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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!”