Howards End is a humanist work with female protagonists to explore the themes of connection and freedom. It explores the political, economic, class, gender and cultural issues of British society in the early 20th century. It has its specific character depiction, besides paying attention to the emotions of the Schlegel sisters, it pays more attention to the family and the view of money and interests, revealing the huge social inequality caused by the widening gap between the rich and the poor. This novel describes the relationships and entanglements between three families from different social levels, showing the status of class struggle in Britain at that time.
The Schlegel sisters, who represent the spirit and culture of the upper middle class in Britain, and the Wilcox family, who represent the same class in their practical, imaginative and arrogant ways, as well as the complex relationship between the upper middle class and the lower middle class in Britain. No matter the main characters’ detailed psychological narration or the few words of minor characters, Forster vividly depicts the mentality of all kinds of characters under the social conditions at that time. The Wilkes family from the upper classes was cold and hypocritical; the Bast family from the lower classes struggled to make ends meet and could not pursue their own ideals.
The middle class Schlegel sisters were privileged, but were deeply influenced by the democratic and liberal ideas of the time. Among them, the elder Margaret hoped that understanding and tolerance would bring people from all walks of life together. Her sister Helen, on the other hand, was full of sympathy for the lower classes and made no secret of her disdain for the upper classes. Howards End is the country home of Henry Wilcox, the hero of the novel. Henry’s ex-wife, Ruth, often talks about the home she loves to Margaret Schlegel, their accidental friend.
She even wrote a note to give it to Margaret before she died, and the Henry family, surprised and hurt by this, tore it up. Margaret then missed out on Howards End several times. Helen had an affair with Leonard Bast, and the children of a man and woman from different classes, equally despised by the upper classes, inherited Howards End and represented a new force in England. In Howards End, the protagonist Margaret reflects the social ideal of the author Forster. By means of symbolism, the author proposes that spiritual and material things should be connected.
Only by joining together, the symbol of The United Kingdom, “Howards End” can be saved. Howards End is a symbol of family, and Margaret’s visit to Howards end is also a cultural journey to find her roots. Howards End presents all kinds of social contradictions faced by the British society under the impact of industrialization and mechanical civilization in the early 20th century. The novel revolves around the complex relationship between the Howard manor and three characters of different classes, realizing the unity of material ecology and spiritual ecology.
In his novels, Forster praised nature, reflected on the relationship between man and nature, and expressed the survival thoughts of integrating into nature and returning to nature. This reflects the author’s creative and forward-looking green thinking, humanistic spirit and modernist spirit, and has some enlightening significance to the goal of building a harmonious society. The narrative modes and techniques used in the novel also influenced the modernist novels and inspired the writers of modernist novels to continue their pursuit and exploration of artistic truth. Through Howards End, Forster arouses the British people’s thinking about modern civilization and traditional culture, and urges them to re-examine the conflict and integration of different cultural identities and different classes.