Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Howards End: Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The house at Wickham Place is torn down, and the Schlegels’ furniture is stored at Howards End, which remains empty after the former renter left. Miss Avery will continue to look after the property. Margaret and Henry are married quietly at Margaret’s insistence, without the grand celebration that was once envisioned. On their honeymoon trip to Austria, Margaret hopes to see Helen, who has been vacationing in Europe for the past two months, but Helen claims her traveling plans are too uncertain. Margaret assumes that her sister is making excuses to avoid seeing Henry and is disappointed in Helen for failing to forgive in him what Margaret herself has already forgiven.
Margaret’s belongings now reside in Howards End, even if she does not. She finally puts her foot down on the matter of another extravagant wedding, refusing to play the perfect bride in front of all of Henry’s friends once again. Helen misses both her sister’s wedding and her honeymoon trip, and Margaret thinks her grudge against Henry is childish and petty. The new Mrs. Wilcox doesn’t think much about how Henry has cost their friend Leonard, but imagines Helen is mostly upset about Henry’s infidelity, as she herself is.
Themes
Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Henry is happy to avoid confronting Helen and the reminder of his narrowly avoided scandal and ruin. He is glad to have married Margaret after all—pleased with a wife whose interest in poetry or social issues distinguishes her from other men’s wives, but who will always drop her book when he calls and yield to him agreeably in a debate. He believes that Margaret, like all women, has no true “muscle” with which to make a stand, but only “nerves,” which cause her to overreact and do things like jump out of a moving car. He calls it “nerves” when she becomes upset after hearing that he has rented out the house at Oniton without bothering to consult her. He protests that the house is damp, located too far from London, and lacking in impressive scenery. She asks why he bought it to begin with, and he claims untruthfully that Evie had wanted him to buy it before she became engaged.
Henry disapproves of Helen’s audacity and combativeness. He much prefers Margaret’s quiet passion for art and less militant concern with social causes. He disapproves of women who refuse to defer to his judgment in a dispute. He doesn’t believe that women are entitled to equal input and authority as men in deciding a course of action, because they lack the necessary faculties of reason and conviction. Thus he doesn’t bother to ask Margaret’s opinion on what to do with the house at Oniton, even though his own faulty judgment led him to buy an unsuitable house in the first place. He can’t admit this blunder to Margaret or himself, so he blames his bad purchase, ever predictably, on a woman.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Margaret is unhappy to be yet again without a permanent home. They spend the winter in the house on Ducie Street, where Margaret tends to Henry and the household, preparing to take over a large new home in the future. She stops going out as frequently, preferring to re-read books and be alone with her thoughts rather than keep up with all the latest movements and ideas by going out to the theater and discussion societies. Her conscience still pains her somewhat about Leonard and Jacky Bast, but she ultimately feels that “being Henry’s wife, she preferred to help some one else.”
Margaret remains frustrated at her inability to settle into a lasting home. Given that the home was the foremost domain where a woman could exercise her own private and public authority at the time, Margaret surely longs for an outlet where she could put her intelligent capabilities to work. She wants a house she can shape to her own vision instead of temporarily putting up with someone else’s ideas. Houses are important to Margaret, like they were to Ruth; she may not keep all of her principles when she marries Henry, but she sure hangs on to her furniture.
Themes
Gender Theme Icon