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Howards End | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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Howards End | Chapters 13–14 | Summary



Chapter 13

Two years later, the lease on Wickham Place is almost up, and Margaret is trying to decide where to move the family next. The landlord intends to tear down their house and build apartments. Tibby is in his second year at Oxford and tells his sisters he has no desire to have an occupation even though Margaret encourages him to pursue some sort of work. Helen says that she thinks working women will soon be the norm as well. Margaret holds up Paul Wilcox as an example to Tibby, as Paul returned to Nigeria, even after an illness, to do his duty in the family business.

Helen tells her siblings that a woman has just visited the house looking for her husband. Although Helen told her no such person was there and that she had never met him, the lady insisted she had reason to think he was in the house, but finally left. Helen and Tibby are amused by the incident, but it is distasteful to Margaret.

Chapter 14

The next day Leonard Bast visits the Schlegels and apologizes for his wife's visit, explaining that she thought he was paying them a call because he had their card. They do not recall their encounter with him at the symphony years before. He explains that Jacky was worried when he didn't return home. He had gone for a long walk, walking all night in fact, trying to get back to nature as he had read about in several works, mostly romantic fiction. Margaret and Helen admire his spontaneous nighttime adventure, praising him for "pushing back the boundaries" rather than just dreaming. They have plans for the evening and their transportation arrives. When they invite him to come again, he declines saying, "things so often get spoiled." He treasures his talk with them as a bright spot in his otherwise gray existence, knowing it was something Jacky will never understand and can never touch.


Chapters 13 and 14 reintroduce Jacky and Mr. Bast. Although Jacky is unnamed in Chapter 13 and the Schlegels have never met her, readers may guess her identity because she asks for "Lan" or "Len," similar to the name of her husband, Leonard Bast. They might even guess that Margaret's card that Leonard used as a bookmark is what led her to the Schlegels' home. Jacky seems much the same, petty and jealous, as does Mr. Bast, ambitious but haggard. He is still reading books and aspiring to be more than he is, and he does a lot of name-dropping of authors in his conversation with the Schlegels, seemingly oblivious to the groans of Helen and Tibby at some of the books he mentions.

Mr. Bast succeeds in impressing Helen and Margaret, however, with the description of his nighttime adventure. It is inspired by the books he has read, which often describe characters embracing nature, a characteristic of much romantic literature. He relishes the sisters' obvious approval, so much so that he is unwilling to risk another encounter with the women he so admires, worried that "things so often get spoiled." The class differences between him and the Schlegels continue to undercut their ability to connect fully, but for a brief period of time, Mr. Bast is able to speak to them "with a flow, an exultation, that he had seldom known." The sisters, too, move beyond their preconceptions of him as a predictable type who wants to improve himself to see him as a "born adventurer."

In Chapter 14 the author again contrasts the romantic with the modern. Leonard Bast's life is described as gray and hopeless, yet he aspires to the ideals and experiences he has read about in so many romantic novels. For one night he tries to escape the crowded, polluted, busy city of London to explore the woods, walking as far as he can. Bast admits that he was disappointed to find that the dawn, rather than fulfilling his romantic ideals in a burst of light and color, is simply "gray," a color Forster associates with the soulless urbanization of London and the sad lives of many of its habitants. Although he admits that the dawn was less than revelatory and the walk somewhat boring, he has done more than the Schlegel women have done in his attempt to touch the sublime. They are impressed that he has accomplished "the spirit that led Jeffries to write [his books]."

Leonard Bast mentions a number of 19th-century authors with whom readers of the day would have been familiar, all of whom wrote works which focused on nature, roadways, or which included characters who interacted with nature as a significant point of the plot. Richard Jeffries was a British novelist whose work centered around nature and who penned books with such titles as The Open Air (1885) and Field and Hedgerow (1900). Robert Louis Stevenson, referred to familiarly as R.L.S. in the chapter, is best known for his novel Treasure Island, a tale of adventure and pirates in the wild. E.V. Lucas is also mentioned as the author of a book called The Open Road. He wrote a regular newspaper column titled "The Wanderers Notebook." Leonard Bast cites the works of these authors and others as the inspiration for his overnight tromp through London and beyond. He may also be name-dropping to show the Schlegel sisters that he is well read, like they are.

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