Howards End

Howards End


E. M. Forster

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Howards End Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on E. M. Forster's Howards End. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of E. M. Forster

E. M. Forster was born into a middle-class family in London. As a child, he inherited a large sum of money from his great-aunt and was able to live off of this and focus on writing. Forster attended King’s College at Cambridge, and then became a peripheral member of the “Bloomsbury Group,” a group of intellectuals and writers that included Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey. After university he visited Egypt, Germany, and India, and then was a conscientious objector during World War I. He returned to India in the early 1920s and worked as the private secretary of Tukojirao III, the Maharajah of Dewas. His novel A Passage to India was his most successful work, but Forster is also well-known for his novels A Room with a View and Howards End. He also became a leading broadcaster for BBC Radio and wrote influential literary criticism. Forster was gay (open only to his close friends) and never married. He died of a stroke at age 91.
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Historical Context of Howards End

The Edwardian Period that came to a close with the outbreak of WWI in 1914 is considered to be the height of the British empire. This time period was later viewed with nostalgia and romanticized as a “golden age” in England, when the horrors of WWI were still unimagined. The fight for women’s suffrage was escalating in England during the period from 1908-1910 when Forster was writing Howards End, and his characters debate whether suffrage is just or not. Suffragettes protested for their cause in marches and hunger strikes, facing violence, arrest, and force-feedings. Women would not get the vote in England until after WWI, in 1918.

Other Books Related to Howards End

Contemporaries of Forster in the Edwardian Period, named for King Edward VII and spanning from Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 to the outbreak of WWI in 1914, included George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion), Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book), and P. G. Wodehouse (“Keeping it from Harold,” “Best Seller”). These writers reflected and commented on England’s social conditions at the height of the British Empire, when the material luxuries enjoyed by the rich contrasted strikingly with the squalid conditions experienced by four-fifths of the English population. Forster’s career as a novelist also spanned the wider period of Modernism, but he avoided the experimental technical styles of famous Modernists like Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway) and T.S. Eliot (The Wasteland). Like other Modernists, however, he was interested in the dramatic cultural shifts of the early 20th century, but he focused on portraying the chaos of the modern world through his situations and imagery rather than stylistic innovation. Forster’s works were influenced by writers and thinkers like Thomas Hardy (Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd), D. H. Lawrence (“The Rocking-Horse Winner,” “Odour of Chrysanthemums”), and Samuel Butler. The contemporary British novelist Zadie Smith cites Forster as a significant literary influence and even based her novel On Beauty (2005) on Howards End.
Key Facts about Howards End
  • Full Title: Howards End
  • When Written: 1908-1910
  • Where Written: Surrey, England
  • When Published: October 18, 1910
  • Literary Period: Modernism, Edwardian Literature
  • Genre: Novel
  • Setting: England
  • Climax: Charles Wilcox assaults and kills Leonard Bast
  • Antagonist: The materialistic Wilcox family
  • Point of View: Third-person omniscient

Extra Credit for Howards End

On Beauty: In 2005, British novelist Zadie Smith published On Beauty, a modern retelling of Forster’s Howards End. Set in America, the novel begins when the son of the liberal Belsey family (based on Forster’s Schlegel family) quickly makes and breaks an engagement with the daughter of the conservative Kipps family (based on the Wilcox family). Mrs. Kipps leaves a valuable piece of artwork to Kiki Belsey (instead of a house like Howards End).

Rooks Nest House: Forster’s childhood home was a house in Hertfordshire called “Rooks Nest.” The house had once belonged to a family named Howard and was called “Howards” when Forster lived there. Forster later claimed to have forgotten this fact, and said that he must have unconsciously recalled this childhood knowledge while writing Howards End.