Blog Assignment #3: Howards End

Rooks Nest, the house that served as a model for that in Howards End.

Rook's Nest, the house that served as a model for that in Howards End.

For Monday 7/28 we’ll be reading E. M. Forster’s Howards End, the preface and pp. 5-134. This novel tells the story of three English families of the Edwardian middle classes. Like many of the stories we’ve read this term, this one concerns itself, on the one hand, with social unity and, on the other, with conflicts between social influences and the self. Based on your reading for Monday, how does this narrative seem to handle an important conflict between the self and one or two social factors? Use a brief example from the text to make your statement concrete.

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July 26, 2008. Uncategorized.

9 Comments

  1. yukonj88 replied:

    As with other pieces of work we have read, Howard’s End deals greatly with the social divides present in early 20th century England. Within the novel, three families, representing three different aspects of English society are set against one anotherin an effort to show the stark contrast between different social classes. However, eventually these seperate groups become so intermixed that the distinction between each becomes blurred. By having each group become so intermingled, the conflict of social, economic and philosophical inequity becomes obsolete. The intellectual Helen has a relationship with the more traditional Paul; Margaret eventually marries Henry, both events helping to bridge the gap between social classes and move closer to resolving important conflicts between the self and society. As the groups continue to mix further, there becomes no real distinction. The characters begin to realize that the disparity between them is not as great as once was thought.

  2. kiki8151 replied:

    I too believe that the two groups in the story relaize that there is no distiction between social classes in england, one is comes to love, and relationships between one another. The only thing is that one family may be a little more wealthy then the other, but what Helen and Margret realize throughout the book is that its more about love then the social class, they see that other men they come across in their social class are nothing like paul and henry. Paul admitted that he was not wealthy and that is what made him seem so wonderful to Helen he did not hide the fact that he was below her class, he was honest and a nice man to Helen. The narrative show how the characters deal with the conflict of social class through mainly paul and Helen’s relationship towards one another.

  3. rrios0326 replied:

    I totally disagree with yukon and kiki that there isn’t a distinction between the social classes of England. There’s a part in the book where Helen Schlegel points out this difference when she says something to the effect of people like Mr. Wilcox don’t say “I”. To me, this shows that although the upper classes had money, they are missing something internally that money cannot buy. As the story progresses, I don’t think there is so much of a meshing of the classes but a better understanding of each other.

    Now for the conflict between self and society, Leonard Bast was to me one of the most interesting examples. Even though he read books and went to music halls to try and attain upper class culture and status, it was impossible for him to be accepted by the upper class society because he had no money. “If on he could talk like this, he would have caught the world.” Leonard realizes that he can never become as cultured as the Schlegels because he didn’t LIVE the life of the privileged, he can only, in his spare time, read books written by famous authors and famous painters.

  4. cnudelmann replied:

    I agree that there was a distinction between the classes in the book. There was the scene when Margret tries to invite the man she met at the concert over for tea. He is insecure about his knowledge and even thinks that if he was exposed to so many things that he could know as much about art and music as Margret. The sisters though do not seem to realize they are in a higher class. When Helen searches for the mans umbrella she thinks that his is hers because it is torn and not in a very good condition. It is obvious to the reader that there is a clear distinction between classes even if it is not realize by the sisters or their family.

  5. deguitaranna replied:

    In the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s Germany and England had a lot of tension, I see this same tension being displayed in the storyline of “Howard’s End”. Helen and Margaret are both average middle class English citizens. The Wilcox family (who are German) holds different values than the Schlegel. Helen and Margaret love to read and care much about the arts.
    …as seen on page 9 when Mrs. Munt shares her piece..
    “What do you think of the Wilcoxes?”……”Do they care about Literature and Art?”
    Page 23 has some political descriptions of the typical German mentality as well.

  6. simonagoldin replied:

    I agree with the two opinions stating that there is a distinction between the classes. The perfect example would be the different possession of intellectualism by the Schlegel sister and Leonard Bast. Mr. Bast is quite concerned about his umbrella, is it due to politeness or lack of finances, I support the latter. The Schlegel sisters are well rounded and educated women who can freely assume their position in the society, yet Leonard lives below the ground. He is a mere observer or a fan of the society that he wished to be a part of. “Oh, to acquire culture! Oh, to pronounce foreign names correctly!” (31).

    As far as the topic of ‘social influences and the self’, I have to say that at times the emptiness of the speech seems to be a kind of mockery of the well-off society that values materialism, rather than personal relationships. Throughout the development of Margaret’s friendship with Mrs. Wilcox it is obvious that the older woman is quite set in her ways and does not understand the need for cultural expansion, as does Margaret. Similar to Joyce’s work, Forster points to the difference between the old and the new generation. “…but for liberty go to bureaucratic Prussia [Margaret]…”. “I do not want to go to Prussia,” said Mrs. Wlcox-“not even to see that interesting view that you were describing. (58). The old generation is content with the material possession, where as worldly education sparked up an international interest in Margaret.

  7. iloveny77 replied:

    As mentioned by cnudelmann there is a distinction between the classes in the book. On chapter IX, Margaret’s luncheon for Mrs. Wilcox did not went as planned since “she was not interested” and there “was no common topic” (55-56) between her and Margaret’s friends. Margaret is interested in art, culture, and politics while Mrs. Wilcox cannot join the conversation since has spent all her life at Howards End taking care of her own family. She is still old fashion in the way she thinks, she doesn’t want to travel or does not believe in the suffragette’s movement since it is wiser “to leave action and discussion to men.” Still, the sense perceived by the reader is that Margaret feels somehow inferior to Mrs. Wilcox and, somehow, she seems to apologize to her for inviting her and for putting her in an uncomfortable situation. It is clear that the two women not only represent different cultures and way of thinking, but also two social distinct classes.

    Additionally, Margaret and Mr. Wilcox, although engaged, resemble different self identities that are trying to live in harmony. Margaret believes that she could help Mr. Wilcox and by wanting to change Henry she shows a very nurturing and caring nature that clearly struggles with Henry motto “to concentrate.” Margaret believes in connecting with others, in the ability to live in harmony, in the possibility of a change. Contrarily, Henry is more grounded and less idealistic. He shows no compassion for the ones that struggle or for the woman’s cause or for the poor who struggle for equality. (chapt. XXII)

  8. Jeff Drouin replied:

    Just a point of clarification: the Wilcoxes are English, not German. The Schlegel sisters had a German father and English mother, and come from a wealthy intellectual family.

  9. benficajp9 replied:

    The house at Howard’s End I believe is used in a way to symbolize the conflict between the self and social factors like wealth and status. To the Wilcox family who are clearly the wealthiest, they do not see or feel what the house meant to their mother, ” they could not know that to her it had been a spirit, for which she sought a spiritual heir”. Margaret is not of the same status but has a much more bohemian lifestyle and is perhaps more able to identify and recognize what the house symbolizes. To the Wilcox family it is strictly a posession that represents status. As time goes by the boundaries that clearly make these families distinct in their social standing become blurred but their cores remain the same.

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