A Passage to India

Howards End and A Passage to India: Fictional Barriers to Communication, and the Creation of Real Empathy College

‘He heard the will in his wife’s voice, and was at a loss. Her language was unintelligible to him’ (D.H. Lawrence).

In the novels Howards End and A Passage to India, EM Forster evokes the social backgrounds and priorities of his characters through the difference in their language, and the difficulties they have in communicating with each other. The marriage of Margaret and Henry in Howards End appears to reconcile two worlds by joining the moral, cultured Schlegals, primarily concerned with ideas and words, with the bullying, dynamic Wilcoxes and their ‘outer life’ of ‘telegrams and anger’ (this description by Margaret in Chapter 4 reduces them to modern brutality but also admits their superior ability for ‘outer’ action.) The differences between husband and wife, however, are still prevalent in their conversations, as Forster exhibits in their disagreement over Helen in chapter 34. Forster expresses Margaret’s realisation that something could be wrong with Helen mentally as an epiphany about London: ‘Helen seemed one with the grimy trees and the traffic and the slowly flowering slabs of mud… she felt that her sister had been going amiss for many years’. Margaret’s romantic ideas about the pollution of London compared to the...

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