Grotesque View of the British Society in Howard’s End and Women in Love
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “a little simplification would be the first step toward rational living.” (Heartquotes.net) After reading Howard’s End and Women in Love, by E.M. Forster and D.H. Lawrence respectively, it has become quite clear that a little simplification could do the characters of both novels a great deal of good. In these “condition of England” novels, the ideas of love and marriage, how industrialization has affected British life and the revolution of women’s rights are all presented, analyzed, and even criticized by both authors. However, if one digs deeper, there are less obvious themes which make up the background of each story. Perhaps the most colorful background detail of each author’s portrait of England is the extreme intellectualism displayed particularly by the characters of the upper class. Through both of these pieces, it is revealed that the characters’ analytical approach to life paralyzes their ability to take action, has social ramifications, and has a potent effect on the attitudes the characters hold toward love.
The importance of discussing how to help society is undeniable. It is fair to say that those who belong in the “haves” category have a certain moral obligation to provide some aid to those in the “have nots” category. The paradox comes in when the discussion of how to relieve the poor takes the place of taking that action. A fine example of this paralyzing intellect can be seen in Margaret and Helen from Howard’s End, as they engage in discourse regarding the poor with other members of the elite. The discussion of whether or not giving money to the poor “would be pauperizing them” (Forster, 93) seems to overshadow the genuine act of doing so. While the intellectuals with whom Helen and Margaret are discussing insist that the poor man “…must have a free library, or free tennis-courts…” (Forster, 92) Margaret insists that the poor man would not “gain his soul until he had gained a little of the world.” (Forster, 93) Though these socially superior men and women may have good intentions in discussing how they could best help the poor, their analysis hinders their ability to act. The paralyzing effect of such intellectualism is at work even in Helen as she believes that helping people is “no good…unless you really mean to know people.” (Forster, 95)
While there are several characters in Howards End who are crippled by the excruciating analysis of taking action, Women in Love offers one blaring character who falls victim to the venom of indefinite thinking. As the narrator unlocks the door to Mrs. Crich’s mind, it becomes clear that her philosophy is a result of her greed. “Sometimes, it seemed to Mrs. Crich as if her husband were some subtle funeral bird, feeding on the miseries of the people.” (Lawrence, 180) Instead of admitting her own selfishness, Mrs. Crich rationalizes her feelings by...