Liminality & Reality
E.M Forster uses motifs such as the concept of liminality in terms of threshold spaces such as windows or dreams to convey the emotions of his characters, specifically Maurice. Maurice realizes he is drawn to the dark because he doesn’t need to hide, yet, simultaneously, he yearns for open fields and spaces to feel free, constructing a substantial contradisctiontion. However, this contradistinction echoes Maurice’s mind, as he is still attempting to define himself as the novel continues and is forced to learn through the situations he is put in. Maurice and Clive’s relationship is incredibly detrimental to Maurice’s wellbeing; although it is through Clive that he finally begins to understand his sexuality, it is also through Clive that he begins to lose himself. Forster uses Scudder to demonstrate the depth of Maurice’s transition into his own independent self, free of Clive’s voice. Maurice is finally secure within his realization of queerness, and Forster utilizes their sexual relationship to personify Maurice’s realization and security. Forster intentionally creates a plethora of parallels between Maurice and Scudder and Maurice and Durham’s consummation in order to illustrate the considerable development of Maurice’s maturity, independence, and comfort in his sexuality.
Although the emotional responses in the two scenes are distinctly divergent, the foundations between the two are clearly parallel with the use of the liminal space windows and Maurice’s dreams offer, in addition to the concept of light and dark. The word ‘Liminal’ is actually founded from the latin word ‘limina’ (threshold), which serves to reinforce the point that the dreams and window offer an almost purgatorial space, neither here nor there. The windows, perhaps more physically, epitomize this idea. A window, unlike a door, is able to be both a barrier and access point simultaneously, where doors are one or the other. The window is the threshold to the soul, and in both of these scenes, the window is used instead of the door. Forster created this parallel purposefully, due to the homosexual nature of these relations, the characters do not have the privilege to use a door, a space that either provides admission or exclusion, and are instead forced to inhabit a liminal space because their society does not allow them to exist. The window allows them to exist in a transitory capacity, ensuring that their interactions do not have the same severity of reality attached to them as the door would have required. Moreover, both interactions occur after Maurice awakes from a dream, another liminal space. In this half-awake reality, the subconscious intertwines with consciousness, and the characters have access to sexual interactions that true reality would otherwise inhibit and limit. Finally, darkness also gives the characters the opportunity to explore detachment from reality in both scenes. Darkness provides freedom from the constant scrutiny of life and light, Maurice views it as a space that is once again free of the restraints of daylight. It is during the night that Maurice feels most true to himself, because he can define what his reality actually looks like since it is too dark to truly discern. It is only when he inhabits these liminal spaces that Maurice has the power to define himself and his world, and Forster insures that both consummation scenes occur during moments where a veil partially obscures reality, giving both parties access beyond the barriers that normally confine them.
Due to the similarities of the foundations of both scenes, Forster is able to point out the striking differences between the two moments, most significantly, Maurice’s newfound maturity and emotional depth. In the first scene, it is Maurice that “spr[i]ngs” into “the window of Durham’s room,” yet in the second, Maurice “fl[i]ngs wide the curtains” and it is Scutter that climbs to him (66,191-192). Maurice is now the one behind the threshold of the window, no longer desperately afraid of rejection. Scudder comes to him, not vice-versa. Confidence replaces his old insecurities and he finally achieves control over the situation, demolishing the old power dynamic that was once in place with Clive. In the first scene, Maurice climbed through the window to a prison of his own making, and now the room is simply a space for him to have absolute freedom in his interactions with Scutter. Instead of holding him back, the privacy of the room offers him the chance to be genuinely true with himself. This is further exemplified throughout the actual interactions between characters in terms of the depth of their consummation. Clive and Maurice simply share a chaste kiss, reminiscent of their reserved and detached relationship. With Scudder, however, Maurice has gained the freedom and independence to have sex with his new lover, signifying the vast journey he has made from his first experience with a man. Maurice is no longer “terrified at what he must do” as he was with Clive, but instead feels confident and sanguine in his situation with Scudder (66). He has inhabited “the darkness where he can be free,” and is, for the first time, completely cognizant and aware of desire; Maurice has finally reached the state of free vulnerability, and is no longer afraid to unapologetically be himself.
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E.M Forster uses motifs such as the concept of liminality in terms of threshold spaces such as windows or dreams to convey the emotions of his characters, specifically Maurice. Maurice […]