E.M. Forster delivers love, society, class, and changing English sensibility in Howards End

E.M. Forster‘s Howards End delivers love, society, class, real estate dealings, and changing sensibilities in Edwardian England. In its strictest sense, the period of King Edward VII‘s rule was 1901 to 1910. The period in some ways extends an ongoing discussion of the treatment of wealthy and poor, as well as different classes of society. These are subjects recently reviewed in the books Oliver Twist and The Remains of the Day, both of which followers of Matt Lynn Digital will recognize that Matt has reviewed earlier this year.

The story of Howards End, a country estate whose ownership is called into question when the dying matriarch of the Wilcox family, Ruth, bequeaths the country property to Margaret Schlegel, is a book on social trends of the emerging twentieth century written before much of the conflict that came about with the two great wars that later defined the century. Note that there is much to learn from this book in discussing world views between England and Germany before World War I, when much of the conception of what it meant to be German was still in the world of musicians like Wagner and philosophers like Nietzsche.

Howards End 2 (E.M. Forster)

Per the setting the E.M. Forster has established for this book, the Schlegel family symbolizes the idealistic and intellectual aspect of the upper classes of a mixed English and German family. Margaret and Helen were at the head of this family. The Wilcox family represented upper-class pragmatism and materialism, largely with Henry at its head with the passing of his mother. The Bast family symbolizes the aspirations of the lower classes. Taken together, the stage for exploring the social, economic, and philosophical trends of English culture, and European culture, are set.

Howards End 3 (Margaret Schlegel and Henry Wilcox, as portrayed in the 1992 film Howards End)

Margaret Schlegel is the mature, strongly focused feminist of the story that, in marrying Henry Wilcox, a wealthy patriarch that takes a dim view of the very real struggles that those with less affluence must confront from a a subsistence and day-to-day living basis. This relationship is perhaps the postcard home for showing us how we as people are so apt to wear our ideals, our manners, and our allegiances (spiritual, moral, social, political) for all to see. These two, with Howards End the place and the families both the stereotypes and the people, are the true genius of Forster in exposition and lyricism.

My rating of this book is 3.5-stars our of 5.

Matt – Saturday, June 17, 2017

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