Howards End and Social Class

Topics: Social class, Working class, Social mobility Pages: 6 (1982 words) Published: December 4, 2014
Lara Armstrong
Kate Egerton
GSTR 110i
21 October 2014
Inheriting England
Howards End, a riveting book written by E.M. Forster, showcases the question “Who shall inherit England?,” in the post-World War 1 England era does so by putting different social classes and the different people who are representatives of the social classes on display for everyone to judge and critique such as Leonard Bast as an old representative and his son as a new representative. E.M. Forster uses one man in particular, Leonard Bast, to showcase the fact that when you are trying to climb up the social ladder through whatever means necessary, upward social mobility doesn’t always happen to you personally in your lifetime and sometimes it is the next generation that will inherit everything. In the case of Leonard Bast who was a significantly poor man, eating beef tongue and pineapple jelly for dinner, (Forster 41) and running after Miss Schlegel when she accidently took his umbrella at the concert (Forster 27), he was always trying to achieve higher social standing by associating himself with wealthy people at concerts, or reading books that the wealthy read, or trying to attain a good status job. Leonard once thought “We are not concerned with the very poor,” (Forster 35) because that is how he wanted to be able to be. Leonard wanted to be able to achieve the status of not having to worry about how he was going to pay for his next meal, or how he would take care of his eventual wife Jacky. After the initial meeting with the Schlegels, they invite Leonard over for tea, even though they know that he’s poor. Helen, Leonard’s eventual lover, and umbrella stealer, does crack jokes at his expense because they do have the money it takes not to worry about an old umbrella that has holes in it, unlike Leonard (Forster 32-33) which shows that he is of the lower class because he cannot afford an umbrella and that is what it takes to make one a gentleman (Forster 35). At least two years after this incident, the Schlegels and Leonard happen upon each other again, by way of his now wife, Jacky showing up at the Schlegels house thinking her husband was there because of Margaret’s calling card given to Leonard when Helen stole his umbrella. The day after this incident, Leonard shows up at their house and tells the Schlegels that he had left, and Jacky thought he was there, and they proceeded to talk about books like “Stevenson’s Prince Otto,” among others things, such as the walk Leonard took in the woods when he was missing from Jacky (Forster 85-87). Helen and Leonard eventually get so close in their relationship that he has an affair with her and gets her pregnant. While this is going on, Margaret has also found herself a husband, Mr. Henry Wilcox, former husband to the late Mrs. Wilcox, from an estranged family friendship. Mr. Wilcox does not really like Leonard for the fact that he is poor and thinks that he has questionable interests outside of his marriage (Forster 107). Jacky, who is found out to be an old mistress of Mr. Wilcox’s adds an embarrassment factor to Margaret and Henry’s relationship, and he tries to let her out of the engagement though she does not want out (Forster 166-167). Once Margaret and Henry are married, Helen runs away because she does not want her family to know she is pregnant. She then gets tricked into coming home and revealing that she is in fact almost ready to give birth, because Margaret is worried about her (Forster 208). When Charles Wilcox, Margaret’s step son, and Helen’s step nephew finds out that Leonard “seduced” her, thinking she had no say in the matter, Charles wanted only to “thrash him within an inch of his life,” (Forster 230) though Charles kills Leonard by an accident. With Charles saying Leonard died of a heart attack, and the police deciding differently, Charles goes to jail while Helen is left to raise the baby herself. Now that Helen’s baby boy is without a father, no matter how...

Cited: Forster, E. M. Howards End: Authoritative Text, Textual Appendix, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. Ed. Paul B. Armstrong. Norton Critical Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. Print.
Lewin, Tamar. "Up From the Holler: Living in Two Worlds, At Home in Neither." The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 May 2005. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.
May, Della Justice. "Class Matters: Della 's Story Interactive Feature." The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 May 2005. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.
Scott-James, R.A. “[“. . . A connected novel . . .”]”. Howards End: Authoritative Text, Textual Appendix, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. Ed. Paul B. Armstrong. Norton Critical Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. Print.
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