Howard’s End: ‘Only Connect’ Essay

‘Only Connect’ is the epigraph that Forster choose to give to Howards End, and this can be overall seen to be a fitting one as the impact of these two words is portentous. By firstly using a critical method we can acknowledge that the phrase although ambiguous is somewhat penetrating and fundamental. The capitalisation of the two separate words show it to be an inscription upon the reader, as it presents the complete GOAL of the novel. The ‘Only’ forms a stress which places an emphasis on the following word ‘Connect’.

The ‘Only’ therefore is unique, as it suggests there is only one singular role of the novel and that is to ‘Connect’, thus propounding that there is a solitary definition as to the ‘Connect’. While the ‘Only’ speaks in a direct manner, its direction is towards the ambiguous, which leaves the reader a great deal of self-determination within the novel, as the epigraph has simply formed a basis upon which to judge the characters instead of producing a compound summation of the novel.

This maxim does not contain the usual clarity, balance and polish that an epigraph has come to depict, therefore inferring to us that perhaps the maxim is not in reference to the novel, but instead to the audience, therefore ‘Only Connect’ consequently can be perceived not only as a declaration but also as a question. Is Forster placing the parameters upon which not only to judge the novel, but also to view ourselves? Have we ‘Connected’? For, we cannot consider the notion of the character’s degree of ‘Connection’ if indeed, the same cannot be confirmed in the first person.

What sort of connection are we striving to achieve? If the novel is to be determined upon this question, a simple overview of the book would suggest a linear and so physical connection between the characters, and so a triumph as the physical connection is present in abundance. Forster manages impressively to not only intertwine the lives of the characters, but also integrate the separate divisions of the social spectrum into this relationship, moreover fastening the approval to the aphorism that ‘Only Connect’ is an essential ingredient within the context of ones life.

A vision of life is fashioned due to the amount of connection one has in relation to others, as we are constantly attempting to ‘Connect’ be it physically, mentally or spiritually. Forster is asking the readership to challenge his opinion that a harmony of spirit and body could not achieved within the English middle classes as due to the neurosis concerning the obtaining of wealth, the people were not prepared to establish solid personal relations, which were not only based upon an egotistical approach.

The Schlegels are therefore so interesting, as they are initially disjoined from this manner of acting or thinking, shown through their hang-up concerning Leonard Bast. Here Forster is presenting a model of class integration, and ultimately illustrating the inevitable problems concerning this area, as Leonard Bast will pay the ultimate price, and be killed due to his association with the Schlegels. However harmony within the classes may be achieved as the uniting of Margaret and Helen illustrates the restoration of the family unit and so an outcome of inner-harmony between the character.

We must note that Forster is attempting to move past many class barriers in a society that is chiefly constructed on the prejudice of these barriers. However, it is their ability to forgive, and so embrace the other that allows them to ‘Connect’, which is a trait not possessed by Henry. However many associations in the book are formed under a Romantic belief that internal order can be brought about by LOVE and so attempting to embody the notion of a reconciliation of the opposites, within the book, through Romantic tendencies.

The Love connection however is not a truly impacting connection, as no where in the book is true love moulded, but instead love based upon the want to improve and to belong, as shown through Margaret and Henry getting married, seemingly out of convenience. We must remember that in 1910 LOVE was regarded to mean engagement, engagement marriage and marriage the entwining of families. The courtship between the two is minimal, they are two completely conflicting characters, with separate ideals and backgrounds, and so the marriage is seemingly to restore reputation, and help to add structure and definition to the family unit.

There is no Women in the Wilcox; after Mrs Wilcox dies, and there is no Man in the Schlegels even though a huge respect for the father is observed; shown through the sword- so connoting to a power yet serenity. We see that Henry cannot function without a wife, as his regime is evidently too capitalist and authoritarian, whereas Margaret functions to well without a Husband, as through her we are meet with an early inclination of feminism.

