E.M Forster' novel, Howard's End, presents a compelling nature of life in England in the early 90s, especially before the First World War. Forster addresses various issues and relationships associated with various social classes. Considered as Forster's masterpiece by many, the novel explores the philosophical battles, economic struggles, political preview and social dimensions that exist in the early twentieth century England. These aspects are presented through three families who belong to different social classes, and their interactions showcase the myriad of social issues with which each social class deals. The Wilcox family represents a pragmatic, business-obsessed, socially moral but materialistic group of individuals from the upper class. The Schlegel's family is used in the novel to portray the upper-class individuals whose intellectual aspects and inheritance see them categorized with the elites. Forster uses the Bast's family to present the lower class individuals who struggle to climb the social ladder through hard-work and everything else but still fails (Forster, 200). Through the three homes, Forster crafts struggles and social changes which attempt to decide which group of individuals would be heirs to the nation of England. It is of great significance to know that, symbolically, the Howard's End estate represents the whole nation of England and who inherits the estate should dictate the ruling or the most powerful class. Specifically, this paper discusses the social issues and class differences among the three families and the eventual relevance of these matters to the nation of England.
The sad reality of life is that people are socially recognized by the amount of wealth they or their folks own or the degree of influence they can bring. Being with or without wealth, influence or both determines whether or not one becomes associated with the upper, middle or lower social classes. Nonmaterial possessions are not so much relied upon in social setup. With this knowledge in mind, Forster creates interactions and situations which pitch these families together to show how social classes come by. First, Forster attaches class with the value of material, property and monetary possessions. These are mostly associated with the upper and middle classes while spiritual and cultural values are matters that mean a great deal to the lower social classes such as the Basts (Forster, 16). The physical and material riches set the Wilcox's apart from the other two families. The contrast that exists between the physical and the spiritual or imaginative world of the Wilcox's and the Schlegel's is undeniable. Through materialistic possessions, especially the Wilcox's family, Forster brings the idea of imperialism as the wealth that the Wilcox's own came as a result of the imperialists' projects. While that aspect is strongly associated with social morality in England, spiritualism as represented by the Schlegel's, especially Helen, is brought as a source of solace when man is faced with inevitable consequences of human existence such as death. In such issues, money or wealth is of no significance (White, 47). Arguably, the notion of death and meaning of life can be cited as some of the reasons that underlie religion or Christianity as faith in England.
Another scenario that presents class battles is showcased through the working class regarding education and health conditions. While members of higher class live comfortable lives defined by the kinds of food they eat and overall great health conditions, those from the lower end exhibit the opposite regarding education and health. The 'physical deterioration' of the working class is brought about by Leonard Bast who works as a clerk. Being from a poor background, he is mentioned as underfed in body and mind (Forster, 5). The undernourishment mentioned symbolizes lack of opportunities and privileges that other upper social classes enjoy (Forster, 56). Even when they struggle to climb the social ladder to get better food and anything good, those from the lower classes are seen as pathetic imitators (Forster, 237). Despite all these struggles, the efforts of everyone prove vital as everyone contributes to the economy of the nation.
To further explore class differences or social struggles, Forster intertwines certain relations that bring together all the families from all the classes. It is in order for the lower middle and upper classes to depend on each other regarding a myriad of aspects including labor. Similarly, interclass romantic relationships that exist among these classes know no social bounds. The linkage that binds all these families indicates that each class needs the others (Forster, 68). Paul Wilcox's romantic relationship with Helen Schlegel brings together the middle and upper classes. The previous affair between Leonard Bast and Helen Schlegel, which resulted in a child, brings the lower and middle class together. The marriage between Margaret Schlegel and Henry Wilcox is also another one of such relationships which bring all the houses together irrespective of social rank. In the end, it comes to light that Henry's and Helen's child should be the right heir to the Howard's End estate. The relevance of this scenario to the nation of England is that despite all the social difference and disparities that the country exhibits, everyone should contribute to a country that all can share at the very end of it all.
In conclusion, Forster offers various ways through which all individuals from all the social classes coexist in prewar England. The social differences and the class issues see ways through which the lines separating the classes become thinner as time goes by. The relations and interclass interactions are responsible for building up a nation that everyone would be heirs and share.
Forster, E. M. Howards End. Floating Press, 2009.
White, Leslie. "Vital Disconnection in" Howards End"."Twentieth Century Literature 51.1 (2005): 43-63.
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