Review: Howards End (E.M. Forster)

The first half of this book was a nearly indistinguishable plot from its successor, On Beauty.  I was very prepared to prefer the original to the modern take, but the original was a lot flatter than the modern.  What Howards End says with words (“Oh, [I want] to acquire culture!” OR “She did not attract him, though she filled him with awe…”), On Beauty shows through dialogue and circumstance (one gets the feeling of an individual craving culture because he goes to Mozart shows, poetry readings and wants to attend college OR one understands a suave and attractive culture-craver is merely intrigued, not attracted, by the young chubby intellectual who’s obsessed with him.).  My preference for the modern version likely circles the fact that it contains the era I live in, so I identify with it more readily – but On Beauty as a whole was artfully more subtle than this book, which focused on plot over voice.

The major theme is of class conflict.  Both new and old money cultured people v. middle class (new and old money cultured people becomes liberal and conservative intellectuals in On Beauty).  But is Leonard Bast middle class or lower class? I lean toward middle because he works in a bank, provides for a wife, is half-cultured… though the analogy would be more vibrant if it was a stark rich v. poor class issue.

Helen and Margaret, the new money sisters, were intriguing class representatives that tried to make class lines less rigid.  Helen: tries to bring middle class people up to her new money class, but in reality destroys their lives in the process. Margaret: tries to mix old and new money by a marriage of the two, which also ends mostly disastrously. MORAL: everyone stay in your own category? No…no one is moral, but the cultured/intellectuals think they are, and have more power…and will thus inherit London?

*I was pretty underwhelmed by A Passage to India, the only other Forster novel I read…so this was a vast improvement, but probably only sparked by my interest in On Beauty.

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