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Howard’s End

Howard’s End (1910) is a novel by E.M. Forster. It deals with an

English country house called Howard’s End, and its influence on the lives

of the idealistic and intellectual Schlegel sisters, the wealthy and

materialistic Wilcox family, and the poor bank clerk Leonard Bast.

A recurrent theme in E.M. Forster’s (1879-1970) work is that of his

characters moving from a muddle to some new connections. The motto of

Howards End (1910), for example, is: “Only connect”

The muddle often involves characters who think they know how life

should be, but in their hearts know that there’s so much more than their

dreary little lives have yet imagined.

The total range of awareness and emotive mental response of an

individual from the lowest pre-speech level to the highest articulated

level of rational thought. The assumption is that in the mind of an

individual at a given moment a STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS (the phrase

originated in this sense with William James) is a mixture of all the levels

of awareness, an unending flow of sensations, thoughts, memories,

associations, and reflections; if the exact content of the mind

(“consciousness”) is to be described at any moment then these varied,

disjointed, and illogical elements must find expression in a flow of words,

images and ideas similar to the unorganized flow of the mind.

Themes of the novel include the conflict between materialism and

idealism, practicality and imagination, reason and passion, city life and

country life. Another theme of the novel is the repressive nature of the

class structure of English society. Another theme is the emptiness and

hypocrisy of upper-class society.

Often the connection does not work out as planned, ending in tragedy.

Where Angels Fear to tread (1905) is an example of this.

Forster is fascinated with the idea of pushing, taking chances… of

crossing a bridge between classes, races, and cultures… to see if he and

his protagonists can make new connections and in fact truly grow. Maybe the

world is what we make of the chances given as well as promises broken.

“No; the Wilcoxes are not to be blamed. The problem is too terrific;

and they could not even perceive the problem.” Howards End


A major theme of the novel is the contrast or conflict between the

Schlegel family and the Wilcox family. The Schlegels are idealistic and

intellectual, while the Wilcoxes are more materialistic and motivated by

the desire to maintain their wealth and property. The Schlegels are liberal

and cosmopolitan in outlook, while the Wilcoxes are more conservative and

interested in maintaining their position in society. The Schlegels are

sentimental about helping the poor, while Henry Wilcox refuses tobe

sentimental, saying that there will always be rich and poor. The Schlegels

try to help Leonard Bast, but the misfortunes of the poor clerk mean

nothing to Henry Wilcox. Henry Wilcox is practical and businesslike, while

the Schlegel sisters are more motivated by impulse or intuition. Henry

lacks the capacity for introspection, but Margaret is intellectual. Henry!

has been unfaithful to his wife Ruth, but Margaret is faithful to her sense

of personal responsibility. Forster shows sympathy for both the Schlegels

and the Wilcoxes, while also describing their failures with a tone of

gentle irony. Forster shows that the Schlegels, despite their idealism, can

be impractical, impulsive, and sentimental, and that the Wilcoxes, despite

their narow-mindedness and materialism, are practical, realistic, and

represent the foundation of British society. The setting of the struggle

between the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes is Howard’s End, which represents


Forster was on friendly terms with the Bloomsbury Group, which also

included Virginia Woolf and Duncan Grant. Aspects of the Novel was

published in 1927, originally delivered as the Clark Lecture series at

Trinity College, Cambridge. Its critique against static art compared to

that which invoked “life” annoyed Woolf.

A sophisticated, jaded, yet sympathetic insight to the workings of the

female heart and mind. Clarissa Dalloway is not a character of substance,

strength, or romance. Mrs.Dalloway is a terribly complex creation. A

character destined to frustrate all of those who would reduce Woolf’s

writings to the pitiful mewling of an abused and confused girl. Mrs.

Dalloway has achieved something beyond the parties, confidences, and


In many lives there is a crossroads. We make our choice, and follow it

down to the present moment. Still inside of us is that other person, who

stands forever poised at the head of the path not chosen. “Mrs. Dalloway”

is about a day’s communion between the woman who exists, and the other

woman who might have existed instead.

The novel stays mostly within the mind of Clarissa, with darts into

other minds. To the world she is a respectable 60-ish London woman, the

wife of a cabinet official. To us, she is a woman who will always wonder

what might have been.

This is a wonderful story which takes us through a day in the life of

Mrs. Dalloway. It is not a feminist handbook, but a beautifully written

story of how our lives are all intertwined, bound to each other by

circumstances that we sometimes are not even aware of. We follow the

errands of Mrs. Dalloway as she prepares for an evening party and the

nightmarish last day of poor Septimus who is suffering from ‘soldier’s

heart’. It is written in a rare style which is near to poetry. The impact

of ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ is psychological and thought-provoking. The flow shifts

constantly in a stream-of-conscious examination of the individual

perspectives of those in the world around Mrs. Dalloway, and those in the

world around us. The syntax adds to the flow of the novel, creating

something more than a story… a work of art.

In the first scene of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, Clarissa is

walking around London on a mission to buy flowers for a party she is

hosting that evening. The caterer has been busy since dawn, the day is

beautiful, and she walks through Hyde Park to buy the flowers herself. So

opened Virginia Woolf’s famous 1923 novel, which followed Clarissa Dalloway

for a day, using the new stream-of-consciousness technique that James Joyce

was experimenting with. We will follow her through until the end of her

party, during a day in which no one she meets wil! l know what she’s really

thinking: All they will see is her reserved, charming exterior. However, as

one progresses through the novel, the walk appears to be more of an escape

from her traditional social identity rather than a true illustration of her

character. It is through the use of other characters that Woolf allows us

to truly see inside Clarissa Dalloway’s mind.

