Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Howards End: Chapter 44 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fourteen months later, Miss Avery’s grandnephew Tom takes Helen’s young son to play with the hay Tom’s father is harvesting. Helen and Margaret are sitting on the lawn at the edge of the field while the Wilcoxes talk inside Howards End. Helen tells her sister that she likes Henry when she didn’t before. She muses about how she no longer believes in romantic love, and how she is forgetting Leonard even though she feels she ought to remember him as her lover. Margaret says that she does not love children as she “ought” to and tells Helen not to bother forcing personal feelings onto things: “Forget him.” Helen asks what Leonard has gotten out of life, then, and Margaret says that perhaps he got an adventure, which would have been enough for him if not for them.
The two little boys play together in the field of hay that is their backyard. One is the son of farmers, the other the son of two very different classes. Their friendship could represent the harmonious mingling of origins in the future. Helen, who has been raising her son alongside Margaret and Henry, seems to have exchanged all of her old ideals for the more conservative ideas of her sister and her brother-in-law. She and Margaret accept that Leonard’s brief “adventure” was good enough for him, even though he never experienced the joys and comforts that they did.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Helen thanks Margaret for heroically settling them all down at Howards End, instead of leaving Helen to raise her baby abroad with only a friend’s help and leaving Henry to be passed back and forth between Dolly and Evie. Margaret modestly demurs, saying she simply brought them all to a ready-furnished house to recover from the trauma of Leonard’s death. From their lawn, they can see London expanding towards them, and they lament the plague of urbanization: “Life’s going to be melted down, all over the world.”
Margaret brought the two people stricken by Leonard’s death together in one place, where she could easily take care of them both. She doesn’t do anything for the person most ruined by Leonard’s death—his poor wife, Jacky. Jacky is left to survive on the scant mercy of Leonard’s family, or else return to the cold streets. The novel never mentions what becomes of her, but it is likely unfortunate. Margaret and Helen denounce the scourge of London spreading farther into the old countryside, but they haven’t done much in their power to help the people suffering in the city.   
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Colonialism and Imperialism Theme Icon
Paul calls Margaret into the house, where Henry, Evie, Dolly and he are sitting in an airless room, trying to keep out the hay. Henry asks everyone to confirm their agreement with his decision to leave Howards End to Margaret. Paul is disgruntled, but he reluctantly agrees that he does not need the house if he’s going to live in London and run his father’s company. Dolly says that Charles no longer wants the house for himself or his sons, because they must move away after the scandal. In return, Henry will give all the money he would have left to Margaret to his children, instead, and Margaret will also give them a good portion of her money. After Margaret dies, the house is to go to her nephew, Helen’s son. Dolly blurts out that it’s curious how Margaret should finally get Howards End after Ruth left it to her.
With his brother in jail, Paul has become the new Charles—behaving rudely to Margaret, resisting giving her the house, working in London for the family colonial business. The youngest Wilcox is no different from the eldest. Neither of them would have been rightful owners of Howards End. Margaret imagines that her nephew, the next boy to be raised in this house, could become a new type of modern man. Descending from mixed origins, born outside of convention, raised in a house home to both the passionate Schlegels and the prosaic Wilcoxes—Helen’s son could represent England’s hope for the future. Margaret has set all this progress in place, as Ruth might have imagined she would.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Colonialism and Imperialism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
When everyone else has left, Margaret asks Henry what Dolly meant, and he explains what happened after his wife’s death years ago. “I didn’t do wrong, did I?” he asks her, and she reassures him, “Nothing has been done wrong.” The novel ends with Helen rushing into the house with Tom and her baby, bringing the news that the field of hay has been cut and a great crop is promised.
After all the time they’ve been living together in Howards End, Henry never told Margaret about Ruth’s wish for her to inherit the house. Even so, everything ended up how it was meant to be all along, which means that Ruth was right to begin with—and that Henry wasn’t dreadfully wrong to let the matter work itself out on its own, either. It’s not clear that events would have played out much differently if Margaret had inherited the house when Ruth first intended, but perhaps Margaret could have found the place where she was meant to be without having to marry Henry first. The novel ends with a hopeful image, leaving the question ambiguous.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
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