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Thread: The fatal umbrella

  1. #1
    Registered User Lithel's Avatar
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    Dec 2006

    The fatal umbrella

    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
    "And all the while, I suppose, real people were living somewhere, and real things happening to them..."

    Please correct my mistakes

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    The "in and out card" -- a card with "In" printed on one side and "Out" on the other perhaps -- would be used to indicate whether the Schlegels were receiving callers (the "In" side being turned up) or "not at home" (the "Out" side turned up). Commonly found in entrance halls of the time, it is mentioned to illustrate Helen's frenetic behavior.

    As for the "all teeth and eyes," Evie says later on "Helen's right enough, but I can't stand the toothy one..." I guess mentioning her teeth as the main feature people notice is Forster's nice way of giving the reader the impression that Margaret is not "the pretty one." Even today saying someone is "toothy" is not typically a nice compliment on their appearance, but it's not seen as being quite as mean or judgmental as saying they are "ugly."
    Last edited by Stormont; 10-11-2016 at 09:01 AM.

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