Howards End - Role of the Estate within Suburban Life in the early 20th Century Novel

Topics: 20th century, Suburb, Bourgeoisie Pages: 6 (1915 words) Published: December 22, 2013


Catholic University in Ruzomberok
Faculty of Arts and Letters
Howards End: Role of the Estate within Suburban Life in the early 20th Century Novel Bc. Martin Preťo
Subjects in combination Eng – His
1st year of MA programme
Mgr. Janka Kaščáková PhD.
6.6.2013

I have chosen the topic of estates` role in early 20th century society, because Forster (apart from others) made its function and symbolism very eminent and recurring throughout his work Howards End (as even title of work made of name of estate, suggests). I think it is very interesting to have a look on how Edwardians were approaching their „homes“ and what opinions they have stand for regarding such property. Before I will offer my analysis it is necessary to make a brief elaboration of basic structural terms of context and functioning of “suburban life”. Basically, the notion of suburban life signifies life of individual or group within a location situated in suburb. A suburb is usually a residential area, predominantly marginal district of a city or an urban area. Such prospect is common in United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand. However, a suburb might refer to a autonomous community within certain proximity of a city. This is very prototypical for United States or Canada. From historical point of view, we can declare first emergence on a significant scale to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, as a consequence of rapid bloom of rail and road traffic. (Hollow, 2011) Thus suburbs started to flourish around cities with redundant space for estates with adjacent flat land. As for the United Kingdom, more particularly for London area, where the considerable portion of Howard End story takes a place – suburbs consumed formerly separate towns and villages, which have been gradually absorbed by city`s growth and expansion. On the other hand, Howards End estate itself is a mansion separated by open countryside from the city center.

In this essay we will have closer look on what circumstances has suburban lifestyle in the early 20th century novel and what impacts it has cast on main characters in Forster`s Howards End. In addition, we will analyse the role of the estates owned by the protagonists and role of the location they are living in.

In the very beginning of our analysis it must be said that plot of work is set into Edwardian age, which has different perception of suburban life as preceding Victorean age. Originally, romanticism proclaimed vision about suburbia as idealistic place for society united by ordinary human relationships but managed through individual abilities and aspirations. It was believed that suburbia permits neither individuality nor community. (Baty, 2003) However it is only half-true, as we can see in the Forster`s novel: among Wilcoxes or even Schlegels – there are few instances of bright individualists. I think it is a must as far as the author intended to create a struggle between families or single individuals. In order to do this he had to „mould“ determined, self-confident and persevering characters: rational Wilcox`s men on the one hand and sensitive Schlegel`s sisters on the other. So we can conclude that individualism during Edwardian age is clearly vivid, which is in contrast with romanticists point of view. Apart from these struggles, there is one profound undercurrent typical for the urban inhabitants and their culture in the early 20th century and very coherent with function of estates. It is a phenomena of “seeking a home”. As it is proposed by modern criticism „Howards End is traditionally viewed as a fictional counterpart to C. F. G Masterman`s The condition of England (1909), or as Forster`s attempt to defend the liberal humanist position, yet Forster himself described it as a hunt for a home“. (Harrington, 2007) Definitely, Howards End itself is just one destination (in this sense, no matter if even final): the one amid of several residencies, which are occupied by Wilcoxes...

Cited: Baty, M. The Metropolis and the Oceanic Metaphor: E. M. Forster`s Howards End and Virginia Woolf`s Mrs. Dalloway. Diploma: wsu.edu/~honors/thesis/AdvisecSignature.htm, 2003, p. 1; p. 23
Finch, J. E. M. Forster and English Place. A Literary Topography. Abo Akademi University Press, 2011. p. 20
Fishman, R. Bourgeois Utopias: Visions of Suburbia. from Bourgeois Utopia: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia, New York: Basic Books, 1987. p. 22
Forster, E. M. Howards End. Pennsylvania State University, 2007. p. 180
Harrington, L. Imperialism, Class, and the English Country House in Howards End and Rebecca. Oxford Journals-Humanities-English. Vol. 56, Issue 216, Critical study available at: english.oxfordjournals.org/content/56/216/283.extract
Hollow, M. Suburban Ideals on England 's Interwar Council Estates. in Journal of the Garden History Society, 39: 2, p. 29
McLean, C. Suburban Relocation in E. M. Forster`s Howards End. 2010, Critical study available at: www.strath.ac.uk/media/.../media_135056_en.pdf ; p. 1
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