The next day, Margaret greets Henry with tenderness. She is eager to help him see how, in their marriage, they might share their lives practically as well as share intimacy. Henry the traditionalist has always cherished a wife who can run their household, raise their children, and entertain their friends.
The one thing Henry is reluctant to embrace in his marriage is intimacy. Because “he had always the sneaking belief that bodily passion is bad,” Henry is “ashamed” to admit he loves his wife. “Amabat, amare timebat,” Margaret thinks, or “he loved, and feared loving.” She wants him to overcome his fear and connect—“Only connect!”—his happy feelings of love and affection with his feelings of passion, and thus realize that love, affection, and passion are all perfectly natural feelings to experience and express. Unfortunately, Margaret is no match for Henry’s “obtuseness”—his fatal obliviousness to all of life’s nuance, and all viewpoints other than his own. He never notices Helen’s hostility towards him, and certainly doesn’t notice Margaret’s subtle attempts to open his mind.
Henry is not a progressive thinker, and he believes in traditional religious and societal mandates about the dangers of sexuality. Margaret fails to change his fearful perspective on love and make him recognize the blessing of natural, healthy unions because Henry clings to his convictions blindly, filtering the world through the lens of his preconceptions. Thus he remains ignorant of whatever he does not wish to see.
Helen joins Margaret and Henry for a walk. Margaret tells Henry that Helen received a letter from Leonard Bast. Thanks to Henry’s advice, Leonard has left his company. However, Henry now says the company is doing fine. Margaret is shocked to hear this, but Henry doesn’t notice—he starts talking about his tenant who wants to sublet Howards End. She interrupts him, and he reassures her that Leonard’s new job at a bank is even safer than his old job, despite its lower salary.
Despite the failure of Leonard’s last visit with the Schlegels, he still trusted them enough—or didn’t trust himself enough—to leave his job on their recommendation. The Schlegels, in turn, had trusted Henry enough to pass his advice onto Leonard. However, they begin to fear that they may have been wrong to trust Henry’s judgment now that he has abruptly changed his tune and doesn’t appear to care about the consequences.
Henry then asks Margaret to go up to Howards End with him next week, which she says she would rather not do, since her Aunt Juley has planned on hosting them for longer than that. He tells her that she “can give that up now,” and she protests that her aunt would be greatly hurt if she were to leave in the middle of this rare visit to her home. He insists that he will talk to her aunt for her.
Henry expects his wife to behave like his subordinate, deferring to his wishes and his judgment absolutely. He completely ignores Margaret’s feelings and the feelings of her aunt, believing that women’s emotions and desires are less important than men’s.
Before Henry can talk to Juley, Helen confronts him about his poor advice that prompted Leonard to leave his job for a lower-paying one for no reason. “Don’t take up that sentimental attitude over the poor,” Henry admonishes her in return, adding self-righteously, “it’s absurd to pretend that any one is responsible personally … our civilisation is moulded by great impersonal forces.”
Helen is willing to boldly challenge Henry when her sister is not. She points out the fact that his judgment was entirely wrong and has caused people to suffer. Henry insists that it’s no use talking about the individual case, since no one can possibly accept personal responsibility for the societal institution of poverty.
Alone with Margaret, Helen denounces such men who “talk of the survival of the fittest, and cut down the salaries of their clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace their comfort,” having convinced themselves that their greed serves the public good. Margaret realizes that her sister’s outrage is stronger than her civility, and she must be separated from Henry before she explodes at him. Thus Margaret braves Aunt Juley’s disappointment and leaves early with him.
Helen attacks Henry’s hypocrisy and dishonesty. Blaming objective “impersonal forces” for unequal wealth when he actively cuts his employees’ wages for his own gain is simply hypocritical and false, as is purposefully denying rights to those without power in society and claiming it’s the natural order. Instead of responding to Helen’s fierce allegations, Margaret focuses on saving the peace and diverting a confrontation that could ruin her relationship with Henry.