Leonard & Helen’s Dialogue In Howards End From A Psychoanalytic, Feminist, And Cultural Studies Perspective

“Had you thought it, then? That there are two kinds of people-our kind, who live straight from the middle of their heads, and the other kind who can’t, because their heads have no middle? They can’t say ‘I’. They aren’t in fact, and so they’re supermen. Pierpont Morgan has never said ‘I’ in his life”.

Leonard roused himself. If his benefactress wanted intellectual conversation, she must have it. She was more important than his ruined past. “I never got on to Nietzsche,” he said. “But I always understood that those supermen were rather what you may call egoists”. “Oh no, that’s wrong,” replied Helen. “No superman ever said ‘I want,’ because ‘I want’ must lead to the question, ‘Who am I?’ and so to Pity and to Justice. He only says ‘want.’ ‘Want Europe’, if he’s Napoleon; ‘want wives,’ if he’s Bluebeard; ‘want Botticelli, ’ if he’s Pierpont Morgan. Never the ‘I’; and if you could pierce through the superman, you’d find panic and emptiness in the middle.”

Leonard was silent for a moment. Then he said: “May I take it, Miss Schlegel, that you and I are both the sort that say ‘I’?” “Of course”. “And your sister, too?” “Of course”, repeated Helen, a little sharply. She was annoyed with Margaret, but did not want her discussed. “All presentable people say ‘I.’”

First, considering that the first line from this quote starts with Leonard’s name it is appropriate to use one of this literary theory analizing his reaction, his answer. I relate the part in which he says that a intellectual conversation it is more important than his „ruined past” with a repression. One of Leonard’s hobbies is reading, even if he does not have the most actual titles in the library, he is trying to keep up. From a psychoanalytic point a view, Leonard is „basically a picture of complete frustration; he's intellectually frustrated, sexually frustrated, and economically frustrated.”

Leonard represents the perfect character for a psychoanalytic analysis because he is a frustated character. He tries to maintain an „intellectual conversation” based on his previous readings, he has the dignity to hold an intellectual discussion. Related with psyche it is important to observe that he appears to find from this disscussion that he is in the „I” category even if it is not like this because he dedicate his life to his wife. He is also sexualy frustrated because he once had a late night walk into the wood and his wife searched for him at Schlegel’s house and in the end he has a love affair with Helen.

Secondly, we can look at this fragment and at the entire book from a feminist point of view. One argument in this sense is the fact that the author, E. M. Foster, places the action around the Schlegel sisters and their social lives in London. Even if the novel it is not written by a woman which would be very important for the feminist movement, it is a major step because it shows that women can have a word to say. Considering the fact that women opinions were in some periods of time unimportant, Helen has the courage to say „I” in the condition in which she identifies herself with a group which has the courage to „ live straight from the middle of their heads” which shows an intellectual independence. As I read in a description of Margaret, she is „ able to bring her loved ones together and create a new, positive, productive kind of life for her family. ” so she embodies the type a woman who can maintain the balance in the family, an aspect which is part of feminism.

In the third line, we can analyse the fragment from cultural studies point of view. This analyze can be made because Helen makes a distinction between people,” who live straight from the middle of their heads” and the ones who may not have middle. This distinction leads to the connection that cultural studies are also about „political and social themes, including issues relating to identity (such as gender, ethnicity, and sexuality) on an individual and a group basis.” The distinction made by Helen, can make us ask ourselves in which category we belong. Are we living from the middle of our heads, having an independence of thoughts and actions or we are not able to do this. This may be an ilussion because we can deceive ourselves that we live in the way we want and after considering that this was not really our wish. Regarding social themes, Leonard wants to be like Helen and her sister, to have possibilities to „grow” intellectualy, to be able to entertain an „intellectual conversation” and to take part from a group, that is why he asks if he takes part from the „I” group which can also mean that he has a problem with his identity. In his eyes he is inferior because he did not have the same cultural and financial advantages at the Schlegel sisters. The novel itself can be analysed from multiples critic points of views, but this are some which appear at first sight reading the fragment above.

Works Cited

  1. Edward, Morgan Foster. Howards End. An Electronic Clasics Series Publication. http://www. ompersonal. com. ar/regalos/HowardsEnd-Book. pdf
  2. Leonard Bast Character Analysis. Shmoop. https://www. shmoop. com/howards-end/leonard-bast. html
  3. Margaret Schlegel Character Analysis. Shmoop https://www. shmoop. com/howards-end/margaret-schlegel. html
  4. Cultural Studies Introduction. Shmoop https://www. shmoop. com/cultural-studies/
  5. Psychoanalysis Introduction. Shmoop https://www. shmoop. com/psychoanalysis/
01 February 2021
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