Howards End Essays

With the social issues of man versus machine, country versus city, and culture versus money weighing on his mind, Forster completed his fourth novel.Published in November 1910, Howards End was greeted with glorious reviews, making Forster a literary star.With the guidance and encouragement of his classics professor, Forster grew to admire the modern European writers Tolstoy, Proust, and Ibsen, and began to test his own powers as a writer.

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Meredith helped Forster become a member of the “Apostles,” the university’s foremost discussion group, where he formed friendships with many of the intellectuals later associated with the Bloomsbury group in London.

In 1901, with his formal education over and uncertain about a career, Forster, accompanied by Lily, set off on a year-long trip to Italy to study Italian history, language, art, and literature, and to work on a novel-in-progress.

Ultimately, Howards End is the most optimistic expression of Forster’s unique vision, a sensibility that transcends the temporal confines of his novel. FORSTEREdward Morgan Forster was born on New Year’s Day, 1879, in Dorset Square, London, the second child (the first died soon after birth) of middle-class parents, Edward Llewellyn Forster, a Cambridge graduate and architect, and Alice Clara “Lily” Whichelo.

Its richly drawn characters and the struggles they face—to maintain human connection in an increasingly depersonalized society, to find a spiritual home in the world—are still as current as they were at the beginning of the twentieth century. When his son was just one, Forster’s father died after a long battle with consumption, leaving the family little money and making Lily a widow at twenty-five.

When Forster was fourteen years old, he and Lily faced the disheartening news that their lease at Rooksnest was up, and they sadly moved to the suburb of Tonbridge Wells.

Here, Forster attended the boarding school as a day boy, with classics as his major study.Writing during a time of lively discussion about his country’s socioeconomic conditions, Forster conceived the work as a “condition-of-England novel,” a work designed to enter Edwardian debates about wealth and poverty, art and pragmatism, country life and urban sprawl that would not have sounded unfamiliar in Thatcher’s England or Reagan’s America.Forster, with a comic suspicion of the dogmas championed by liberals and conservatives alike, provides a distinctly humanistic perspective on some of the central debates of his time and ours.At Tonbridge he wrote for the school newspaper and won several awards for his essays, but nonetheless it was here, a place that contrasted so sharply with his happy home life, where his feelings of being an outsider hardened into an abiding distaste for the English school system.Forster’s intellectual and social life blossomed when, in 1897, he entered King’s College, Cambridge.It was as a university student at King’s College that Forster was first inspired by the liberal humanism of philosopher George Moore, who advocated the contemplation of beauty and the cultivation of personal relations as a spiritual antidote to the rootless, mechanistic ethos of his age.Forster, together with the young men who would later form the Bloomsbury group of writers (Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, and Leonard Woolf, among others), embraced this challenge to traditional religious morality and to the growing commercial spirit of the time.More importantly, he was starting to understand the practicality of conformist values, of “social conventions, economic trend, efficiency,” and he grew acutely aware of the limitations of liberal ideals.The Bloomsbury group’s sitting-room debates and fashionable walking-parties were for Forster too narrow, too disdainful of the economic and material conditions that made their way of life possible.Forster used Leonard’s connection with the Schlegels as the social conscience of the book.As critic Wilfred Stone wrote, “Just as [Leonard] stands on the edge of the social Ôabyss,’ so he affords the Schlegels a glimpse into it— increasing both their ‘panic and emptiness’ and their guilt over class and money.”Because Forster did not keep comprehensive journals during his most fertile period as a writer and later destroyed some of his diaries, it is not possible to trace the entire composition of Howards End.

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