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Howards End

Howards End

bast forster helen wilcox

a novel by E. M. Forster, published in 1910. It is an ambitious, multi-layered novel, which indicates its message through its epigraph, ‘only connect’: class conflicts can be sublimated in personal relationships. Forster's goal is to examine the ‘State of the Nation’ of England; this he does on a variety of levels. On the social level, the relationships of the urban intellectual Schlegel sisters with the affluent Wilcox family and the lower-class, downwardly mobile Basts represent the shifting values of the time. Through the symbolic device of the house of the title—based on Forster's early home, Rooksnest—the author explores the decay of moral and spiritual values, and the hope of future regeneration. Margaret Schlegel, who does not know that the house has been bequeathed to her, marries the widower of Mrs Wilcox, her friend and its erstwhile owner, and ultimately comes to possess Howards End as an indirect result of the murder of Bast, her sister Helen's lover; thus, Helen and Bast's illegitimate child symbolizes the reconciliation of antagonistic classes. Bast's wife, a former prostitute, reveals the worthy Wilcox as a fornicator, allowing Forster to criticize, albeit obliquely, the rising business classes. Margaret's early compassion for Bast turns to dismay when, immersed in her dreams of newly acquired privilege, she sees her stubbornly idealistic sister too closely involved with his fortunes; it is only his tragic, accidental death and Helen's unwitting complicity in it that reveals to her the extent of her own participation in the Basts' downfall. Deftly concealing its didactic and moralizing purposes in intricate narrative and metaphoric structure, Howards End works well both as romance and as realist drama; this was skilfully conveyed in the screen adaptation (1993) by Jhabvala.

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