Howards End

Howards End Summary and Analysis of Chapters 25-29


Upon hearing of her father's engagement to Margaret, Evie decides to have her wedding as soon as possible. The festivities will take place at Oniton Grange, the Wilcox estate near Wales. As the future Mrs. Wilcox, the wedding is an opportunity for Margaret to socialize with some of Mr. Wilcox's acquaintances. Although she does not think highly of his set, she resolves to make an effort for his sake.

Margaret travels to Oniton with the wedding guests who are departing from London. The group does not include Tibby and Helen, although they were invited. Margaret manages to fend for herself in an atmosphere of overdone chivalry. She takes advantage of a resting point in order to tour the local area, and the last leg of the journey is by car. Margaret is unable to restrain herself when one of the vehicles in their party hits a cat. Initially the men of the group, which includes Charles, think that it is a dog. To spare the women an unpleasant scene, they put them into one car, which Charles drives away from the incident. Margaret begs him to stop, but he refuses. She ends up jumping out of the car, injuring her hand and shocking the rest of the guests. The rest of the group assumes that monetary compensation will take care of the accident, but Margaret feels genuine sorrow for the girl whose cat was struck, considering it likely that she is a better person than many of the people in the party. She soon realizes, however, that this is no place for her to be expressing her concerns, and she chalks her actions up to a woman's silliness. This is how she explains the situation to Mr. Wilcox upon her arrival at Oniton, and it is an excuse that is accepted.

During the evening's dinner party, Margaret walks around outside. She is delighted by Oniton, although the Wilcoxes do not think much of it, and she assumes that it will be where she and her future husband settle. She is determined to see the good in the place that is her potential home. While walking around outside she approaches Charles. He becomes very suspicious of her and completely mistrusts her intentions. His suspicion continues to the extent where he wonders if she has come to make a romantic advance towards him.

The next morning, Margaret looks out over the scenery. She longs to take a walk outdoors, but restrains herself. She has spotted Charles and Albert Fussell, a relative of Dolly's, going for a morning dip. Instead of jumping in casually, their excursion is a surprisingly thorough procedure, which Margaret observes with amusement. By not taking a walk, she is obeying the boundaries of sex. Instead of going outside, she joins the women who are admiring Evie in her wedding dress.

Shortly before Evie's ceremony, Margaret asks Mr. Wilcox if they might have a conversation. He is surprised and relieved when she tells him that she does not have anything in particular to discuss; she just wants to talk. As they converse, they walk around the house, and Margaret notices how large and complicated it is. She is astounded by all of the preparation and detail going into the wedding, for every last thing seems to have been thought of. As a result, the ceremony goes off very smoothly in a practical and unemotional way.

Following the wedding meal, most of the party has dispersed. Margaret is with Mr. Wilcox when they observe three people approaching. It is assumed that the three people are local villagers, and Mr. Wilcox urges Margaret to receive them in his stead, for the day has exhausted him. She realizes once he goes inside that they are not villages, but are Helen and the Basts. Helen has worked herself into a frenzy. She seems to have lost her wit and goes on about the conditions the Basts are living in. Leonard Bast has been let go from his new job, and she thinks that Mr. Wilcox should provide him with work. She claims that she found the couple starving. Margaret is outraged at her sister's indulgence and decides that they should stay the night in a hotel. She scolds Helen for having brought them all the way to Oniton, no easy feat, for it cannot possibly do any good.

Margaret goes in to talk to Mr. Wilcox, and Leonard and Helen leave Jacky to eat the wedding leftovers while they secure hotel rooms. When Margaret returns outside with Mr. Wilcox, Jacky has filled up to the extent of being drunk. She addresses Mr. Wilcox as "Henry," speaking to him as though they have quite an intimate relationship. Margaret is initially confused by this, but the situation soon becomes clear. As it turns out, Jacky was Mr. Wilcox's mistress ten years ago when he was in Cyprus and she was a prostitute. Mr. Wilcox thinks that he has been set up for embarrassment, and is so ashamed that he tells Margaret the engagement must be canceled. However, Margaret feels more for Mrs. Wilcox, to whom he was married when the affair occurred, than for herself.

At the hotel, Helen and Leonard have intimate and intense conversation while Jacky is in another room. Leonard speaks about the trials of his life, and Helen explains to him her belief that death is the great leveler of mankind. They also discuss the importance of one being able to "say 'I'". As they talk, they are presented with two notes from Margaret, who wrote to say that Mr. Wilcox can offer Leonard no work. She also informs Helen that the Basts are not good people and that she should come to Oniton Grange to spend the night. Margaret has resolved to forgive Mr. Wilcox despite his trespasses, for she thinks she can make him a better man. She is trying to clean up a messy situation, and the couple resolves to put the issue behind them and to try to refrain from mentioning it. The Oniton adventure ends with Helen and the Basts disappearing from the hotel with no word. Margaret, too, leaves the estate behind forever.


Margaret notes the contrast between her friends and those of Mr. Wilcox. He does not appreciate friendship in the same way she does. As a result, she does not consider his friends impressive. Interestingly, Forster's description of Mr. Wilcox's friends is focused on gender roles. The primary distinction made between the people in the group is male versus female, which determines how they interact with each other. Margaret, on the other hand, focuses on individuals. The different views of Margaret and Mr. Wilcox about relationships also arise when Jacky is revealed to be his former mistress. In Mr. Wilcox's opinion, she is simply an investment gone bad that he expected never to encounter again. Margaret, however, cannot forget anybody who has had an impact in her life.

The wedding guests that Margaret travels with are shown to be financial-minded, making them a nice fit in Mr. Wilcox's world. When the cat is killed, their idea of improving the situation is to hand over a sum of money. Margaret feels strongly that money is no replacement for life. Despite her horror at the situation, she realizes that there are different kinds of people in the world, and not everybody prescribes to her ideals. She does not bother trying to connect with them in the way that she normally would, and instead interacts with them in a superficial manner. Here, Forster illustrates a fundamental divide in the middle class: there are those who operate financially, and those who dwell on emotions before acting in a pragmatic way.

The Schlegel sisters are frank and forthcoming, which is partly why they arouse suspicion in men. Initially, Leonard Bast was wary of them, and in these later chapters, Charles expresses incredible suspicion toward Margaret. Charles believes Margaret manipulated his late mother into giving her Howards End, his father into proposing to her, and that she is now trying to manipulate him. Mr. Wilcox also demonstrates a certain degree of suspicion when he thinks that Jacky's appearance0 was arranged at his expense.

The lack of love or emotion in Evie's wedding comes as something of a surprise to Margaret. The entire endeavor operates more like a machine than a celebration of a union. The event is considered a success, not because the couple is so happy, but because things run smoothly. When Helen and the Basts arrive, they thwart the perfection of the day. They are unexpected and do not fit into the situation, appearing in enormous contrast to the rest of the guests.

One cannot underestimate the importance of Helen's discussion of death. She speaks of it as something that can level men, for things like money and class are irrelevant after one dies. Helen looks to this notion of the afterlife as a comfort, although Margaret has warned her to be involved in the present ("the seen") and not to dwell only on the future ("the unseen"). Even Margaret cannot escape the presence of the dead, however, for Mrs. Wilcox is still a presence that awakens emotion in her. She thinks that the saddest part of Mr. Wilcox's affair with Jacky is that it was unjust to his wife at the time. Part of what is so heartbreaking for Helen is that Margaret takes Mr. Wilcox's side, and the consequences for the relationship between the sisters will be incredibly important in the final chapters of the novel.