She happens to look at the world in quite a different way.

Particularly remember the scene in the park where Mrs. Dalloway and the

young man are both sitting. The description moves from person to person in

the square in a panorama, as each notice the other and speculates briefly

on him or her. It felt as though a camera were slowly panning the scene.

Interesting to speculate on how our lives can move in and out of each


Woolf achieves the suitable flow of the storyline in these ways:

Indirect Interior Monologue- This occurs in the way she captures the

private thoughts of her characters. It allows her to vacillate and move

easily from one character to the next, and allows the reader insight into

each character’s mind. The narrative leaves one mind and enters another;

much like it did in TVO, hovering between the minds of the characters.

Human consciousness transcends the limitations of individual minds.

The clock serves as an example of the experiential sense of time, in

which “the moment” expands- as it is filled with meaning. The “Narrative

Consciousness” shows this distance as essential to a satisfying marriage-

Richard gives Clarissa room to be herself. Clarissa can put some distance

between herself and her feelings. The party at the end brings together the

people who complete her.

Septimus, on the other hand, suffers from an inner, distorted reality,

even though he is Clarissa’s double. In the end, Septimus surrenders to his

tortured soul by taking his life, thus allowing his “truth” to remain

intact. Clarissa’s inescapable past-ness makes it nostalgic.

Since the narrator’s mind is dependent on the character’s mind, this

allows the reader to follow the minds of the characters. Most often in MD,

external objects are introduced as a means of transition from the mind of

one character to another.

Stream of Consciousness, Woolf uses this to allow the reader to

receive everything- the reader momentarily enters the character’s


The omniscient narrator is often illustrated with a schismatic, sudden

cross-section of individual perspectives.

Omniscient Narrator, Achieves unity and cohesion which the character,

Clarissa Dalloway, lacks. Big Ben is utilized as an interruption in the

process of life.

“The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.” (MD


Thus, there are three identifiable times Woolf wants us to recognize

as integral to the structure of the novel: The past of the narrator, the

time of Clarissa’s youth, and the time of this single day in June.


For example, we soon begin to see that Clarissa has class snobbishness

about her when she shows annoyance over the fact that “her own daughter,

her Elizabeth, cared not a straw for neither gloves nor shoes.” She has

funneled her emotions into material objects like gloves and shoes instead

of people. Clarissa also describes Miss Kilman, whom she despises as she

was dismissed from a school during the war because she would not renounce

the Germans; and she is of low social class and hasn’t many other chances.

Clarissa hates the character of Miss Kilman for complaining about the

injury to her reputation during the war, which shows a lot about Clarissa’s

own character as well. Clarissa seems much less empathetic than she did

during the early part of her stroll through the city.

The scene featuring Clarissa’s musings about the past and preparations

for her party is followed by the introduction of Septimus Warren Smith, a

shell-shocked veteran on the verge of madness. Septimus and his Italian

wife, Lucrezia, both see a motorcar containing royalty traveling down the

street, as Clarissa does. Woolf describes the motorcar mockingly as “a face

of the very greatest importance against the dove-grey upholstery”. Septimus

essentially sees the car as a horrible oppressive thing, while everyone

else, including Clarissa, holds great respect and curiosity for it. By

using Septimus as a direct contrast to Clarissa, Woolf is able to emphasize

even further the unmistakably materialistic values of her protagonist.

Still, Woolf does try to get under the surface of all the conventions, to

not just show Clarissa on the surface, but to also show h! er personality

and sensitivity.


For example, when Clarissa comes back home to find a note that Richard

has been asked to Lady Bruton’s to lunch, but she has not been invited, she

is quite hurt at being rejected by one of the grand ladies of her society.

These hurt feelings inspire her to reminisce about her youth spent at

Bourton, her father’s summer home in the country. Through these memories of

other characters, and how Clarissa feels about them, we are able to see

that in addition to being overly class-conscious, she also has many

endearing qualities. Even Clarissa’s servant Lucy sees dual sides of

Clarissa’s personality, when she reflects, “Of all her mistress was the

loveliest–mistress of silver, of linen, of china” and laterdiscusses

how she was not like that when she was young. Clarissa has her identity in

these things due to her class position; in Clarissa’s position, the only

options available for identity socially are in a husband and in things.

Independence is not an option for her; she is trapped by class and money.

Lee, Hermione. The Novels of Virginia Woolf. New York: Holmes and

Meier, 1977.

Clarissa’s husband Richard is also used in many ways to help define

the protagonist’s personality. When we see the couple interacting. He ends

up never telling Clarissa he loves her, but assumes that she knows. After

five minutes of small talk, he takes off for a committee meeting, or as

Clarissa wonders “or perhaps it was the ‘Albanians'”. This shows Clarissa’s

unawareness and disinterest in both her husband’s activities and of the

injustices and social problems going on in the world.

Clarissa has many thoughts of self-awareness, but continues to retreat

inside the role of “hostess” so that she can mask her real feelings. If not

for Woolf’s detailed descriptions of other characters; how they react to

Clarissa and how she reacts to them, the character of Mrs. Dalloway would

not be nearly as interesting or complex. Even the title is representative

of how her character is defined by others in that “Mrs.” is used instead of


Works Cited

Bloom, Harold, ed.. Clarissa Dalloway. New York: Chelsea House Publishers,


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