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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Howard's End by E. M. Forster 
12th-Jul-2006 03:01 pm
Though I read parts of this novel years ago (not to mention a decent amount of Forster lit crit that included it), this is the first time I've read absolutely every word, cover-to-cover.

Forster, E. M. Howard's End. 1910.
Summary: Bohemian Schlegel sisters Margaret and Helen attempt to reconcile the their own idealism with the practical, cutthroat business sense of the Wilcoxes and the impoverished, underrealized potential of the Basts. Margaret marries Henry Wilcox after his wife dies, while Helen seeks justice from Mr. Wilcox for the bad business advice he indirectly gave Leonard Bast but is defeated when Mrs. Bast recognizes Mr. Wilcox as a former paramour. Ultimately, Helen has a short fling with Leonard that leaves her pregnant, and Mr. Wilcox's son Charles is sentenced to prison for Leonard's manslaughter. This event precipitates reconciliation between the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes, and the first Mrs. Wilcox's beloved property Howard's End at last is officially bequeathed to Margaret and through her her nephew, Helen's son.
Comments: The byline of this novel, "Only connect," is NOT some flower child admonition that all you really need is love. By no means. Rather, this novel argues for the connectivity of all things and decries those people who can't see the ways in which the national and political affect the personal, or the ways in which they are the same as their "enemies" and cannot see their own hypocrisy. Ideals and practicality need to find a happy medium, somehow. Unfortunately, negotiating the various spheres of life is a delicate and complicated process, and even the heroine Margaret achieves only mixed success (reconciliation between two different types of monied classes on the backs, practically literally, of the working class). Ultimately, though, Forster reveals that the brand of transcendence that he seeks is not uplift for the masses or true social justice but a rather more myopic reconciliation between friends of different impulses and a profound yet apolitical connection to one's own little piece of the world--a place where, of course, one can retreat to and inhabit without societal censure. At least all of the characters are wonderful, alternately inspiring and exasperating and vividly real.
Notes: Carroll & Graf's Great Novels and Short Stories of E. M. Forster
Rating: 8/10 - Widely regarded a 20th century class, and rightly. Not to mention that all of the problems that it represents remain in force today.
1st-Aug-2006 04:31 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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