Howards End

As the Player Decides: Sex, Disjunction and the Narrative Voice in Forster

"Only connect," E.M. Forster's inscription to Howard's End, is more problematic than it ought to be. It is a typically Forsterian injunction: idealistic, sweetly humanist and absolute, but vague and stated to be challenged. First, to what does the statement apply? It is there beneath the title, prompting the first-time reader to extend it through every situation of the novel, which is easy enough. We are meant only to connect people, perhaps, or England and Germany, or struggling and comfortable classes, or, with other works in mind, the colonizer and the colonized. The quote does not reveal itself until the final third of the book, where it refers to something interior and specific: "Only connect and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die" (188). There is of course nothing unexpected about a specific phrase having a possible wider meaning, but it is slightly unbalancing to have the large meanings present themselves first.

But Forster, despite his scrupulous avoidance of the horrible, is an unexpectedly unbalancing author. This is in part an effect of his pose of steadiness. His constant, assured and auntly narrative voice promises truth through sheer force of...

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