I have read Howard's End two or three times and listened to it once on tape and it remains one of my favorite novels. Many people were introduced to it by the film, which, good though it was, does not begin to capture the subtle wisdom Forster put into this book. Howard's End can be seen as a quaint period piece about British culture in the early Twentieth Century. On another level, however, it's a brilliant exploration of the human soul. In the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes, Forster has created the perfect embodiment of the eternal conflict between reason and passion. These two families, destined to be united by the marriage of Margaret Schlegel to Henry Wilcox, represent two seemingly irreconcilable aspects of humanity. The Schlegels are artistic, intellectual and impractical; the Wilcoxes materialistic and unapologetically bourgeois. Margaret and Henry have their differences, but it is their relatives who display the more extreme family traits. Margaret's sister Helen is a classic...
I first read Howards End during the final year of my Undergraduate degree, and it quickly became my favourite book (displacing Wuthering Heights). There is something within it that really speaks to some people --- I say 'some,' because I have recommended it to many friends, and their responses have run the gamut from a fascination similar to my own, to outright boredom and frustration with the book. Personally, I felt I connected with Forster's lament regarding the loss of a sense of place and permanence in the modern world.
I must disagree with some of the reviewers here, when they say that the issues Forster tackles have little relevance today. I think what attracted me to this book was Forster's examination of those very issues --- most specifically, the quandry that still plagues us today: how can we live an examined, meaningful life in the entropic modern world? I would argue that Howards End is still very relevant.
Forster depicts a society in change, but...
The Schlegel sisters are interested in the arts and in the more idealistic liberal social movements of their early 20th century world. The Wilcoxes are practical and materialistic. There seems to be little in common between the two families, but not even a highly embarrassing early amorous encounter can keep them apart. Poor Leonard Bast is as idealistic as the Schlegels, but encumbered by an unloved wife with a shady past, he has not their financial means to avoid dealing with the practicalities of life. Caught between the two factions, he eventually is crushed. Only Margaret Schlegel is finally strong enough to bridge the gap between the practical and the ideal by exerting her benevolent humanity, her passionate and yet controlled determination that people must "connect."HOWARDS END is a minor masterpiece, capturing perfectly the conflict between rigid Victorian values and the more free and open changes in the turbulent years before World War I. Forster handles...
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