Howards End by E. M. Forster Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 12th, 2019

Analysis of major characters Howards End

Analysis of Helen Schlegel

Helen Schlegel is an idealistic, kind and very unpractical person. Like her sister Margaret, she is concerned about the struggles of poor people, especially the Basts; however, she cannot offer them valuable help. She has an obvious disdain for money and agrees with her sister, who says that it is “the warp of the world” (Forster, 98).

Yet, Helen does not realize that without it, she would have been unable to lead a care-free life. She is fond of literature, art, and music; to some degree, they enable her to escape harsh reality or at least not to think about it. This aestheticism does not make her callous or indifferent of other people, but she cannot fully understand what kind of challenges they have to face.

She fails to realize that culture, education, or art cannot exist without money, she takes them for granted. Helen is genuinely willing to help poor people and she even offers money to the Basts, but she is so generous because she has never had to earn her living. This is the main barrier that prevents her from understanding the needs of these people.

Helen’s attitude toward Henry Wilcox tells much about her values and believes. She dislikes this man because of his materialism and disapproves of her sister’s decision to marry him. His business and slightly mercantile character annoys her, and she believes that her sister and Wilcox are incompatible with one another.

Overall, it is possible to say that Helen does not accept realistic attitude toward life. Helen is a complete antagonist of Henry Wilcox, though at the end she manages to accept him because she sees that pure aestheticism is not the only components of people’s relations and happiness.

Additionally, to Helen’s surprise, Wilcox proves to be a kind and compassionate man. By describing this conflict between these characters, Edward Forster shows that Helen’s lack of real life knowledge does not allow her to see good qualities in other people.

Helen’s behavior suggests that she cannot bear responsibility for her actions. For example, when she becomes pregnant, Helen leaves her family and goes to Germany, in part because she does not other people to know about her condition. Furthermore, Helen avoids meeting her sister, because she is very much ashamed of herself.

Eventually, she reconciles herself with Margaret and her husband, but readers can see that Helen’s personality has changed significantly. In particular, she becomes more practical and more aware of those obstacles that common people have to overcome.

Apart from that, this character understands that her unconcerned attitude was the main cause of Leonard Bast’s death and the ruin of his family, but it is not clear whether she feels regret for her actions.

Edward Forster might have included this character into the novel for several reasons. First, Helen represents an intellectual who is alienated from others and whose understanding is based mostly on books rather than real experience.

Secondly, her example shows that philosophizing about social injustice or poverty is of very little use, if a person does not feel compassion for people struggling with such problems. Such a person is more likely to harm other people, rather than help them. The author contrasts Helen with Margaret to show how a responsible and caring person should act.

Analysis of Margaret Schlegel

Margaret Schlegel is compassionate, loving and rather realistic woman. Unlike her sister, she does tries to understand other people’s feelings and needs. The most noticeable trait of her character is the ability to see good in other people.

For example, despite the fact that Helen views Henry Wilcox as a callous, rude and mercantile person, Margaret can discern that deep in heart he can be caring and gentle. She is not prone to philosophizing about the needs of poor people; instead she does try to help them.

Secondly, one can argue that Margaret is a very forgiving woman, and this trait is not typical of everyone. For example, her sister Helen leaves the family and later does not even want to talk to her; however, Margaret does everything to find her and invites her to her house and her family. This personality trait makes her very appealing to the readers.

Margaret continuously tries to keep balance between passion and reason. She can be trustful and critical at the same time. She agrees with people who argue that wealth might not be the main priority for a human being but she points out that it lays foundations for art, culture and education.

She mentions her sister, who continuously wants to “to slang the rich, being rich herself” (Forster, p 135). She points out that a person will find it very difficult to think about wealth, if he or she can hardly make ends meet.

For Margaret poverty and injustice are not some abstract notions which can be discussed in a friendly conversation, but suffering of real people. Margaret does not style herself as a lofty intellectual who has ready-made answers for every question.

Instead, she appears to be a thoughtful and astute person, trying to understand the underlying motives of people’s behavior. This is one of those qualities which distinguish her from her sister and from other characters.

Margaret is so much different from her siblings, Helen and Tibby because after their parents’ death she has always been responsible for their well-being. She has less time to muse about art, literature, or society, although she is equally educated and cultured.

Unlike other characters of the novel, Margaret attaches great importance to the unity of the family. This is why she attempts to bring Helen back, even though her sister does not to see her. She condemns Helen’s relation with Leonard Bast because she understands that in this way Helen will ruin their family.

When Margaret knows that her sister is pregnant, she does not reject her but allows Helen and her child stay at Howard End. In this way, she secures the future of her relatives, although she is not obliged to do it.

This character is of great importance to the author since she sets an example of how a responsible and intelligent person should behave. It should be noted that Margaret is a well-to-do person but this prosperity does not make her oblivious to the problems of others.

She manages to preserve the family and help her siblings. Margaret Schlegel is chosen to be the central figure of the novel because she possesses the qualities as compassion, irony, responsibility, and ability to see spiritual beauty of other people. To some degree she represent’s Edward Forster’s ideal of a woman and an intellectual.

Works Cited

Forster Edward. Howards End. NY: Arc Manor LLC, 2008. Print.

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