Howards End

Howards End


E. M. Forster

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Howards End: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Margaret hosts a luncheon-party to introduce Mrs. Wilcox to some of her friends, but they have little in common with one another. Margaret and her friends enjoy clever cultural and intellectual debate, while Mrs. Wilcox, twice their age, has little to talk about besides her family. She feels intimated by the quick talk the young people exchange. She cares little for the issues they argue over, and at one point she even admits, “I sometimes think that it is wiser to leave action and discussion to men.”  Nonetheless, Margaret senses in the older woman “a personality that transcended their own and dwarfed their activities.” She apologizes to Mrs. Wilcox for the commotion: “We lead the lives of gibbering monkeys.” Mrs. Wilcox assures her that she doesn’t mind: “[W]e are all in the same boat, old and young.”
Margaret tries to introduce Ruth Wilcox into her world of diverse company and stimulating discussion about life, but Ruth’s interests are mostly limited to her role as wife and mother. She has put all of her faith into the simple principle that loving and caring for others is a force for good in the world. To that end, she isn’t much interested in forming or expressing her own ideas about contemporary issues. Margaret feels somewhat similarly at heart, that human relations are the most important matters of all, but she is still concerned with how society might be improved and life might be made better for strangers. Whether the conversations held over such luncheons can ever truly improve the world, or whether they are just “gibbering” is never clear. If Margaret could actually vote, perhaps her ideas would come to pass.
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