Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Howards End: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Margaret is fretting about their move when Evie invites her to lunch with her and her fiancé. Margaret is happy to see that Henry is also joining them. They dine at Simpson’s in the Strand, one of London’s oldest traditional English restaurants, where Margaret overhears endless conversations about the British Empire. She tells Henry that he must dine with her in turn at Mr. Eustace Miles’s, a vegetarian restaurant popular with suffragists. They are quickly developing a mutual intimacy, despite possessing such different tastes. Henry patronizingly ignores Margaret’s food requests and chooses her courses for her, which she silently tolerates. He observes that she looks tired, and she laments again her failure to find a suitable new home for the family.
The Wilcoxes prefer old and highly conventional restaurants, filled with the same types of businessmen and imperialists. Margaret prefers the new scene of progressive ideals about ethical consumption and a more just society. The two have very little in common besides their shared history of family entanglements, but they seem to enjoy rising to debate each other. They also seem to enjoy one another’s temperaments, as Margaret admires Henry’s self-confidence and decisiveness and Henry approves of Margaret’s (purposeful) submissiveness.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Colonialism and Imperialism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Henry observes that Margaret talks to him the same way he heard her speaking to Leonard Bast, and she says that she tries to address everyone in the same manner rather than talk down to anybody in a lower class. However, he feels triumphant for merely getting her to admit that class distinctions exist, which she argues she never denied to begin with. Not long afterwards, the Schlegels leave London to visit their Aunt Juley with the question of their new house still unresolved.
Henry doesn’t understand what Margaret means when she says she tries not to treat different classes any differently. He tells her she’s claiming that she doesn’t believe in classes, which isn’t true. Margaret notes his lack of understanding, but isn’t too disheartened by it.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon