Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Howards End: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The poor boy is named Leonard Bast. He has long been underfed, physically and mentally, and he regrets letting his suspicions and wounded pride get the best of him by turning down the tea. He walks two miles home, unable to spare money for the tram. He reenters the tiny basement apartment that he shares with a woman named Jacky. When he takes off his boots, he accidentally knocks her portrait off a little table and breaks the glass. The picture shows Jacky smiling with her mouth gaping open, baring all her dazzling white teeth. Her eyes, however, appear anxious and hungry. Leonard cuts himself trying to pick up the glass and bleeds onto the photo.
After showing the Schlegels’ perspective of Leonard, Forster shows Leonard’s perspective. While he is Helen’s age, he has grown up in very different circumstances than the Schlegels. Leonard is hungry not just for the luxury of culture that the Schlegels enjoy, but for the basic necessity of food. Unlike Helen and Margaret, who lead proudly independent lives, he is trapped in a relationship. His fiancée is evidently a desperate woman whose dependence pains Leonard.
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Leonard has a meager tea and then sits down with a book. He dedicates his free time to reading and attending concerts, hoping to become more cultured and gain a richer understanding of the world. However, the artists whom he so admires do not concern themselves with the actual world—like the Schlegels, they are absorbed in a romantic and unrealistic existence. The voice in the book he turns to “was the voice of one who had never been dirty or hungry, and had not guessed successfully what dirt and hunger are.”
Leonard is trying to reach a greater knowledge of the world, but he struggles to relate to the works of art and literature that he studies. The works that intellectuals consider to be great are not relevant to Leonard and others like him, because they don’t concern any problems that are realistic for the lower classes.
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Related Quotes
Leonard’s reading is interrupted when Jacky comes home. She is thirty-three years old, a former prostitute whom he has promised to marry when he turns twenty-one. Her looks are past their prime—she currently has fewer, duller teeth than the younger face in the photograph. She once could have relied on her figure and her smile to attract men, and she has no real talent for wit or lively conversation. She frequently asks Leonard to repeat his promise to marry her, to his irritation. They share an unappetizing dinner and Leonard eventually retires to bed, unsatisfied.
Jacky is thirteen years senior to Leonard, a less than ideal match. Forster implies that she seduced Leonard when he was younger, and he nobly promised to provide for her. Unlike Helen and Paul, who quickly broke off their engagement and painlessly separated, Leonard feels that he cannot abandon Jacky when she cannot support herself. While he has begun to realize that they are not well-suited to each other, his conscience leaves him no choice but to stay with her in this meager lifestyle.
Themes
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Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon