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"Howards End" and the Inheritance of a Nation

"Howards End" and the Inheritance of a Nation

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Through the story of Howards End, Forster explores two possible outcomes for England's future, each embodied by a different family in the novel. This essay explores Forster's conception of truly English values, and the advantages and disadvantages of entrusting these to either potential set of heirs.
Through the story of Howards End, Forster explores two possible outcomes for England's future, each embodied by a different family in the novel. This essay explores Forster's conception of truly English values, and the advantages and disadvantages of entrusting these to either potential set of heirs.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
 Howards End and the Inheritance of a Nation
Twentieth Century British Literature: EH410823/02/09
Lecturer:
Patricia Moran
Tutorial Time:
Thursday 1200
Student:
Emily Bourke
I.D. Number:
0655759
 
Emily Bourke: 0655759Twentieth Century British Literature: EH4108
“Howards End and the Inheritance of a Nation” 
In his novel,
 Howards End 
, E. M. Forster lets the reader see what “true” Englishness meansto him. He does this by putting Howards End itself forward as an ideal, a symbol of England at its best, and as a place where all his values are realised. Through the story of this house, Forster explores the question of the country's inheritance. The reader is presented with two possibleoutcomes for the future, each embodied by a different family in the novel; the Schlegels would preserve the country's spirit, while the Wilcoxes would advance it through modern technologies and business practices.In this essay, I will examine Forster's conception of truly English values, and explore theadvantages and disadvantages of entrusting these to either potential set of heirs. I will also arguethat, although Forster favours the Schlegels' resolutely spiritual outlook, believing that it would best preserve the values he places so much importance on, he concedes that it needs to find a more balanced, compromising position if it is to survive and prosper in twentieth century Britain.The reader must first examine exactly what Forster defines as “Englishness”. What are thevalues that he feels to be worth preserving? In looking at his descriptions of Howards End, and theway in which is it starkly contrasted against London's “satanic” and “oppress[ive]” urbanity (Forster 73), it is clear that rural freedom is valued above all else. Forster's location of Howards End as a siteof true English values is perhaps best expressed in chapter 24, in Margaret's thoughts:“She forgot the luggage and the motor-cars, and the hurrying men whoknow so much and connect so little. She recaptured the sense of space,which is the basis of all earthly beauty, and, starting from Howards End, sheattempted to realize England.” (174)
 
Forster's England is not one of cars and suitcases; it is not small, enclosed, or overcrowded.Instead, it is vast, spacious, and all-encompassing. Later on in the same chapter, Margaret explicitlydelineates the parallels between Howards End and England that she did not quite manage to expressin the quote above.“...it was English, and the wych-elm that she saw from the window was anEnglish tree. No report had prepared her for its peculiar glory. It was neither warrior, nor lover, nor god; in none of these roles do the English excel. Itwas a comrade, bending over the house, strength and adventure in its roots, but in its utmost fingers tenderness, and the girth, that a dozen men couldnot have spanned, became in the end evanescent, till pale bud clustersseemed to float in the air. It was a comrade. House and tree transcended anysimile of sex [...] to compare either to man, to woman, always dwarfed thevision. Yet they kept within limits of the human. Their message was not of eternity, but of hope on this side of the grave.” (176)Howards End is inseparably linked to nature, as expressed through the wych-elm that is sofrequently featured in descriptions of the house. The two together form an arch, a gateway toinfinity. Forster perhaps intends to reference conventions of Gothic architecture here, in whicharches are considered to be entrances to the afterlife, pointing towards Heaven. The structures areinterconnected; just as Howards End is inseparable from the tree in its grounds, so England isinseparable from its rural traditions.This paragraph also casts England as a “comrade”. One key aspect of the novel is its promotion of the development of individual life, as opposed to the mass consciousness that is foundin modern suburbia. In the city, one is left to one's own devices, and can be forgotten – just likeLeonard Bast, who ends up unemployed and starving. The country, however, is put forward as afriend, and as somebody who can be depended upon in times of need. It is a message of “hope onthis side of the grave”, of the possibility of a contented, happy life; a direct opposition to theChristian idea that one should spend one's entire time on Earth in misery, with nothing to look 

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