The mood of Howards End is complex and rapidly changing throughout the novel. At times, it is melancholic and introspective, especially when Margaret Schlegel or Leonard Bast are contemplating their social world. These moments slow the story down. They make the reader feel somber, and ask them to consider the profound questions about interpersonal connection and social inequality these characters ruminate on. As it’s a tragicomedy, however, at other times, it is cheerful and familial. The Schlegel family dynamics provide moments of comic relief and affectionate sympathy, especially toward the beginning of the novel. Most regularly, the mood is reflective, as the reader is invited to share Forster's characters' innermost thoughts and emotions. This allows the reader to sympathize with them and to gain perspective on their complex emotional entanglements.
The way that Forster nuances his characters is an important part of the novel’s mood: no one, even the mostly angelic Margaret, is entirely good or bad. Each character is portrayed in a multi-dimensional and realistic way, allowing the reader a sense of their humanity and occasionally provoking frustration. The reader is left to make their own judgments about each character's actions and motivations. Because of the novel’s slow unraveling of events, the reader is often left in suspense as to the motivations or meanings of characters’ choices.
The novel’s twists also provoke changes of mood for the reader. They feel surprise and delight when Margaret is left Howards End, outrage at the duplicitousness of the Wilcoxes, sadness at Leonard Bast’s awful death, and frustration on behalf of Helen and Margaret in a society which treats them as second-class citizens, valuing their virtue and beauty over their intellect and feelings.