Analysis Essay on Howard's End by E. M. Forster

Social class is based on the amount of money a human gain and is broken into many groups. Class influences civilians in diverse ways. Class alters the thinking of the public and often creates a bias towards people of higher class. The class of a person can determine the number of events and opportunities the person will enjoy within their lifetime. Different groups of people are in separate levels of social class and this determines their outlook on other people who are of a different class. This is seen in Howards End by E. M. Forster. The author expressed how improving one’s class is an exceedingly difficult task to perform and demonstrated how assistance from people who are of a different class can negatively affect a person as many individuals are in desperate economic positions. For the duration of the novel, Forster utilized distinct characters to display the hardship a person has to go through to attempt to improve their class. In particular, the writer showed how people who are in a lower class may find it nearly inconceivable to improve their situation and class. The novel illustrates how social class produces adverse consequences on numerous citizens due to a lack of understanding.

Many members of society seek to enhance their social class without having much knowledge, and this causes them to fail in their quest for knowledge. This is seen with Leonard as he tries to read a novel without understanding the symbolism: “And the voice of the gondola rolled on, piping melodiously of Effort and Self-Sacrifice, full of high purpose, full of beauty, full of sympathy and the love of men, yet somehow eluding all that was actual and insistent in Leonard’s life. For it was the voice of one who had never been dirty or hungry, and had not guessed successfully what dirt and hunger are,” (Forster, pg 50). The author elucidated how Leonard was reading a novel that was written by Ruskin. Forster also mentioned how Leonard was reading a novel about things that were not persistent in his own life. While this desire for a better situation helps Leonard to seek advice, this hurts Leonard because he believes that reading novels from famous authors and attending concerts could suddenly improve his culture and class. Leonard believed that engaging in the same endeavours as the upper class would aid him in his attempt to extend the barrier of his class, and this subsequently proves to be incorrect.  This is also seen whenever Leonard does any activity: “Forster acknowledges that the acquisition of culture is hard work, and while there must be figures and texts of inspiration for the uninitiated, there ought not be the intimate earnestness of the tutorial,” (White, 2005). Despite his attempts to extend his barrier of class by attending various and reading works from various authors, Leonard begins to learn that class is something that he cannot gain by his luck. Leonard may be able to recite all the names of the authors the higher class may read, but he is not capable of explaining how these stories connect and use the lessons to extend the barriers of class. Due to his misunderstanding of attempting to improve his class, Leonard went to seek advice from citizens who are upper class.

When one does not understand an idea, the person will generally seek advice from a person who is in the position they desire to be. Although seeking advice can greatly improve the knowledge the person requires to advance their class, the upper-class citizen does not provide significant advice due to their lack of experience in a lower class and a result of misinterpretation.  This is displayed with Leonard as he took advice from Helen Schlegel and Margaret Schlegel regarding his employment: “He has not done that. He’s going into a bank in Camden Town, he says. The salary’s much lower, but he hopes to manage a branch of Dempster’s Bank,” (Forster, pg 197). This quote from Margaret explains that Leonard took the advice he received from the Schlegel sisters and decided to leave his position of clerk at the Porphyrion and take on a position at a branch of Dempster’s Bank. Leonard would receive a wage that was lower than the amount he had made at the Porphyrion and this is because Henry had mentioned that the Porphyrion would crash by Christmas. Although the advice was well-intentioned, this hurt Leonard because Henry had not been poor. Misinterpretation is also seen throughout Leonard’s actions: “Leonard tries to read and listen his way into middle-class culture, tries desperately to climb that "ladder" into what he perceives to be a better life. Subconsciously, he longs to follow the Schlegel sisters "up that narrow, rich staircase at Wickham Place, to some ample room, whither he would never follow them, not if he read for ten hours a day," (Hoy, 2002). Along with pursuing the same activities as people of the upper class, Leonard was also trying to look good for the Schlegels. Leonard believed that to extend his barrier of class, he would need to emulate the actions of the Schlegel family. Due to the upper classes’ inability to properly advise Leonard and reading novels will not help improve his class, unforeseen consequences took place.

When a person misinterprets advice from people and receives advice regarding their situation from people who have never struggled in their lives, unforeseen consequences take place. Although the severity of the consequences may vary, the consequences were profound on Leonard. This is seen as Helen explains Leonard’s position to Margaret: “...and they reduced their staff after he had been there for a month, and now he’s penniless, and I consider that we and our informant are directly to blame,” (Forster, pg 236). Helen is explaining to Margaret that as a result of Henry’s advice, Leonard lost his position at Dempster’s Bank within a month of his employment. This quote shows how the lack of understanding of Leonard’s financial situation caused Leonard to lose his job and Leonard later gets evicted from his apartment. The quote also expressed that despite the efforts of both Leonard and the Schlegels, Leonard was not able to extend the barriers of his class. Likewise, the intentions and ideology of the Schlegel family ultimately did not succeed in helping Leonard improve his class: “Ineffective in their attempt to help the struggling classes beneath them, the liberal intellectuals present, finally, an image of liberalism's impotence to influence social change and national survival,” (Rosecrance, 2020). The sisters were not able to help Leonard improve his situation as the traditionalist and capitalistic views of Henry explained that in a country like England, there will always be poor people and rich people. Henry also mentioned in that quote that there will always be people who succeed in life and there will be people like Leonard who try to succeed but ultimately fail to do so. Although Leonard and many characters attempted to help Leonard improve his class, Leonard’s strive was not enough to help him.

The novel illustrates how social class produces adverse consequences on numerous citizens due to a lack of understanding. Forster used specific characters to express the difficulties one will have in extending the barriers of their class. The author used examples to display how aiming to improve one’s class without having prior knowledge will not improve one situation, Forster illustrated how inquiring for advice from people who have never been in the situation may not greatly improve one's knowledge and conveyed how this lack of understanding and knowledge can have profound consequences on a person.

The class of a person can determine the number of events and opportunities the person will enjoy within their lifetime. Class alters the thinking of the public and often creates a bias towards people of higher class. Social class is based on the income of a person or a family and is broken into numerous groups and the number of people in each class is constantly changing. Thus, Howards End analyzes the difficulty for one to extend the barriers of their class.


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