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Howards End

E.M. Forster

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Summary

Edward Morgan Forster was born in London in 1879. His father, an architect, died when Forster was very young, and he was raised by his mother and a great aunt. A bright student, Forster attended Cambridge University, from which he graduated in 1901. He spent much of the next decade traveling and living abroad. Many of his observations and experiences from this time were later revived in his fiction, most notably A Room with a View (1908), which chronicles the experiences of a group of English people vacationing in Italy, and A Passage to India (1924), which focuses on the racial misunderstandings and cultural hypocrisies that characterized the complex interactions between the Indians and the English toward the end of the British occupation of India.

In 1910, Forster achieved his first major literary success with Howards End, considered by many critics to be his greatest novel. A symbolic exploration of the social, economic, and philosophical forces at work in England in the years before World War I, Howards End uses three families (the Schlegels, the Wilcoxes, and the Basts) to explore the competing idealism and materialism of the upper classes, and to explore the belittling effects of poverty on the human soul. A deft treatment of a large theme, Howards End won widespread acclaim upon its original publication, and established Forster as one of England's most important writers--a reputation he would hold for the rest of his life, though after 1924 he lived for 46 years and never wrote another novel.

Forster's style is marked by his sympathy for his characters, his ability to see more than one side of a single story, and his fondness for simple, symbolic stories that neatly encapsulate large-scale problems and conditions. These tendencies are all evident in Howards End, which also features a highly nuanced exploration of gender relations in the post-Victorian era.

After completing A Passage to India, Forster's output decreased, and he mostly contented himself with writing critical essays. In 1946, he accepted a fellowship at Cambridge University; he remained in Cambridge until his death in 1970.

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