. He is no free spirit - he can't shoot off two barrels at the lot of them: He's a Humanist - and that carries a concern for all humanity - he has to care for his characters, all of them, irrespective of how muddle headed, cut throat, or plane daft. So he tells his story with a, "One may as well . . .” The regal, distancing, 'One'. If you force me to tell you . . . and a sigh. Yes, I dislike the people in this story, but I am going to be as fair to them as I can be - but don't make the mistake of thinking I am like them. My genuine thoughts and beliefs will be hidden away in the tale, but you'll have to search for them in the negatives of what is said and what is done. They’ll pop up in the half-formed asides of passer-bys and minor characters. The tragedy of the human situation will be delivered with a smile - you can get away with saying anything, if you smile when you say it. If I sound condescending and smug, that's not a problem - after all, some of the characters you are defending against my condescension are just the same - so why defend them? Dickens was lucky, he was dealing with a Victorian World, cruel, exploitative, crude - we are much more enlightened now, much more civilised, and we are spiralling ever downwards into the chaos of war and revolution. Six of the clock, the church bell is banging away (yep, :( Saturday morning!) and I need a shower.

A different kind of

Howard's End portrays a truly wonderful juxtaposition of
the personalities of two sisters, Margaret and Helen. Although equally compassionate and outraged at the plight of the poor, Margaret is the more socially pragmatic (and forgiving) of the two. In marrying Henry Wilcox,
she strives mightily to wed bookish ideas with real life, rescue the sisters' protegee, Leonard Bast, and at the same time fulfill her own ambition to
gain Howard's End for herself.
Helen, however, after experiencing first hand Henry Wilcox's cavalier advice giving, offered up as authoritative, and then blithe, mocking retreat in the face of calamity, has given up on any "connection" between ideas and reality, retreating into what is at first thought by her relatives to be madness. Instead, she literally becomes the "connection" herself after conceiving Leonard Bast's child.
The final "connection" comes with a crash landing, however, when Leonard Bast, cruelly executed by Henry Wilcox's son, Charles, as an act of social revenge, ironically falls to his death under an enormous pile of books, leaving both families irretrievably fragmented. Margaret must now take sides.
This work contains an ingenious look at the nature of hypocrisy contained within (and played off against) the ubiquitous instinct for survival and social gratification in the lives of two families.

Gateway Novel

Compared to Forster's preceding novels, Howards End is an expansive, serious work. And, while obvious attention can be paid to the topsy-turvy collision of Wilcoxes and Schlegels, the book is more critically concerned with much larger societal shifts in the industrialized world: the intellectual polarization of the "doing" and "thinking" classes; the steady encroachment of suburbia; the fragmentation of common culture.

Forster, quite forcefully, resisted the compositional trappings of modernism. However, Howards End, with its genial narration and firmly Edwardian prose, accessibly opens to us the cultural source of modernism itself. In this way it serves as an excellent gateway text into the world of more "difficult" authors like Joyce and Woolf.

Ironically, the traditional narrative Forster employs lends Howards End a sort of moral authority lacking in modernist novels (modernists were, among other things, attempting to free themselves from the dictatorial narrator). For this reason, it is one of my favorites.


The underlying theme of family in this novel is amazing. At the end of the day, all we have is our families. Your family is a unit to be judged and to be loved.

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