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Howards End

E.M. Forster

Characters

Summary

Analytical Overview

Margaret Schlegel  -  The chief protagonist of the novel, a 29- year-old woman of mixed English and German heritage living in London in the early years of the twentieth century. Sister to Helen and Tibby; later Henry Wilcox's wife. Imaginative and committed to "personal relations," Margaret is the chief representative of the Schlegel family, which represents the idealistic, intellectual aspect of the English upper classes.
Henry Wilcox  -  The patriarch of the Wilcox family, a prominent businessman in London. Married to Ruth Wilcox and later to Margaret. Stuffy, conventional, and chauvinistic, Henry is the chief representative of the Wilcox family, which represents the pragmatic, materialistic aspect of the English upper classes.
Helen Schlegel  -  Margaret's sister, a passionate, flighty girl of 21 who lives for art, literature, and "human relations." Like Margaret, Helen is a representative of the idealistic, cultured Schlegel family, which represents the intellectual aspect of the upper classes. But Helen, who is prettier than Margaret, is also much less grounded and far more prone to excessive and dramatic behavior.
Leonard Bast  -  A poor insurance clerk on the very bottom rung of the middle class--he has money for food, clothing, and a place to live, but not much else, and is constantly beset with financial worries. Married to Jacky. Leonard represents the aspirations of the lower classes; he is obsessed with self-improvement and reads constantly, hoping to lift himself up. But he is never able to transform his meager education into an improved standard of living. Late in the novel, Leonard has a sexual encounter with Helen Schlegel, which results in his becoming the father of Helen's child. Leonard is killed by Charles Wilcox near the end of the novel.
Ruth Wilcox  -  Henry's wife, who dies in the first half of the novel. Gentle, selfless, loving, and strangely omniscient, Mrs. Wilcox seems to represent the past of England. Howards End belongs to her, and she attempts to leave it to Margaret when she dies, an attempt which is blocked by Henry and Charles.
Charles Wilcox  -  The oldest Wilcox son, a self-centered, aggressive, moralistic young man who represents the negative aspects of the Wilcoxes' materialistic pragmatism. Married to Dolly. Charles is sentenced to three years in prison at the end of the novel for the killing of Leonard Bast.
Theobald ("Tibby") Schlegel  -  Tibby is Margaret and Helen's younger brother, a peevish 16-year-old, who grows up and attends Oxford. Tibby is prone to acting out the flaws of the Schlegel family--their excessive aestheticism, indulgence in luxury, and indolence--but shows real improvement by the end of the novel.
Aunt Juley Mund  -  The sister of Margaret, Helen, and Tibby's deceased mother. Though goodhearted, she is a meddling, conventional woman.
Dolly Wilcox  -  Charles' wife, a scatterbrained, insecure girl who often causes trouble by revealing secrets.
Paul Wilcox  -  The youngest Wilcox son, who travels to Nigeria to make his fortune in the British colony. Before he leaves, he has a brief romance with Helen Schlegel.
Jacky Bast  -  Leonard's garish wife, a former prostitute who had an affair with Henry Wilcox in Cyprus.
Evie Wilcox  -  The youngest Wilcox daughter, a self-centered, petulant young girl who, at 18, marries Percy Cahill.
Miss Avery  -  An elderly spinster living in Hilton, who takes care of Howards End when it is unoccupied. A childhood friend of Mrs. Wilcox, Miss Avery takes the liberty of unpacking the Schlegels' belongings while they are stored at Howards End.
Percy Cahill  -  Dolly's uncle, who marries Evie Wilcox.
Frieda Mosebach  -  The Schlegels' German cousin, with whom Helen vacations on the Continent.

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