‘Howards End is more the story of Helen than Margaret’
Explore the methods which writers use to present their characters and create interest in their stories
The idealistic Schlegel sisters are at the epicentre of E.M Forster’s Howards End, and are essential to the plot of the novel, whilst other characters are primarily used to highlight aspects of both women’s character. While Helen provides the reader with drama and acts as a catalyst to events in the novel, Margaret’s development as a character is more subtle but arguably more significant. Furthermore, Margaret, being Forster’s mouthpiece throughout the novel, is able to convey his opinions and ideas on society, therefore the key messages of the novel, especially class and imperialism.
We are first introduced to Helen by the impulsive epistles she sends to Margaret, these personal letters provide a stark contrast to the impersonal telegrams which the Wilcoxes dispatch, immediately putting the two families at odds with one another. The nature of her writing alone reveals something of her energetic and dramatic character – “there’s a very big wych-elm – to the left as you look up – leaning a little over the house”, her use of dashes here highlights this excitable nature. The epistolary form used here by Forster allows the readers to make their own judgement on Helen’s character, as many elements of her character are projected through her gushing letters. Contrastingly, Forster explicitly outlines Margaret’s character through the use of authorial intervention, such as “Margaret was impulsive. She did swing rapidly from one decision to another”. Forster’s clear description of her character early on is perhaps due to the importance of understanding and appreciating her significance and development throughout the novel. This is less necessary for Helen as she does not undergo the same development that Margaret does throughout the novel, therefore demonstrating that Howards End is in fact more about...
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