Course Hero Logo

Howards End | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Howards End Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Sep. 2017. Web. 1 June 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, September 20). Howards End Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Howards End Study Guide." September 20, 2017. Accessed June 1, 2023.


Course Hero, "Howards End Study Guide," September 20, 2017, accessed June 1, 2023,

Howards End | Chapters 27–28 | Summary



Chapter 27

At the hotel in Shropshire, Jacky is in bed, while Helen and Leonard Bast sit up talking. Helen guesses that Jacky has been a prostitute, a serious thing for which she doesn't blame her, "but men" instead. Mr. Bast hopes Helen doesn't ever learn that Mr. Wilcox was one of those men. Helen discovers that Mr. Bast's family has disowned him because of Jacky, whom he married in order to fulfill his promise to her to do so. Helen claims that people like Mr. Wilcox take no personal responsibility. She contrasts them with other people, like herself and Mr. Bast who do. Mr. Bast is discouraged, and has come to see the inevitability of the gap between the rich and poor. Books and romantic walks no longer hold the same promise for him, given the grim reality of abject poverty. He claims that "the real thing's money and all the rest is a dream," but Helen counters that death contradicts such a position, as money means nothing in light of it. They each receive a letter from Margaret.

Chapter 28

Margaret writes a letter to Mr. Wilcox assuring him that "this is not to part us" while choosing her words carefully so as not to come across to him as too personal or as "unfeminine." She wonders if she really can overlook his past involvement with Jacky, but resolves that her love will "make him a better man." She writes Mr. Bast to tell him Mr. Wilcox has no job for him. In her letter to Helen, she mentions about finding Jacky drunk outside, but not Jacky 's history with Mr. Wilcox. She admonishes Helen to come to Oniton for the night, and that "the Basts are not at all the type we should trouble about," although she promises to see them herself to "do whatever is fair."


In Chapter 26, Helen continues to cling to a metaphysical and philosophical view of life, insisting that the pursuit of beauty and ideals matters, while Leonard Bast seems to have succumbed to the more practical one, which has heretofore been represented by Mr. Wilcox. Readers may recall Margaret's metaphor of money as an island upon which people stand to avoid being swept into the sea. Mr. Bast is keenly aware that he now has nothing upon which to stand. The stench of the abyss, as Margaret called it, is all around him and his wife. As he says, there's nothing like a bailiff in your house confiscating your books to drive out any romantic notions of the possibility of the sublime. From his perspective, it is easy for Helen to cling to her ideals and "dreams" because she has money. He cannot do the same, because he has none.

Chapter 26 proves that Mr. Bast takes responsibility for the outcomes of his choices, in contrast to Mr. Wilcox. He does not love his wife but that he stays with her out of a sense of loyalty, just as he married her out of a sense of duty. He tells Margaret that his family has disowned him because of his wife's past as a prostitute. He knew that this would happen before he wed, but he married Jacky anyway, and is determined to stay with her. This sense of personal responsibility, which she calls the ability to say "I" in life, is something Helen very much appreciates. She contrasts it with Mr. Wilcox's inability to do the same. In response to the news of the loss of Mr. Bast's job, Mr. Wilcox denies any role, placing the blame solely on Mr. Bast. In response to the earlier revelation of his affair with Jacky, Mr. Wilcox again refuses to take responsibility, first defensively offering a "boys will be boys" argument, then blaming Margaret for planning the confrontation. It is no wonder Helen admires Mr. Bast and dislikes Mr. Wilcox as she values personal responsibility so highly.

In Chapter 27, still reeling from the discovery about Mr. Wilcox, Margaret decides that she must forgive him—she will use her love, over time, to make him a better person. She seems resentful of the Basts now, and her generosity toward their plight turns to a desire to keep them at a firm distance. This contrasts with her earlier desire to build bridges between people. While Mr. Wilcox has been the one to embrace practicality over emotion, it is now Margaret who "feels that she [is] being practical." And it is she, not Mr. Wilcox, who decides that there is no current job opening for Mr. Bast. Her letter to him is businesslike—curt and devoid of emotion. It shows none of the compassionate understanding she demonstrated toward him in the past. When she promises Helen to "do whatever is fair" for the Basts, it seems unlikely she means more than paying their hotel bill and travel fare. In fact, she dismisses the Basts from their lives by declaring that "the Basts are no good ... they are not at all the type we should bother about," words readers would expect to hear, not from Margaret, but from Mr. Wilcox.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Howards End? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!