Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Howards End Symbol Analysis

Howards End Symbol Icon

Howards End, for which the novel is named, is the Wilcox family home. It originally belonged to Ruth Wilcox, whose maiden name was Howard, and represents Forster’s values of empathy, modesty, dignity, and harmony. When Ruth was born there, Howards End was a small farm, but farming ceased to be sustainable over time. Henry Wilcox modernized the property to save it, selling off the animals and acreage and building a garage and a small addition onto the house. But Howards End is still surrounded by farms, and it maintains a certain connection to the agricultural tradition, as does Ruth herself. She is frequently portrayed as carrying freshly cut hay and breathing in its scent, while the rest of her family is shut away indoors, miserable with hay fever.

Henry, Charles, and Evie do not appreciate Howards End and its connection to nature, unlike Ruth and the Schlegel sisters. When Helen and Margaret Schlegel visit the house, they marvel over the fertile gardens and the ancient, noble wych-elm that embodies the mystical spirit of the property. In centuries past, people believed that sticking teeth into the tree and chewing the bark could cure toothaches. Forster imagines that Howards End could be such a cure for the problems ailing England—poverty and inequality, greed and exploitation. “In these English farms, if anywhere, one might see life steadily and see it whole, group in one vision its transitoriness and its eternal youth, connect—connect without bitterness until all men are brothers,” Forster writes. “Only connect!” and “To see life steadily and to see it whole” are two key ideas that recur throughout the novel, expressing Forster’s vision for how people should approach the world with an open and judicious mind.

By casting Howards End as the site where people may intuit these values, Forster argues for the continued relevance of agriculture and traditional ways of life at a time when England is rapidly becoming more urban and cosmopolitan. The novel arguably romanticizes farming—a grueling and unprofitable labor in reality—and doesn’t identify concrete reforms that could improve the quality of life for the majority of English citizens who will likely never own their own land. But his emphasis on revaluing the land that makes up England, rather than searching ceaselessly for new resources and populations to exploit, is a clear critique of the rampant imperialism that would provoke tensions among the European nations and ultimately set off the first World War just four years after Howards End was published. Howards End reminds Margaret that “ten square miles are not ten times as wonderful as one square mile, that a thousand square miles are not practically the same as heaven.”

Howards End Quotes in Howards End

The Howards End quotes below all refer to the symbol of Howards End. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of Howards End published in 2002.
Chapter 3 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Ruth Wilcox
Related Symbols: Howards End, Cars and Walks
Page Number: 14-15
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“It is the vice of a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square mile, and that a million square miles are almost the same as heaven.”

Related Characters: Margaret Schlegel
Related Symbols: Howards End
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

They did not make the mistake of handling human affairs in the bulk, but disposed of them item by item, sharply…It is the best—perhaps the only—way of dodging emotion. They were the average human article, and had they considered the note as a whole it would have driven them miserable or mad. Considered item by item, the emotional content was minimised, and all went forward smoothly.

Related Characters: Henry Wilcox, Charles Wilcox
Related Symbols: Howards End
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

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.

Related Symbols: Howards End, Cars and Walks
Page Number: 76-77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 33 Quotes

All was not sadness. The sun was shining without. The thrush sang his two syllables on the budding guelder-rose. Some children were playing uproariously in heaps of golden straw. It was the presence of sadness at all that surprised Margaret, and ended by giving her a feeling of completeness. In these English farms, if anywhere, one might see life steadily and see it whole, group in one vision its transitoriness and its eternal youth, connect—connect without bitterness until all men are brothers.

Related Characters: Margaret Schlegel
Related Symbols: Howards End
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 42 Quotes

Margaret was silent. Something shook her life in its inmost recesses, and she shivered.

“I didn’t do wrong, did I?” [Henry] asked, bending down.

“You didn’t, darling. Nothing has been done wrong.”

From the garden came laughter. “Here they are at last!” exclaimed Henry, disengaging himself with a smile. Helen rushed into the gloom, holding Tom by one hand and carrying her baby on the other. There were shouts of infectious joy.

“The field’s cut!” Helen cried excitedly—“the big meadow! We’ve seen to the very end, and it’ll be such a crop of hay as never!”

Related Characters: Margaret Schlegel (speaker), Helen Schlegel (speaker), Henry Wilcox (speaker), Ruth Wilcox
Related Symbols: Howards End
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Howards End LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Howards End Symbol Timeline in Howards End

