I am currently reading Howard’s End by E.M. Forster for my Senior Seminar class. I was supposed to finish reading it over the weekend, but time wasn’t on my side.
The 1910 novel is one of those types that never appealed to me. I’m apt to read things published within the last five years, and it’s usually young-adult stuff. All these high-literature books fall into my lap because of school, and I usually approach them quite lazily.
I had no idea I was going to love this novel.
Feel free to laugh at the fact that I’m planning to graduate this quarter with a BA in English Literature, and yet I will most likely write about this book so poorly. Literary analysis has never been something I enjoyed. I equate it to dissecting creatures in science classes (which I also never enjoyed).
I’ve also looked down at “high-literature” for its pretentious air, and sulked through many literature classes. Though, this might be because the classes and professors I’ve taken have presented these novels as specimens to be studied rather than enjoyed. It’s been a while since I was able to read an assigned work and liked it.
Howard’s End was a surprise. I’m in the middle of chapter 26 (no spoilers, please) and I want to finish it tonight. Tuesday is when we’ll discuss it, so I just wanted to use this blog post as a little practice run for what I want to share–in an informal way.
The story follows the Schlegals, a wealthy family living in London. Margaret Schlegal is the oldest, followed by Helen, and their brother ‘Tibby’. Their Aunt Juley moved in with them after their parents died. The novel begins with letters from Helen, who has visited the Wilcox family. Helen and Margaret had met the Wilcoxes on a trip, and I believe Helen had been invited to their home, Howard’s End. In her letters, Helen describes Mrs. Wilcox to be calm perfection, and the property is beautiful and magnificent.
After an embarrassing incident ensues between Helen and the Wilcox’s son, the Schlegal family hopes to move on from the incident and never deal with the Wilcox family again.
But throughout the novel, the family simply cannot be avoided.
The title of this post refers to Margaret and Helen Schlegal, who I believe to be the badasses of this novel because, really, as women at this time… they are badass.
I feel that I relate to Margaret the most, so I’ve been so fascinated by her character. The oldest sibling of the family, I relate to that need to rise up and take care of the younger siblings after the passing of a parent. She needs to be strong and capable, and understand what is best for her family.
As a youngish woman, Margaret is also aware of the status she holds in society. Educated and well-read, she is quite capable of finding footing among high-society. She can keep up with the men in conversation, and she really doesn’t give an F about how she appears. Un-Lady-Like and proud of it. Margaret Schlegal is unwilling to step down just because she might tread on some toes.
If anything, I’ve come to realize that I wish I could be more like Margaret. Not only is she well-read (which I should be, as an English major) but she’s capable of putting all that she learns to use when she can. Intelligent, outspoken and caring, she tries to do the right thing even if society doesn’t agree. She is strong in her beliefs and sticks to them.
Agh. I initially thought this would be a longer post. I feel so strongly about this novel, but I’m unable to put it into words. Howard’s End isn’t the only reading I’m doing. I’m also reading Othello, but that’s its own challenge.
Maybe after I participate in class discussion, and learn from the observations of my peers regardng Howard’s End, I’ll have better articulated what I wanted to say. As you can see, the reading has rubbed off on me.
Reading up on the novel, I’ve learned that Howard’s End had been adapted into a 1992, award-winning film! Emma Thompson starred as Margaret–winning Best Actress for her performance. Helena Bonham Carter played Helen, and Anthony Hopkins played Mr. Henry Wilcox! Definitely looking forward to that.
Thank you for your time.