Books: Howards End (Part III)

I've only just finished Chapter 19, so you see it's slow going. This is mostly because I have other things to do (five screenwriting projects lined up at the moment), so my reading breaks are necessarily short and infrequent. I don't know how many chapters are in this book—I never like to look or read ahead—but based on the placement of my bookmark, I'd say I'm about halfway through.

Margaret has just been asked by Mr. Wilcox, in an awkward kind of way, to marry him. And she seems inclined to agree to his proposal. The chief theme here is the difference between the spiritual/intellectual and the practical. Margaret is the former and Mr. Wilcox the latter. Helen, cut from a similar cloth as Margaret (being that they're sisters, this is no massive surprise), is also of a more romantic cast, and she begs Margaret not to marry Mr. Wilcox. But Margaret, possibly by dent of being older and having had more responsibilities than her sister and brother, can look at the situation with a more reasonable eye and determine that love is not all in a marriage, that there is something to be said for security, and that one might opt for a stable kind of man over a romantic, flighty one.

Earlier in the book Margaret mentioned a desire to be less cautious. Is marrying a man you know you don't love but feel you can at least rub along with less cautious or more so? If you're marrying him for security's sake, and because you are a bit tired of and bored with being alone, then I'd argue you're probably being more cautious. You're betting that life with someone you at least like, or [think you] can tolerate, will be better than solitude.

Not that Margaret is alone. She has her siblings. But to live with the same people you've always lived with must feel a little like a lack of progress. It would be as if you've gotten nowhere at all in life.

Then there's the devil-you-know argument for whether or not to change from people you've lived with versus someone you haven't . . .

Margaret tells Helen the difference between them is that Helen's love-making (in the old-fashioned sense) is romance, while Margaret's own is prose. And in the end, isn't this one of the oldest stories ever told? This isn't marrying for love versus money, but it's a variation on that theme. Should one only marry for love? Or are there other, equally valid reasons to yoke oneself to another person?

As an aside, I have to say Forster is a pretty funny guy, assuming you follow his sense of humor. I was raised with British comedy—I watched those long before I ever watched an American sitcom—and so I see the places where Forster means to be amusing, and I rather like him for it. Even if he's beating me over the head with all his themes and ideas, at least he can be funny about it.

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