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Howards End | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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Howards End | Quotes


These ... would be swept away ... and another promontory would rise upon their site, as humanity piled itself higher and higher on the precious soil of London.

Narrator, Chapter 2

Older homes in London, like the Schlegel's house, Wickham Place, are destined to be torn down. Newer apartment buildings will be constructed upon their sites to meet the housing needs of an ever increasing urban population caught up in the relentless flow of modern life. The narrator depicts the urbanization of London in a negative light, portraying the growing population as piled one on top of another. This contrasts with Howards End, a modest and welcoming country house that acts as a refuge from a troubled world.


She seemed to belong not to the young people and their motor, but to the house, and to the tree that overshadowed it.

Narrator, Chapter 3

Mrs. Wilcox is different from her modern, materialistic family. Instead, she seems much more a part of the world of Howards End, which is a spiritual place, the home of her ancestors, and, due to its rural location, immersed in nature. In contrast, the rest of the Wilcox family values the fast-paced, urban, commercialized world. Mrs. Wilcox knows that her family could never appreciate Howards End as she does. This is why Mrs. Wilcox seeks a spiritual heir for the house in Margaret.


Money pads the edges of things ... God help those who have none.

Margaret Schlegel, Chapter 7

Margaret, who lives comfortably on a steady income derived from investments, acknowledges how money provides protection and a convenient escape from some of the world's harsh realities. She also admits that she is glad to have it ("Am I for poverty or riches? For riches," she declares). On the other hand, she is also conscious of how being financially comfortable can insulate people like herself, who fail to recognize or understand the plight of the poor.


They avoided the personal note in life. All Wilcoxes did. ... It is the best—perhaps the only—way of dodging emotion.

Narrator, Chapter 11

The Wilcox family is uncomfortable with, and perhaps unable to deal with, emotional issues. Their strategy is to avoid emotion whenever possible. This is especially true of Mr. Wilcox, who excels at handling practical, logistical matters. His business thrives, but when it comes to matters of the heart, he is at a loss. He dismisses them as quickly and efficiently as possible, even if it means modifying his memory of events or writing off women as fragile and ridiculous—anything to keep things from getting too personal. This contrasts with the Schlegel sisters, who lean more toward emotion. Margaret hopes to help Mr. Wilcox connect more with his "inner life," meaning his emotions, but struggles throughout the novel to do so.


To them Howards End was a house: they could not know that to her it had been a spirit, for which she sought a spiritual heir.

Narrator, Chapter 11

Most of the members of the Wilcox family deal only in the material realities of modern life, owning and leaving house after house, as is convenient to their current needs. They do not appreciate the spiritual qualities of Howards End or Mrs. Wilcox's attachment to the house. She had recognized, like Margaret, that houses are alive, and she loved the permanence of her family home deep in the countryside. Mrs. Wilcox found in Margaret the spiritual heir she wanted for Howards End, and even after her death Margaret feels as if Mrs. Wilcox is still a part of the place.


Don't brood too much ... on the superiority of the unseen to the seen. ... Our business is not to contrast the two, but to reconcile them.

Margaret Schlegel, Chapter 12

Margaret writes to Helen to counsel her to see the value in the "seen," meaning the practical, material world, rather than dismissing it simply because it is not the "unseen," represented by the world of imagination and ideas in the form of philosophy, art, or music. Margaret sees the value in both the seen and unseen, and her mantra of "only connect" is a goal toward which she works throughout the novel in order to reconcile them.


[Mr. Bast was] one of the thousands who have lost the life of the body and failed to reach the life of the spirit.

Narrator, Chapter 14

Mr. Bast is like thousands of others who have come to work in London after the Industrial Revolution rather than remain farmers or shepherds in the rural world of their ancestors. He has lost a presumably happy existence involving physical labor in nature, the life of the body. It is replaced by his cultural aspirations, the life of the spirit, but he lacks the money to develop them. This inevitably leads Mr. Bast to a sense of failure and depression.


