Sean Meriwether's Reviews > Howards End
How is it that Forester can deliver a layer-cake cross-section of English society, politely critique his countrymen, throw in a smattering of culture and a discussion of its merits, blend in an atypical “love” story, some sensational gossip, an unplanned pregnancy, and several off-stage deaths, yet deliver an engrossing novel that is as literary as it is soap-operatic? Does anyone write at this caliber today? Forster interweaves 3 families of different classes to discuss the question of who shall inherit England. Shall it be the old-money German imports, the Schlegels, who care more for culture and nuance since they don’t have to earn a living, or the industrious but artless Wilcoxes, who care only for money and property, or the working class Basts who have neither money nor position and must rely upon those above them for support? This novel seems especially poignant today as the financial crises has separated the classes; money, in Forster’s world as in ours, segregates the survivors from the chaff; the poor do not fare well. Margaret, the heroine of the story, is able to strike a compromise between the disparate worlds, staying married to one of the newly rich who has fallen from grace, keeping her unwed and pregnant sister despite the contempt of society, and creating her own universe at Howard’s End far from the reach of London’s social snobbery to live out her mature years. Still further from the epicenter is Paul Wilcox, who leaves for India to find his own fortune, and young Tibby Schlegel, Margaret’s brother, who can easily be viewed as the author; these two perpetual and self-determining bachelors are as removed from the fray as possible and ignorant of society's foibles. Perhaps the future of England lies with gay ex-pats?
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