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Howards End | Chapters 43–44 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 43

Helen fills Mr. Bast's arms with flowers from the garden as he lies dead on the gravel drive, hoping that his child will enjoy the "beauty and adventure" life offers to some. Margaret answers the doctor's questions about Charles and Mr. Bast. She is resigned to her decision to leave Mr. Wilcox and go to Germany with Helen. She doesn't regret her words to him. They were what needed to be said not only to him, "but to thousands of men like him—a protest against the inner darkness ... that comes with a commercial age." She thinks he will continue doing what he has always done, growing his wealth and being "tenacious of power." Margaret believes in eternity and wonders if she will meet him after death.

Mr. Wilcox sends Crane to fetch Margaret. She locks up Howards End, then goes with Crane. Her husband asks her comes inside, but she refuses and makes him sit on the grass outside to speak to her. She tells him that she is leaving him. He tells her that there is to be an inquest and that Charles will likely be charged with manslaughter and go to prison. She is shocked at the thought Charles could go to jail. When he is found guilty and sentenced to three years, Mr. Wilcox becomes a broken man. He asks Margaret to care for him, and she takes him to Howards End.

Chapter 44

Fourteen months later, Margaret, Mr. Wilcox, Helen, and her baby live together happily at Howards Ends. Helen and Mr. Wilcox have learned to like one another. Helen praises Margaret for creating their content family. Margaret claims she had to care for Helen and Mr. Wilcox because both were ill. Margaret says that Mr. Wilcox is one of those people who "noticed nothing" their whole lives, and such people "collapse when they do notice a thing." She bids Helen not be sad that she cannot love Mr. Bast the way Margaret loves Mr. Wilcox. She says difference creates "color in the daily gray." She, for example, cannot love children as Helen does. Helen and Margaret watch the hay in the field being cut while the neighbor boy, Tom, plays in it with the baby. Inside, suffering from hay fever, Mr. Wilcox is speaking to Evie, Dolly, Margaret, and Paul, who has returned from Africa. Mr. Wilcox lets them all know that he is leaving the house to Margaret and to her nephew after she dies. They acknowledge his wishes. Dolly remarks that it is strange that Margaret should get the house as Mrs. Wilcox wanted, after all. Margaret asks Mr. Wilcox about the remark, and he reveals the truth about Mrs. Wilcox's bequest, characterizing it as the scribble of confused sick woman, but Margaret is touched by it. Helen comes in with the boys and announces the hay has been cut.

Analysis

Margaret doesn't back down from what she said to Mr. Wilcox earlier. On the contrary, readers learn in Chapter 44 that she doesn't regret it or want to forgive him, much less be forgiven. She has found her voice and her independent spirit. She reflects that what she said to her husband needed to be said, not only to him but to so many other men like him. She plans to leave him and join Helen in Germany. Margaret's rebellion is only curtailed by her love of Mr. Wilcox and, it is implied, her sense of duty to care for him when he collapses after Charles's sentencing. She continues to love him, while at the same time condemning his faults. She is able to connect even if he can't. The fact that she has cared for him at Howards End shows her capacity for true compassion.

In Chapter 43 the author identifies the cause of Mr. Wilcox's obtuseness and what makes him "rotten at the core": the commercialism of the modern age. He has worked hard his whole life and "noticed nothing." The demands of business so preoccupy the majority of people, trying to get ahead and acquire wealth, that their emotional development is stunted. Such is modern life. Even those who try to see "adventure and dreams" like Mr. Bast, cannot escape its confines.

Margaret finally learns the truth about Mrs. Wilcox's bequest in this final chapter of the book. As usual, it's loose-lipped Dolly who lets the family secret slip. Margaret doesn't appear to be angry at the revelation but does feel a deep stirring at the knowledge. Howards End really is hers now with Mr. Wilcox's declaration of his will to the family, but it has really been hers for much longer. The knowledge of the bequest confirms what she has long felt about the place. She has a spiritual connection to it and to the late Mrs. Wilcox.

Mr. Wilcox is still using sexism as a buffer to maintain his sense of control and evade responsibility or guilt. He passes off his late wife's bequest of the house to Margaret as a passing fancy from the mind of confused, dying woman who was "not being herself." Knowing his ability to excuse himself from just about anything, that is probably what he really believes. However, even he has come to make a change: he ensures that Margaret will inherit Howards End, and even more surprisingly, that Helen's son will inherit the property. The scandal the baby represents has apparently been forgiven, or at least reconsidered. None of Mr. Wilcox's children object to the inheritance.

The author brings the novel full circle with the final chapter. Just as it began at Howards End in summer, with Mr. Wilcox inside because of his hay fever as the hay is being cut, so it ends. Paul reappears, returned from his distant travels. A new family, a curious combination of its previous family and friends, now lives at Howards End. In a way Mrs. Wilcox is still there too, through Margaret, who is now a stabilizing influence on the family. Mr. Bast's son is enjoying the sunshine, having an outdoor adventure his father would have enjoyed, the Schlegel sisters are united at Howards End, and the novel ends on a triumphant note. The hay has been cut. They have what they wanted.

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