Only connect! ... Only connect the prose and the passion, ... and human love will be seen at its height.

Narrator, Chapter 22

Margaret is frustrated by her husband's "obtuseness," his inability to synthesize the spiritual with the physical, to acknowledge both emotions and actions as part of reality. She wants to inspire him to connect the two parts of life, because only through both can love, in its fullness, truly exist.


Poetry's nothing ... . One's thoughts about this and that are nothing ... . It's the whole world pulling. There will always be rich and poor.

Leonard Bast, Chapter 26

Mr. Bast left one job, only to lose another. He and Jacky have been evicted from their home, and found starving by Helen. He explains to Margaret that he has abandoned his ambitions to the unseen (the life of the mind) under the pressing weight of the seen (the world of hunger and poverty), which he now accepts as inevitable. In a state of despair, he concludes that neither poetry nor philosophy nor dreams ultimately have the power to change his circumstances. Social class—the brutal gap between the rich and poor—is impossible to overcome. For this reason he feels that there is no way for the Schlegels to help him or for him to help himself or his wife.


In these English farms ... one might see life steadily and see it whole ... connect—connect without bitterness until all men are brothers.

Narrator, Chapter 33

Margaret reflects on the countryside around Howards End, and is struck by its melancholy and idyllic beauty. She hears children playing, and she enjoys the balance she experiences between her inner life and this striking outer world. This place establishes a deep connection among all living things that she longs for and finds so lacking everywhere else.


A new feeling came over her; she was fighting for women against men.

Narrator, Chapter 36

Margaret uses Howards End as a sanctuary to shield pregnant, vulnerable Helen from the men who seek to rob her of her rights and force her to be examined, treated, and perhaps locked up, against her will. She has decided to take action and stand up to the men who wish to do this to her sister by forbidding them entrance to the house. Margaret recognizes that the struggle in which she finds herself is one that extends beyond her and Helen's immediate circumstances to a question of human rights for women.


I have done something that the English never pardon.

Helen Schlegel, Chapter 37

Helen acknowledges that her pregnancy outside of marriage will make her a social outcast. To complicate matter, the father is a married man (later revealed to be Mr. Bast). It is really no worse than Mr. Wilcox's affair with Jacky, with the difference that Mr. Wilcox was able to hide his affair for years. He appeases his own conscience with excuses and need never be troubled by remorse again. Even after the affair is discovered, he loses nothing. Helen knows that as unwed mother the same will not be true for her should she stay in England. This exposes the injustice in how men's and women's sexuality is viewed in Edwardian England.


They may take the title-deeds and the doorkeys, but for this one night we are at home.

Helen Schlegel, Chapter 37

Helen recognizes the spiritual ownership she and Margaret feel toward Howards End, even if they only spend one night there. She distinguishes it from legal ownership, acknowledging that they may be turned out of the house at any point, but she knows that the house emotionally and spiritually belongs to them. It is theirs because of how they feel attuned to the house and what it represents: a place of renewal, vitality, and connection.


[She had] spoken not only to her husband but to thousands of men like him—a protest against the inner darkness ... that comes with a commercial age.

Narrator, Chapter 43

Margaret finally confronts her husband about his inability to connect his past misdeeds with Helen's pregnancy and Mr. Bast's misfortunes. The narrator claims that her criticism of Mr. Wilcox, for his single-minded focus on materialism and his lack of self-awareness ("that inner darkness"), is an example of the ills of modernity that applies not only to her husband but to many others.


I feel that our house is the future as well as the past.

Margaret Schlegel, Chapter 44

Now the undisputed heir of Howard End and mistress of her own little family of Mr. Wilcox, Helen, and her nephew, Margaret shares her hope that society will change. She sees the encroaching city, but she is still safe within the rural, peaceful grounds of Howards End, which has remained unchanged for so long. She hopes Howards End also represents a better future, an alternative to the frantic forward motion of the modern world.

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