Depiction Of Sibling Relations In Howard’s End By E. M. Forster

Forster has portrayed sibling relations in multiple aspects within his novel Howard’s End. He does this by creating parallels between the ideologies of the characters, how the bond between a sibling pair grows or deteriorates as the novel progresses. He draws attention to the thematic aspect of the novel in regards to the sibling relationships in particular between the Schlegel siblings as well as those between the Wilcox siblings.

Readers are introduced to Margaret and Helen’s relationship through letters at the beginning of the novel which has a significant role in how Forster develops these characters and formats their relationship as the novel progresses. The two are very close and very similar: both unmarried, highly intelligent, cultured, and are liberal-thinkers. However, Helen is more idealistic, emotional, and impulsive than her responsible older sister; Helen’s impulsiveness is visible within her letters, “Paul and I are in love - the younger son who only came here Wednesday” this represents how she may let emotions take over the rationality of a situation and how at the end of her short-lived romance with Paul, she was the one who was left heartbroken, yet she seemed to have recovered from the instance quite quickly and didn’t seem to fantasize over the Wilcoxes as she was doing prior to the beginning of the novel. The role of admiring the Wilcoxes on their business-like approach to matters was shifted onto Margaret, who shortly after meeting Henry Wilcox began to shift her ideologies from being a curious individual into a wise, reflective adult who doesn’t take ideas or beliefs at face value. “You and I and the Wilcoxes stand upon money as upon islands … coin”. She seeks to understand human nature, and she can see through convenient or simple reductions of a complicated reality. While she once believed that “the lowest abyss” of human life was “the absence of love,” she now adjusts her thinking to go beyond her own experiences and consider the idea that a penniless existence could well be worse than a loveless one. The sisters held opinions on love and matrimony; Margaret, wanted proportion in all that she did, yet if “she should ever fall in love with a man like Helen, she would proclaim it from house-tops” this shows how Margaret indeed did have the desires for love and marriage, yet she waited for a suitor who can indeed provide her with balance and stability, like Mr. Wilcox. “Margaret was impulsive” creates a parallel with how Forster portrays Margaret in the future chapters of the novel as it is contrasted with how she is taking her time on accepting Mr. Wilcox’s marriage proposal.

Family holds immense value to Margaret and Helen, Helens outburst of emotions on hearing Margaret’s engagement proposal, “Don’t!”,“Panic and emptiness” serves as a clear indication on how her short term Romance with Paul had affected her drastically and even though she put an exterior that she seemed to be alright, the Wilcox’s disconnected way of life had influenced her deeply, it portrays to the readers as she did not want to lose her sister to the outer life of “telegrams and anger”. The Schlegels believe that understanding and respecting “personal relations” is necessary to live a good life. Margaret is capable of thinking broadly about the world and about people different from herself She acknowledges that her fortune alone protects her from the terrible struggle that others face just to stay afloat. While she has long believed that people’s shared feelings — the “unseen” essential human emotions that connect us — should overcome all superficial differences, by recognizing that “the very soul of the world is economic,” she now understood that her old belief fails to take into account crucial financial realities. The Schlegel sisters' relationship formulated a common bond concerning money and art, after meeting Leonard Bast. They become conscious of this unequal access to art and beauty in an example of the critical self-reflection that Forster would like to instill in his readership. Through the Schlegels’ newfound consciousness of the hardships the lower classes face, Forster stresses the necessity of demonstrating awareness, sensitivity, and empathy toward impoverished people. Both Schlegel sisters have compromised their ideals in accordance to the Wilcoxes, whether it was Helen not standing up for her ideals on suffrage in front of Mr. Wilcox or simply when Margaret agrees to marry Henry, she declares that she won’t yield her agency and values to her husband’s will. Both sisters supported gender equality and women’s rights, Margaret considers herself to be more thoughtful and principled than her husband — certainly not inferior to him. Nonetheless, the narrator of Howards End foretells that Margaret speaks prematurely: she will surrender some of her old self to the pressures of marriage. “The sisters were alike as little girls, but at the time of the Wilcox episode their methods were beginning to diverge”, this foreshadows how in entanglement with the Wilcox family resulted in differences between the relationship of both sisters.

Tibby’s relationship with his sisters may as well to the readers be seen as a middle ground between the differential equation in terms of sibling relationships between the Schlegels and Wilcoxes. Tibby, who feeds his intellect on library after library while declining to venture out into the world and explore for himself, was not fascinated by the Wilcoxes “Who ARE the Wilcoxes?” portrays how he was not interested in the family of “newspapers and motor-cars and golf-clubs”. Whilst Helen was infatuated with the Wilcoxes, “Men like the Wilcoxes would do Tibby a power of good.” can be considered that Tibby’s constant illness may make him perceived to be as weak in comparison to other Men, Forster repeats multiple times within his novel the idea of Tibby needing to rest or feeling ill, this can be subjected as that Tibby did not hold much importance when it came to his opinion, his equation with Margaret was mother-like, whilst Helen was a more typical sibling relationship. Margaret’s possessiveness and emotions for Tibby are visible, within this “Margaret, who could not bear her brother to be scolded”. Tibby appreciated the seclusion and did not perhaps hold significant value for Wickham place in comparison to his sister Margaret

The sibling relationship of the Wilcoxes can be described as pragmatic with little use of emotions framing their decisions or ideas, however, as the novel progresses, Forster implies subtle and vivid instances where Charles and Evie portray some sort of emotion to decisions being made or to one another. Charles Wilcox is a representation of his father Henry Wilcox in many ways especially when it comes to dealing with problematic situations such as their mother’s note stating that Howards End will be handed to Margaret. Charles Wilcox dare not think too broadly or too deeply about emotional matters like human affairs. Rather, the father and son strictly compartmentalize their thoughts. By treating matters “item by item,” like following a boardroom agenda, they maintain a businesslike manner and avoid any emotions. However emotions indeed are present in some cases with Charles such as the detail of Ruth’s note being arguably a fundamentally emotional decision disguised as a rational one, furthermore “The idiot, the idiot, the little fool!” being his reply upon hearing regarding Paul and Helen’s relation can be considered as him breaking down the situation and seems how their relationship will affect Paul, hence portraying emotions. Charles and Paul can be contrasted in terms of Charles's aggressive demeanor and arrogant behavior with Mrs. Munt, and his wife. Paul, on the other hand, seems to have a cowardice attitude and cannot stand up for himself, whether it is defending his actions of sharing a kiss with Helen or simply replying with confidence, 'I didn't--I don't--' represents how Forster tries to portray Paul as being confused. Charles reprimanding Paul and viewing him as being problematic mirrors the same way in which Margaret views Helen as being overly impulsive. The Wilcoxes’ concern with maintaining order can be efficient and impressive, while human relationships can be extremely messy. Evie, being the only daughter in the Wilcox family, has been brought up to like aspects that tend to be associated with “men” such as “cricket average” and breeding dogs. The overbearing masculine influence of her father and brothers has formulated her, Forster after showcasing Mrs. Wilcox’s sudden death portrays Evie as the connection between the brothers and Mr. Wilcox as the death was still settling in. “Has the breakfast been all right?” symbolizes her to be caring for her father.

The sibling relationships have been significant in multiple aspects, this was deliberately done by Forster in order to showcase the differences and similarities between characters as the novel progresses, it also gives importance to how emotion, love, class, and privilege play a great deal in formatting how one character will react and foreshadows what will come next in the novel.

10 Jun 2021
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