In Howards End, Forster contrasts traveling by automobile with traveling by foot. The Wilcoxes love to drive, no matter how short the distance. Only Ruth Wilcox lacks the zeal for motoring, as Forster explains when he first introduces her at Howards End: “She seemed to belong not to the young people and their motor, but to the house, and to the tree that overshadowed it.” Both Ruth and Margaret, the past and the future “Mrs. Wilcox,” prefer walking to driving whenever possible. Miss Avery claims to have mistaken Margaret for Ruth when she saw her pacing around Howards End: “You had her way of walking.” When Margaret asks Henry Wilcox if they can walk to the church for Evie’s wedding, Henry responds, “One can’t have ladies walking through the Market Square. The Fussells wouldn’t like it; they were awfully particular at Charles’s wedding. My—she—our party was anxious to walk, and certainly the church was just round the corner, and I shouldn’t have minded; but the Colonel made a great point of it.” He can’t speak the name of Ruth, his deceased wife, but evidently she agreed with Margaret. Patriarchal tradition insists that walking is unladylike, however. When Margaret chastises Henry—“Are you aware that Helen and I have walked alone over the Apennines, with our luggage on our backs?”—he retorts, “I wasn’t aware, and, if I can manage it, you will never do such a thing again.”
Like Margaret and Ruth, Leonard Bast valiantly treads the earth instead of riding in a car or train: “You are the man who tried to walk by the Pole Star,” Margaret declares. As Leonard approaches Howards End on foot, Charles Wilcox overtakes him by car, but Forster shows this to be a hollow victory: the power to move ever faster only promotes the mistake of acting ever rasher. “He is a destroyer,” Forster writes of Charles and his type, and Charles soon proves this point by impulsively pummeling Leonard and causing his weakened heart to stop. Charles shows no remorse for his rash actions, much the same as how the Wilcoxes’ driver lacked any remorse for negligently running over a cat while not watching the road in the sparsely trafficked countryside. Disgusted with the needless haste of the drivers, Margaret condemned the travelling party she was a part of: “They had no part with the earth and its emotions. They were dust, and a stink, and cosmopolitan chatter, and the girl whose cat had been killed had lived more deeply than they.” Forster associates motors with heedlessness and destructiveness. He thus hints at Henry’s reformation late in the book when Henry rejects Charles’s offer to drive him half a mile: “You young fellows’ one idea is to get into a motor. I tell you, I want to walk; I’m very fond of walking.”
Cars and Walks Quotes in Howards End
They were all silent. It was Mrs. Wilcox.
She approached just as Helen’s letter had described her, trailing noiselessly over the lawn, and there was actually a wisp of hay in her hands. She seemed to belong not to the young people and their motor, but to the house, and to the tree that overshadowed it. One knew that she worshipped the past, and that the instinctive wisdom the past can alone bestow had descended upon her.
“When I saw all the others so placid, and Paul mad with terror in case I said the wrong thing, I felt for a moment that the whole Wilcox family was a fraud, just a wall of newspapers and motor-cars and golf-clubs, and that if it fell I should find nothing behind it but panic and emptiness.”
To speak against London is no longer fashionable. The Earth as an artistic cult has had its day, and the literature of the near future will probably ignore the country and seek inspiration from the town. One can understand the reaction…Certainly London fascinates. One visualises it as a tract of quivering grey, intelligent without purpose, and excitable without love; as a spirit that has altered before it can be chronicled; as a heart that certainly beats, but with no pulsation of humanity. It lies beyond everything.
…[Leonard’s] outburst ended in a swamp of books. No disrespect to these great names. The fault is ours, not theirs. They mean us to use them for sign-posts, and are not to blame if, in our weakness, we mistake the sign-post for the destination. And Leonard had reached the destination. He had visited the county of Surrey when darkness covered its amenities, and its cosy villas had re-entered ancient night. Every twelve hours this miracle happens, but he had troubled to go and see for himself. Within his cramped little mind dwelt something that was greater than Jefferies’ books—the spirit that led Jefferies to write them.
[Charles] described what he believed to have happened. Albert had flattened out a cat, and Miss Schlegel had lost her nerve, as any woman might. She had been got safely into the other car, but when it was in motion had leapt out again, in spite of all that they could say. After walking a little on the road, she had calmed down and had said that she was sorry. His father accepted this explanation, and neither knew that Margaret had artfully prepared the way for it. It fitted in too well with their view of feminine nature.
Here men had been up since dawn. Their hours were ruled, not by a London office, but by the movements of the crops and the sun…They are England’s hope…
At the chalk pit a motor passed [Leonard]. In it was another type, whom Nature favours—the Imperial. Healthy, ever in motion, it hopes to inherit the earth. It breeds as quickly as the yeoman, and as soundly; strong is the temptation to acclaim it as a super-yeoman, who carries his country’s virtue overseas. But the Imperialist is not what he thinks or seems. He is a destroyer.
“You go on as if I didn’t know my own mind,” said Mr. Wilcox fretfully. Charles hardened his mouth. “You young fellows’ one idea is to get into a motor. I tell you, I want to walk; I’m very fond of walking.”
…Charles did not like it; he was uneasy about his father, who did not seem himself this morning. There was a petulant touch about him—more like a woman. Could it be that he was growing old? The Wilcoxes were not lacking in affection; they had it royally, but they did not know how to use it.