Aged twenty-nine at the opening of the novel, Margaret is the oldest of the Schlegel children, making her responsible for her younger siblings after the death of their parents. She is a mother figure for her younger brother Tibby, and is her sister Helen's best friend. Margaret is intellectual and cultured, with a passion for discussion. Understanding the importance of having different kinds of people in the world, she has the ability to be practical, but only in order to strengthen her relationships and connections with others.
Helen, in her early twenties when the novel begins, is the middle Schlegel child. She is romantic and impulsive, which sometimes results in catastrophe. While she shares similar interests with her sister, Helen is the more whimsical of the two, and is also considered more beautiful. She values the superiority of the inner life over the outer life, but her goals are often unrealistic.
Tibby is just sixteen when the novel begins, and is therefore barely consequential. As he grows older, he becomes more of a presence. He attends Oxford, where he isolates himself in his studies. He sometimes finds it difficult to be looked after by two older sisters, but with his coming of age also sees that he must also look after them.
Henry Wilcox, known throughout the first part of the novel as Mr. Wilcox and throughout the second as Henry, is the patriarch of the Wilcox family. He is sexist and uptight, but fairly tolerable. His first wife dies, after which he devotes himself to his business and makes a good deal of money. When he becomes a large part of Margaret's life, and eventually her husband, she is able to see the good in him, while her sister thinks his practicality and lack of emotion leaves him beyond hope.
The first Mrs. Wilcox lives only in the first part of the novel, but her spirit lingers throughout. She is selfless and devoted to her husband and children. Her main pleasure is Howards End, the country house where she was born. She firmly believes in the importance and power of a place, which is why she tries to leave Howards End to Margaret upon her death. After she dies, Ruth is referred to in the novel as someone who learned how to both live and die in a hopeful and balanced manner.
Charles is the oldest Wilcox child. He is stern and righteous, feeling a large responsibility towards his family, especially after his mother's death. He does not think highly of the Schlegels and is not afraid to admit it, for he is convinced of the integrity of his position. He lives in a house near Howards End with his wife Dolly and their children.
Paul, the middle Wilcox child, is the young man that kisses Helen, the event that leads to the drama between the two families. Soon after his brief youthful affair, he departs for Nigeria, where he will pursue his fortune, and does not appear again until the very end of the novel.
Evie is the youngest of the Wilcoxes. After Mrs. Wilcox's death, she is the sole companion of her father, as Charles is married and Paul is in Nigeria. A somewhat selfish girl, she is swept off her feet by Percy Cahill and marries him as soon as possible.
Leonard Bast begins on the boundary between the very poor and the middle class. His biggest fear is falling into the abyss of poverty and ignorance, thus he tries to culture himself through reading and music. He sees the Schlegels as prime examples of intellect and romance, but envies their privilege. He is younger than twenty-one when the novel begins, but has promised to marry Jacky when he comes of age, as one of his cardinal rules is to never abandon a woman in need.
In her thirties, Jacky is more than ten years Leonard's senior. She was once a young and attractive prostitute who counted Mr. Wilcox among her clients, but has since been relying on Leonard to marry her and care for her.
Aunt Juley, known formally as Mrs. Munt, is the sister of the late Mrs. Schlegel. She represents the English side of the family and feels very strongly about being an influence in the lives of her nieces and nephew, sometimes to their slight annoyance. She sees them multiple times each year and is always more than happy to help them in times of trouble.
Dolly is the pretty wife of Charles Wilcox. She is prone to saying the wrong things at the wrong times and seems to constantly be with child.
Percy Cahill is one of Dolly's uncles. He ends up marrying Evie at Oniton in a lavish but unemotional ceremony.
Miss Avery looks after Howards End when the Wilcoxes are away. She grew up with Ruth Wilcox and is not afraid to speak disparagingly about Mr. Wilcox and his sons. By unpacking the Schlegel furniture at Howards End she predicts that Margaret will live there and seems resolved to make this happen.
Frieda is a German cousin of the Schlegels. She is especially close with Helen and tries to entice her to stay in Germany by introducing her to a German man.
Crane is Mr. Wilcox's chauffeur, a peripheral presence throughout the novel.
Tom, the little boy who delivers milk and eggs to Margaret and Helen in their first evening at Howards End, comes to be the first friend of Helen's child.
Howards End Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Howards End is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Thematically, Forster's sole concern in the book can be seen in the epigram: "Only connect" as this echoes differences between the classes that Margaret seeks to bring together. But this becomes secondary when we see some of the...