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Interpretation of Howards End

Howards End, a text by E.M Foster depicts a class struggle in England at the turn of the century. The main theme in the novel is the difficulties, the benefits and the relationships among the members of various social classes. It depicts three families representing different categorizations of Edwardian middle class who includes Wilcoxes, who are rich capitalists, had gained from colonies. The other was represented by half-German Schelegel siblings Hellen, Tibby and Margaret. These characters depict intellectual bourgeoisie who have a lot in common with real life Bloomsburg Group. The other was represented by the Basts, a struggling couple that was in the lower middle class. The Schlegel sisters attempt to help the poor Basts while trying to make the Wilcoxes less prejudiced.  The novel’s motto is Only Connect.

Do the characters represent the ideas of the greater society?

The novel depicts class struggle in the early twentienth century and is thus representative of real life events. Case in point is the Schelegel sisters who represented the intellectual class of Germans. The Schelegels have a lot in common with the real life Bloomsburg group. The Basts and the Wilcoxes also have a lot in common with the greater modern society given the various classes that are widely diverse.

How Foster uses symbolism to imply his ideology

The main theme that stands out in this text is segregation in the social structure. Foster achieves symbolism in his literary work through the use of different characters in the story from diverse backgrounds to depict the social lines along which our society is divided. The Wilcoxes are wealthy capitalists whose wealth was derived from colonies. They represent an upper middle class family whose ideals are in sharp contrast with the Schegels and the Basts. The author uses symbolism with the use of the three families to depict how diverse the modern society. For instance, Foster implies that the wealthy looks down on the poor members of the society when Hellen’s long engagement is broken because the suitor in question was not considered ideal for her in terms of mannerisms and material possessions.

Tibby is ill and the Wilcoxes avoid visiting her family at the time. The Schegels live in Wickham place, a quiet secluded place. The writer depicts the Schegels state of affairs in a debate between Margaret and Mrs. Munt. They question if the Wilcoxes are their sort in terms of literature and art, which they consider to be of vital importance. Further, they wonder aloud if their son can make their daughter happy had he been in a position to marry. This can be attributed to the fact that they considered Hellen to be very special.        

How the personalities of Wilcoxes, the Schegels or Basts convey meaning.

The personality of the Wilcoxes convey meaning in that they are discrete when relating with other members of the society while at the same time having an impressive form of self possession. However, their underlying hypocrisy is brought out at dinner in the evening in a conversation with Mrs.Munt over who was superior between the Schegiels and themselves.

When they question if the same could be said in the case of Wilcoxes, it can be depicted that this family divides people along the lines of social classes. They see it as ironical to the extent that people would consider one mad for seeing that way. They figure it would be disconnecting for Hellen. They consider that the right person for Hellen is one willing to go slowly in the process of breaking an engagement she was in. Margaret considers running to Howard’s house to save her aunt then trouble of breaking off the long engagement Hellen was in.

Hellen is presented as the weak member of the Schegel’s family. In an attempt to communicate to her on the current state of her love affairs and considers accepting Aunt Juley’s offer of going to Howards end house to talk her into breaking off her engagement. The other options included sending a telegram but she figured it would seem cold and cryptic; a personal visit to her house seemed impossible as days went by. As such, the writer brings out the Wilcoxes as lacking in terms of personal touch given their repulsiveness when it came to talking Hellen about her current state of affairs. Further, they scarcely knew their family members names and they considered it wrong and uncivilized. This further presents the writer’s disregard for the social decay in the society as depicted by the Wilcoxes.

Although Mr.Schlegel had died, Margaret, his daughter had become of age and was putting in her savings in foreign things in terms of old safe investments. The author brings out Mrs Munt as hardworking where she even tried to influence her niece to follow in her footsteps. Further, she had made her own fortune by investing in home rails. Her niece is brought out as kind as she had invested a little amount of her money in her aunt’s business out of politeness. Mrs. Munt, Margaret’s aunt is concerned for her niece’s welfare as she thinks in the best interest of her niece as she wanted her to have a place to fall back in case her ventures did not work out. This is in pure contrast to the Wilcoxes who have little regard for family as they barely even knew them by name.

Hellen is presented as a spendthrift who shifts her money without being pressed out of Consols. However, she and her family had accomplished little in social matters. In the days to come, the Schegel sisters would enter into a process of literally throwing themselves away. The author predicts that this process would project itself more vehemently in the foreseeable future. This can be attributed to the fact that the Schegiels were exposed to an environment where they were likely to be negatively influenced by bad neighbors such as musicians among others.    

Mrs. Munt rehearsed her mission to know the state of affairs of her three nieces as it was often that she was in a position to assist them. Her brother in law is brought out as a peculiar German and insists that the three girls could manage by themselves. Following Mr.Schigel’s death, Mrs.Cunt had repeated her offer to assist her nieces, further depicting her kind nature. By then, Margaret had become of age and was no longer but she gently turned down the offer. Her aunt felt she could not interfere for a third time in the matter.

Wilcoxes family is analyzed through Hellen’s suitor. He is kind to strangers as was the case in train station on his encounter with Mrs Munt. Mrs Munt figured he was a gentleman due to his apparent good mannerisms and was also easy on the eye. As such, the Wilcoxes had an impressive sense of self possession. In the family debate in the evening, decency had been flung aside as the opposing camps argued on whether the Wilcoxes were superior to the Schegiels. The Basts are presented as a poor family which is assisted by the Schegel sisters to gain a sense of self-worth. They are a humble family which is in sharp contrast to the Wilcoxes.

How does fate play a role in the society?

Foster brings out the aspect of fate in society in that Hellen is about to be married in the Wilcoxes family. Fate bridges the Wilcoxes and the Schegeles despite their sharp differences. The Wilcoxes are considered arrogant and unfriendly while the Schegelels are intelligent and independent to the extent that Hellen is almost talked out of getting married to the Wilcoxes by her aunt. However, fate links them together despite all the opposing forces. This is in-spite of the fact that the couple realizes its mistake and breaks off the longstanding engagement.

How is the question “Who inherited England” answered?

The question is answered through the inheritance of the house, Howards End. The house is representative of rural England and a symbol of England tradition. The house is initially owned by Ruth Wilcox. The house is later bequeathed to the Schelegels through Margaret when Ruth learns that the Schelegels’ house lease is due, much to the disappointment of the Wilcoxes. However, Henry Wilcox ultimately leaves the house to Margaret. The final ownership of Howards is representataive of new class relations in England. The Wealthy industrialists, Wilcoxes marry the politically reforming Schelegels which is bound to benefit the Basts, members of lower classes.


Foster brings out the relationships among different families depicting the social classes existing in our society. The different families relate with other people in different ways with the Wilcoxes baring the blunt of poor relations even amongst the family themselves. On the contrary, the Schegels and Basts are kind and humble respectively. Their character clashes with the Wilcoxes when Hellen’s aunt attempts to break off her engagement.

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