Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Howards End: Chapter 34 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After having been sick with minor colds and coughs all winter, Aunt Juley comes down with acute pneumonia. Margaret and Tibby go down to be at her bedside, and Helen plans to come back from Germany. Thankfully, Juley battles her illness until the doctor declares she is no longer in danger from it. After Helen arrives in London, she writes for an update on Juley’s condition. If her aunt is much better, she may not come down to see her before returning to Germany, she says.
Aunt Juley pulls through her illness like how Forster imagines England could pull through the ills afflicting its homeland and empire. Margaret and Tibby go to pay their respects at her bedside while she is most sick, but Helen is strangely reluctant to join them. She will go to see Juley only if her aunt is dying, not if she is already dead or recovered.
Themes
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Margaret is greatly concerned by Helen’s continued absence. She has not seen her sister in eight months. But she cannot lie to Helen, so she tells her that Juley is indeed recovering. Helen replies that she will return to Germany as soon as she picks up a few books from storage and asks where they are being kept. Margaret asks her sister to meet her in person, but Helen doesn’t come.
Helen does not want to see Margaret, only to take her beloved books back to her German escape with her. It’s unclear what is behind her odd behavior: continuing antipathy towards Henry, a new personal philosophy or ideology of some sort, a secret lover in Germany, etc.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Margaret can’t believe that her sister continues to go to such lengths to avoid seeing her. Troubled by the depth of Helen’s hatred for Henry, Margaret worries whether her sister has become unduly fixated on the Wilcoxes ever since the whole crisis with Paul four years ago. Tibby also finds Helen’s refusal to see them highly unusual and suggests she might be mentally ill. Margaret shares her fears with Henry, who is slow to realize her concern. Eventually he declares that Helen must be taken to a doctor by any means necessary if she is truly acting madly.
Margaret fears that Helen’s passionate feelings about the Wilcoxes, from the heights of infatuation to the depths of resentment, may have poisoned her mind against them and herself by extension. At a loss over what to do, she and Tibby go to Henry for help, even though Helen trusts him least of all.
Themes
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Henry believes the sick have no rights—when Ruth was sick years ago, he promised to care for her at Howards End, but brought her to a nursing home instead. He tells Margaret she should write to Helen, pretending to be highly offended and informing her that her books are at Howards End and a neighbor will let her in while Margaret supposedly stays in London. When Helen comes to Howards End, Margaret can confront her there with a doctor waiting in the car if necessary. Margaret hates the dishonesty of Henry’s plan but allows herself to be talked into it out of fear for Helen’s wellbeing.
Helen may be right not to trust Henry—when his first wife trusted him to take care of her as promised “in sickness and in health,” he lied to her and placed her in a nursing home. Here he devises another lie to bring Helen under Margaret’s control, and therefore under his control. Accustomed to giving Henry his way, and badly worried about Helen, Margaret agrees to accept help from the person Helen hates most.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
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