Howards End

Howards End Summary and Analysis of Chapters 36-40


After ushering Helen into Howards End, Margaret will not allow anyone else to enter. The people on the outside of the house include Mr. Wilcox, Mr. Mansbridge, the doctor, and Helen's cab driver. Even though Mr. Wilcox is the owner of the house, Margaret still denies him entry. Helen's cab driver reveals to Mr. Mansbridge that Helen is with child, and he and Mr. Wilcox maintain that they should be allowed in to assist. Margaret, however, stands her ground, saying it is important for her to be alone with her sister. She reminds them that there is nothing that they could possibly do, and is adamant that men not be present.

Finally, she is able to convince her husband to order the others to depart. She assures him that she will find him at Dolly's after she speaks with her sister. Once everybody has left, Margaret enters Howards End and immediately goes to Helen. Margaret is truly sorry for having snuck up on her sister, but she thought it was the only way to reach her. Helen reveals that she has taken a flat in Munich with a woman named Monica, and she will soon be going back there. Monica, an Italian, is supportive of her situation and has proved a good companion throughout Helen's ordeal. Helen explains that living in Germany is her only option, since England is a country where her illegitimate pregnancy would not be well received.

Helen is interested in why their furniture is at Howards End, but Margaret is more interested in hearing what her sister has to say. She notices that Helen has changed intellectually over the past eight months. She has become more grounded and has found peace through the need to be sensible. Still, the sisters find it difficult to connect and are unable to have a meaningful conversation. While at Howards End, a card is delivered by messenger. It is from Mr. Wilcox, and it instructs Margaret to come discuss the situation with him at Dolly's while Helen stays at a hotel, which is ostensibly because there is no room at Dolly's, rather than being on account of his not wanting scandal under his son's roof.

As Margaret and Helen walk around Howards End, the sight of their furniture calls forth memories from their youth. They recall certain happenings from their childhood, and bond over the shared stories. Suddenly, there is a knock on the door from a little boy named Tom. He has come by to deliver milk, having been instructed by Miss Avery to do so. Margaret is annoyed at Miss Avery's presumption, but Helen is delighted both by Tom and the milk. She asks Margaret if they can spend the night together in the house before she goes back to Germany, and Margaret says that she would love to, but cannot do so without asking Mr. Wilcox for permission.

Margaret goes to Dolly's to speak with Mr. Wilcox about spending the night at Howards End. Mr. Wilcox has told Charles of the situation, and Charles has gone to inform Tibby. Mr. Wilcox suggests that Helen marry the man who impregnated her, but Margaret informs him that she has not come to discuss Helen's fate, but to request a favor. She asks him for his permission to stay at Howards End for one night. Mr. Wilcox denies her, using the excuse that one night could turn into two and so on, and Margaret is horrified by his hypocrisy. She finally snaps, calling him spoiled and reminding him that he too has had an affair. She brings up Mrs. Wilcox, which is something very rare between them. She tells him that he must see the connection between his mistake and Helen's. He is shocked and unyielding, and Margaret berates him for being unable to forgive while always being forgiven. She runs out after he again refuses her request.

Charles, meanwhile, has gone to call on Tibby to inform him of the situation. Charles thinks that Tibby should be furious by the situation and should take action. He asks Tibby if he knows who might be responsible for Helen's pregnancy. Aloud, Tibby recalls the Basts, as Helen came to him immediately after the disaster at Oniton. Tibby immediately regrets revealing this information, feeling as though he has betrayed Helen's confidence. However, Charles seems interested only in being angry. He does not understand the situation and thinks the entire family is shameful, going so far as to assume that Tibby condones his sister's behavior.

Back at Howards End, Helen explains to Margaret that Leonard Bast is in fact the father of her child. Despite Margaret's terrible conversation with Mr. Wilcox, she listens to Helen without bringing up her own troubles. Again, she notices how her sister has come to terms with life and has stopped reacting so violently to everything. Helen asks Margaret to go to Germany with her, and given her terrible argument with Mr. Wilcox, Margaret finds herself considering the option. She falls asleep thinking about how strange it is that she has found such peace in the middle of such a strange situation.


The issue of sexism is perhaps most vivid in these chapters. In this battle between men and women, Howards End is the fort and stronghold. Margaret's goal is to keep the men out so the women can meet in privacy. She tells the men, including her husband, that they have nothing to offer the situation. She will not let herself be compromised by her husband, and being around her sister again reminds her of this. The issue of sexism arises yet again when Margaret reminds Mr. Wilcox that he, too, is guilty of having sex with a woman who was not his wife. Mr. Wilcox turns a blind eye to his mistakes, but Margaret forces him to confront them.

The differences between England and Germany are illustrated here on a cultural level. Helen explains to Margaret that her situation is completely unacceptable in England, while in Germany, she has a chance at a decent life. Helen is forced to look at life in a practical manner rather than purely romantically. The idea of half of her nationality effectively rejecting her is something that she must accept.

Howards End reconnects the sisters. Margaret maintains at first that the house is dead and is of little consequence to the situation at hand. Yet, as they walk around and see their belongings, their relationship is once again stirred. Being in the house and reliving childhood memories stirs up great emotion in the two women. They realize that they connect through the things that they love and remember rather than through explanations and apologies. The sisters celebrate rekindling their relationship, and the victory of the inner life over the outer life.

In contrast, Charles proves to be entirely governed by the outer life. He reacts with severe anger over the events at Howards End. His mother's wish to leave the house to Margaret still haunts him, forcing him to analyze more recent occurrences with a skewed perspective. Charles believes the entire Schlegel family is corrupt and says he is willing to act against Helen's impregnator on Tibby's behalf. In truth, Charles is not reacting against a specific individual, but rather working to enforce his code of morals and ethics on the world around him.

It is fitting that Mrs. Wilcox is again brought up in these chapters. Margaret and Helen discuss how she was always able to understand the little things in life, and how she must also understand what is happening now. Margaret things it is strange that Miss Avery's prophecy is being fulfilled, but she finds peace at Howards End, suggesting she is in the right place. For the women, Howards End is as sacred as a safe haven and is disconnected from the rapid pace of life. However, the Wilcox men prove to be an obstacle to this peace, believing that the conduct of the outside world must be maintained within the walls of Howards End, no matter what.