The understanding of the personal relations and conflicting values add prominence to the question of “Who Shall Inherit England? Howards End provides us with three social groups therefore: > The materialistic and pragmatic Wilcox family, who constitute a solid work ethic, which places a heavy duty on a conventional socialistic morality. > The literary and cultural Schlegel family, who represent the idealistic and naturally intellectual aspect of the upper class. > The real working class of the twentieth century, which can be defined as the petty bourgeoisie, represented by the Bast family, and spearheaded by Leonard Bast who seeks, through education, to save himself from social and economic desolation.

Ultimately this question evolves into “Who Shall Inherit Howards End”, as through the interplay between the characters we are presented with a new progeny of class, which must learn to live in harmony. This harmony is achieved at Howards End, as it is to be inhabited by Margaret, Henry, Helen and the Bast love child (the Bast love child could be taken to represent this new class, a mixture of petty bourgeoisie and bohemian upper class, living in the world of an authoritative and hard driven upper class member) showing us that it is Margaret who bridges the mistrust between the classes to prevail.

The different classes create a subtle conflict which is a FORCE within the prose as the attitude noted exemplifies the idea of ‘Only Connect’ being the only thing that is not in effect: “We are not concerned with the very poor. They are unthinkable… He was not in the Abyss, but could see it. ” In Howards End we are faced with a true sentiment of care. We notice that Forster cares for the state of England. He cares for the possibility of deliverance, for this modern aged England, full of strife, to return to its simple beginnings as a rural, self-dependant society.

Forster therefore appears to have a phobia of the new, of the modern, and of the industrial, and searches throughout the novel for comfort in the arms of nature. The house is the only true thing that is safe about England, and so provides hope; “By far the most valuable things… are… the pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful objects; it is they… that form the rational, ultimate end of social progress. ” (G. E.

Moore: Principia Ethica) Therefore there is a subsequent fear that the people will not be able to ‘Connect’ with their earthy values, which evidently is what will happen to Forster, as he is unable to speak of ‘Only Connect’ in A Passage to India, and so there is evidence that what he wrote in Two Cheers for Democracy – “I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country” – is bearing fruit.

Forster therefore tries to provide a duality, as concepts of the characters natural surroundings are incorporated into their characters, The Schlegels are part German, and so more culture can be seen in them, whereas Henry is the modern late Victorian man, so captivated by money, and social standing. Leonard however is a true representative of England as F. Scott Fitzgerald noted that “England is the people”, shown by Forster using terms such as “Comrades” and “Our race” when in reference to him. One of the felt tensions in the novel therefore is the fear of war between Germany and England.

While the issue of ‘Connection’ in the physical is fairly obvious, it is the spiritual aspects that create a more definite outcome to the novel. While Mrs Wilcox is only featured briefly in the text, she is an important influence as her spirit while rooted in Howards End is essential to Margaret, who attempts to understand her mysterious authority. Mrs Wilcox embodies a natural inheritance, she provides a notion of a simple truth, that One can only live, and then life must be so frailly past on, in this case from her to Margaret, as seen through her dying note, indicating that “Margaret Schlegel is to have Howards End”.

Mrs Wilcox’s contribution to the novel is great, as through her broken communication is observed. Mrs Wilcox however, unlike Margaret does not need to reinforce the idea of ‘Only Connect’, as she herself is connection, as “Mrs Wilcox has left few indications behind her”. She is the different, and so is the special, as she is removed from the social oppression, and lives only her own life, for herself. This is ironic, as while Forster illustrates ‘connection’ through the different, he was restrained from making his own connections due to literary and social taboos.

Therefore it is not pessimistic to suggest that within Howards End no one ‘connects’ because the promise of fulfilment and contentment that would accompany this ‘connection’ is never withdrawn. While he may have made it impossible for the characters to actually connect, due to his own extreme moral realism and self inflicted failure to ‘connect’, we can be comforted in the knowledge that the dream of the ‘connection’ will never die. Chapter twenty-two is an essential chapter, as to fully unravelling and so helping to grasp the concept of ‘Only Connect’: Margaret greeted her lord with peculiar tenderness on the morrow. Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man… Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.

Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to wither, will die. Immediately we notice that ‘lord’ is not capitalised, so inferring that this may not be a direct reference to God, but to man himself, and his means of cultivating and building his own society. Margaret was different as she wishes people would “connect – connect without bitterness until all men are brothers” and so while man/God has the capabilities of creating ‘meaningless fragments’ it is Margaret who is capable of ‘connecting’ these separate parts, so to constitute to the creation of a society/person with a full mind.

The ‘rainbow bridge’ that is a bridging of the body and soul, as the rainbow contains a full array of colours, which stem from a single beam of white light, so denoting that the single complete man has a full array of emotion and thought. However although a rainbow only appears to be seven bold colours, it is indeed the blending and so ‘connecting’ of another bold colour in order to fully complete the rainbow, this is where Margaret is used so to connect the colours, to control the situation.

The meaningless fragments are the colours/thoughts themselves, because if they are simply isolated thoughts then they have no use, they are simply staple ideals without purpose. The ‘prose and the passion’ is a reference to the practical and the exceptional, as prose can be derived to prosaic and so something which is mundane and ordinary, whereas the passion is the excitement, the overflowing of emotion, the raw feelings and thoughts. This statement is suggesting that both the passion and prose have to be harnessed if a complete mind is to be created, as a degree of control must be established.

The imagery of half monks, half beasts is used to emphasise this as “What is man if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more” (Hamlet) so suggesting that we cannot simply be part of a man, we cannot simply have only half the human range of emotions. And so while the fragments are present, all of the fragments are necessary for the arch, which connects the body to the soul, to be produced, and so in turn for a man to be created.

The notion of a sermon is curious, as passion can also be a connotation for the passion of Christ, which would seem to suggest that a bridge between faith and reality needs to be maintained for the mind to bear full effect. The idea of a religious sentiment in the novel is supported by the quote “Christ was evasive when they questioned Him. It is those that cannot connect who hasten to cast the first stone. ” The capitalisation of the Him is therefore a reference to a higher power, and so to the essence of man, which is encapsulated in everyone.

The idea that if we connect then we could endure a prominent elevation, as we could think rationally, is a common manifestation throughout the novel. However when Plato said, “Property is the greatest passion”, he was alluding to the raw elements of thought and to the simplicity of emotion then accordingly the beast and monk would be no more, as we would no longer have that eccentric capabilities to produce either. ‘Only Connect’ is therefore an analogy.

It is an analogy of the perceived logical connection between two disparate events. A good example of this can be seen in Chapter thirty-eight: While Margaret “never forgot anyone for whom she had once cared; she connected… and she hoped that some day Henry might do the same” however: “You shall see the connection if it kills you, Henry! … A man who ruins a woman for his pleasure, and casts her off to ruin other men… These men are you. You can’t recognise them, because you cannot connect. ”

Here Margaret is trying to show Henry that he must forgive Leonard and Helen, as while it is socially seen as wrong to have pre-marital sex, he too has done the same, and so if Margaret is willing to forgive him, then he should equally be willing to forgive them. She is suggesting that Henry only utilises one area of his emotions and thought, as he is too proud to forgive, he prefers not to connect, so then he does not have to face the consequences and the reality of his actions, it is a case of ignorance being bliss.

While he needed the support from Margaret when he had been exposed, he is unwilling to succour another, and so Margaret is attempting to sever his isolation and halt his detachment from reality. Margaret’s ultimatum is a means of predicting the end of the novel, as through Henry’s stubbornness to connect, his son is found guilty of manslaughter and so Henry suffers a breakdown, where he is forced to connect, however due to his uncompromising attitude Leonard Bast was killed. It was his selfishness and inability to feel remorse, which lead to his eventual breakdown.

The fault of Forster is simply that he had a conscience. He was unable to provide a hallucinatory sense of consciousness, which would show us the actual rhythms that guide the mind. Instead Forster constructed a conversation with his audience, enabling him to leave his novel open, so shying away from responsibility and merely being the incinuator not the revolutionary. He enabled his readership to complete the text, as he was unable to compose his true emotions. Therefore the concept of ‘Only Connect’ within the book is substantial, within life is obligatory but in both cases is essentially impossible to achieve.