Howard’s End by E. M. Forster

Howard's End by E.M. ForsterBeing a Jane Austen fanatic, I often see similarities between her novels and whatever I’m reading. In the case of Howards End, that’s especially easy to do. Just like Sense and Sensibility, this book features two sisters of different temperaments. Margaret is the more practical one, while her younger sister Helen is the flighty, romantic one. Margaret and Helen are rich Londoners, living off investments made with inherited money. Their lives become intertwined with those of the Wilcoxes. This family is also rich, but Henry Wilcox and his sons are businessmen. They drive the economy that makes the sisters’ lifestyle possible. A third family is composed of Leonard Bast and his wife. Leonard is a clerk, a member of the working class who is striving desperately to make it into the middle class.

The Howards End of the title is the name of the country home of the Wilcox family. The house and the large elm tree in the yard are symbols of the connection between nature and human beings. Mrs. Wilcox grew up there and only she really appreciates the house, and the importance of connections. Her husband and children just don’t get it. Mr. Wilcox and his oldest son Charles deal with the world by taking emotion out of the equation and breaking problems into small pieces, never allowing themselves to see how their actions might adversely affect others. Here’s Forster’s description of their relationship:

“Charles and his father sometimes disagreed. But they always parted with an increased regard for one another, and each desired no doughtier comrade when it was necessary to voyage for a little past the emotions. So the sailors of Ulysses voyaged past the Sirens, having first stopped one another’s ears with wool. “

When the Wilcoxes become involved with Margaret and Helen, who try to help the Basts, then problems arise and complications multiply. Published in 1910, Howards End is a classic tale of Edwardian England, but the problems and issues wrestled with in its pages are relevant to America today.

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One Response to “Howard’s End by E. M. Forster”

  1. Jackie Cangro Says:

    Great review! A timeless classic. i really enjoyed this book, especially the interaction between the sisters and the Basts.

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