Books and Movies Reviews

Howards End – EM Forster

Malcolm Bradbury writes of the novel: "The will to vision, the liberal wish for right reason, the claim of the holiness of the heart's affections – all are consistently confronted with ambiguity." How do you respond to this assessment of Howards End?
Perhaps what makes Howards End a truly great novel is the lack of any tangible resolution of the ideas raised and Forster's reluctance to give the reader any definite answers. Instead Forster presents to us characters, situations and symbols that may cause the reader to draw conclusions that will be repeatedly challenged and supported as the novel progresses. It is the ambiguities that Bradbury identifies that make the characters of the novel more authentic: as in real life, such things as'the will to vision','the liberal wish for right reason' and'the claim of the holiness of the heart's affections' are not concepts that the reader can decide simply to champion or reject. They are complex ideas that manifest themselves in many different ways in various people and with diverse results. We might consider the lack of straightforward answers about each of these three concepts an attempt to provide us with an explanation of the realities of modern society in itself.
The'will to vision' and'the liberal wish for right reason' – the love of ideals and the possession of social conscience – are attributes that Helen and Margaret can be closely associated with. They sum up the ethos of the Schlegel sisters, at the beginning of the novel at least. We see from the start that this mentality is at odds with the England of the early 20th century – their Aunt Juley, a representative of the prejudiced English establishment "considers them odd girls". Although, before meeting the Wilcoxes, she claims that "Literature and Art" are most important, we find that on meeting Charles…