Forster's End: Identity, Connection and Redemption through English Identity in Howard's End

Alaa Alghamdi


E.M. Forster's 1910 novel Howards End engages and challenges several mores of social behaviour in England - namely, the mixing of social classes, the fate of the 'fallen' woman, and the status of the foreigner. Through his story of the half-German, bohemian Schlegel sisters, their association with solidly British Wilcoxes and the inheritance of a property with a particular symbolic and emotional importance, Forster illustrates the epitaph that precedes the text of the novel - 'only connect'. The connection that the author advocates is national, humanistic and spiritual. An examination of the role of the Schlegel sisters and their actions reveals the fact that Forster urged social renewal through understanding and inclusiveness.

            Forster's thematic aims intersect with the notion of an English and a British identity (sometimes called 'Britishism'). Britishism is a composite identity, encompassing England and its colonies. It is only selectively inclusive, however; it tends to exclude on the basis of race and religion, constructing a foreign 'other'. Britishism is, moreover, strongly associated with colonialism. The English identity, on the other hand, is local or regional, unconcerned with the spread of colonial power, and focused on the symbolic importance of land. In Howards End Forster implies that the English (and possibly the British) identity may be enhanced through the inclusion of formerly excluded elements. Margaret's inheritance of Howards End and its eventual passing to her nephew establishes the foreign, fallen Schlegels as 'spiritual heirs' of a piece of England, indicating incontrovertible belonging. 


English literature, Forster, Englishness, identity, foreigners

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