The timeline below shows where the symbol Howards End appears in Howards End. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
...Schlegel writes three letters to her older sister “Meg,” or Margaret. Helen is staying at Howards End , an “old and little” house in the English countryside. In the first letter, she... (full context)
Chapter 2
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...Mrs. Munt considers it hasty and impractical. Margaret plans to take the train down to Howards End to talk to Helen in person, but Tibby pleads with her to stay and read... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...gets off the train, and Charles Wilcox happens to be there when she asks for Howards End . He offers to drive her back with him. Unfortunately, she mistakes him for Paul... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Colonialism and Imperialism Theme Icon
Helen and Mrs. Munt return to Wickham Place, and Helen reflects on her infatuation with Howards End and the whole Wilcox family. She had been captivated by their energetic demeanors and their... (full context)
Chapter 8
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...from the recent wedding of Charles and Dolly. She sounds liveliest when she talks about Howards End , which was her childhood home. (full context)
Chapter 10
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...will be forced to leave their childhood home. It makes her think of her beloved Howards End , and she invites Margaret to visit there that very day. Margaret observes that the... (full context)
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...early from their motor trip to Yorkshire after Henry crashed the car. The trip to Howards End is forgotten. (full context)
Chapter 11
Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...takes one. The next morning, the grieving Wilcoxes—Henry, Charles, Dolly, and Evie—are having breakfast at Howards End . Henry reflects on Ruth’s unfailing goodness and innocence. He recalls that she didn’t disclose... (full context)
Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...nursing home, enclosing a message left by Mrs. Wilcox. The note states that she wishes Howards End to be left to Margaret Schlegel. The Wilcoxes declare that such a note, handwritten in... (full context)
Capitalism Theme Icon
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Charles frets that Margaret could have colluded with his mother to acquire Howards End and may come down at any moment to collect it, but Henry defends her and... (full context)
Chapter 12
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Colonialism and Imperialism Theme Icon
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As Henry predicted, Margaret was indeed unaware of Mrs. Wilcox’s wish for her to inherit Howards End . She wouldn’t learn of it until years later, the narrator notes. Had she heard... (full context)
Chapter 15
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...this advice on to Leonard. Henry also informs them that he has recently rented out Howards End , and intends to live in the city with a second home in Oniton, Shropshire.... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Next Henry and Margaret talk about where to live— Howards End has been rented out to a tenant, Oniton is too far from the city to... (full context)
Chapter 22
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...hear this, but Henry doesn’t notice—he starts talking about his tenant who wants to sublet Howards End . She interrupts him, and he reassures her that Leonard’s new job at a bank... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Henry then asks Margaret to go up to Howards End with him next week, which she says she would rather not do, since her Aunt... (full context)
Chapter 23
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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Colonialism and Imperialism Theme Icon
Margaret and Helen reconcile before Margaret leaves for Howards End , and Helen agrees to be civil to Henry in company, at least. Margaret meets... (full context)
Chapter 24
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The old woman who startled Margaret at Howards End was Miss Avery, a former friend of Ruth’s who lives on the farm next door... (full context)
Chapter 26
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...is satisfied that her pragmatic, unsentimental fiancé “would save the Basts as he had saved Howards End , while Helen and her friends were discussing the ethics of salvation.” She is also... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Gender Theme Icon
The house at Wickham Place is torn down, and the Schlegels’ furniture is stored at Howards End , which remains empty after the former renter left. Miss Avery will continue to look... (full context)
Chapter 32
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...tells Margaret that Miss Avery has unpacked some of the Schlegels’ belongings being stored at Howards End . Margaret is particularly disturbed to hear that their books may have been unboxed and... (full context)
Chapter 33
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...to the town of Hilton to see what has become of her stored belongings at Howards End .  She walks from the train to the Averys’ farm to retrieve the keys to... (full context)
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Miss Avery’s niece, Madge, takes Margaret to meet Miss Avery at Howards End , telling Margaret how her aunt has become more eccentric lately and now spends quite... (full context)
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Margaret politely tours Howards End with Miss Avery, and notes that her furniture and possessions suit the house nicely. She... (full context)
Chapter 34
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...have no rights—when Ruth was sick years ago, he promised to care for her at Howards End , but brought her to a nursing home instead. He tells Margaret she should write... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Margaret and Henry lunch with Dolly before heading over to Howards End to ambush Helen. Margaret seems quite agitated before they leave, and Henry decides to try... (full context)
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...be mad together if the world chose to consider them so.” When they arrive at Howards End and see Helen sitting on the porch, Margaret jumps out of the car ahead of... (full context)
Chapter 37
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...lingers over all their old furniture. They exclaim over where it has been placed in Howards End and what fond memories it all recalls. Their sisterly love and intimacy is restored. Margaret... (full context)
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...a night with her sister. She leaves to ask Henry’s permission to stay overnight at Howards End , conscious that she is fulfilling Miss Avery’s recent prediction that she would soon inhabit... (full context)
Chapter 38
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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Margaret asks Henry if Helen may stay the night at Howards End . He refuses, saying he does not understand why Helen wants to stay there, and... (full context)
Chapter 39
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
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...her disastrous entanglement with Paul. He suspects that she and Margaret are trying to get Howards End , and he feels very possessive of the house, despite disliking it. Tibby has little... (full context)
Chapter 40
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Margaret and Helen talk at Howards End , each repenting for their part in the disastrous confrontation at Evie’s wedding. Helen admits... (full context)
Chapter 41
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Colonialism and Imperialism Theme Icon
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...tracks her down by talking to Henry’s servants, and leaves London early one morning for Howards End . He walks from the Hilton train station to the house, and Charles Wilcox passes... (full context)
Chapter 42
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...with Helen and Margaret earlier. Henry entrusts his son with escorting Helen and Margaret from Howards End first thing in the morning. On his instructions, Charles goes to Howards End and is... (full context)
Chapter 43
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Back at Howards End , Miss Avery laments that Leonard died without even knowing that he was going to... (full context)
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Henry summons Margaret to Charles’s house, where she returns the keys to Howards End and tells him she is leaving him after the inquest. He tells her that Charles... (full context)
Chapter 44
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)