Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Howards End: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Margaret cannot speak to the men at first. Henry orders her to give them the keys and allow them to go inside and see Helen, but she refuses. The doctor asks Helen’s cab driver what happened and learns about the pregnancy. He tells Henry. Margaret is suddenly filled with fierce loyalty towards her own sex and feels like “she was fighting for women against men.” She tells her husband and the doctor firmly that they no longer have any need to diagnose Helen and no grounds on which to force any treatment on her, since her sister is still weeks away from giving birth.
Margaret knows that the men will now judge Helen even more harshly, perhaps, than if she were mad. Having a child out of wedlock is severely looked down upon, especially among the upper classes who are supposed to maintain exemplary virtue and propriety. Women are subject to greater condemnation than men, and Margaret wants to spare her sister the men’s self-righteous reproach as much as possible. The social stigma of her unwed pregnancy is why Helen has avoided seeing her family.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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The doctor weakly suggests that Helen could be suffering from a nervous breakdown, but Margaret disagrees defiantly. She says that her sister’s situation requires great affection, which neither man has for Helen. She stands her ground outside the door until he and Henry drive away, and then she joins Helen inside.
Margaret has complete faith in her sister once again, and refuses to submit to the men’s alleged authority. She knows there is no health crisis at hand, only a supposed moral crisis, and she has no intention of letting them interrogate or lecture her sister, imagining the contempt Helen has already faced.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon