Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Howards End: Chapter 28 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at Oniton, Margaret sits paralyzed for a time, then begins to compose a letter. She writes to Henry, “this is not to part us … I mean it to be nothing.” She censors herself to avoid expressing “so strong a grasp of the situation” and sounding disagreeably “unfeminine.” Then she tears up the letter and writes to Leonard Bast instead, telling him that Henry unfortunately has no vacancy. She encloses this letter inside a note to Helen, telling her about Jacky getting herself drunk and writing, “The Basts are not at all the type we should trouble about.” While she still wants to help Leonard and wouldn’t wish for either of the Basts to starve, she believes that the only “practical” thing to do is to get them away from Helen and Oniton before Henry’s scandal can get out: “Something might be arranged for the Basts later on, but they must be silenced for the moment.” If she and her sister become responsible for betraying Henry’s embarrassing secret to the world, even accidentally, he would never forgive her.
Margaret begins to process the news of Henry’s past affair, and quickly decides that the fact does not change her intention to marry him. Rather than realize how little Henry thinks of women and conclude that she deserves better, Margaret becomes even more determined to act like the submissive woman he wishes her to be. She is willing to do whatever must be done to save their engagement. She is determined to prevent Helen or anybody else from learning about Henry’s sordid history with Jacky, so she stops trying to help the Basts and focuses on getting rid of them, instead.
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Despite everything, Margaret still faithfully believes that “Henry must have it as he liked, for she loved him, and some day she would use her love to make him a better man.” Although she is upset at his betrayal of Ruth, she doesn’t want to expose him; she can’t even bear for Helen to learn the truth if she can help it, for both Henry’s sake and her own. She is ashamed of him and of herself for staying with him despite his vice. Margaret delivers her messages for Helen and Leonard to the hotel without seeing them in person and goes to bed.
A few months earlier, Margaret told Helen that she did not love Henry yet. Now she says that she does love him, and that’s why she accommodates him so much. To an intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate woman like Margaret, the narcissistic and deeply patronizing behavior Henry has displayed since their engagement arguably should have been more off-putting than endearing, but her loyalty towards Henry and the type of Englishman he represents has proven absolute. She still believes she can change him, despite all his resistance so far.
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