So­cial com­men­tary

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - TV INTERVIEW -

ONE of EM Forster’s best-loved novels, Howards End was highly ac­claimed when pub­lished in 1910, dur­ing the runup to the First World War – a time when so­ci­ety, class and so­cial con­ven­tions were in tran­si­tion. The BBC1 drama­ti­sa­tion, which starts tonight, comes a quar­ter-cen­tury af­ter the 1992 film adap­ta­tion by Mer­chant Ivory which starred Emma Thomp­son as Mar­garet Sch­legel. An­thony Hop­kins and He­lena Bon­ham Carter also starred.

The three fam­i­lies in the story high­light dif­fer­ent so­cial classes; the Wil­coxes were up­per class af­ter mak­ing their money through busi­ness, the Sch­legels in­her­ited enough to be­come up­per class how­ever were more in­ter­ested in the arts and cul­ture, while the Basts were lower-mid­dle class. The plot be­gins when the Wil­coxes’ mother be­friends the el­dest of the Sch­legel sis­ters, Mar­garet. When she dies leav­ing her fam­ily home, Howards End, to Mar­garet, and the Wil­coxes de­cide to keep this a se­cret, it sparks a se­ries of events around which the plot turns. Henry Wil­cox and Mar­garet strike up a friend­ship which leads to ro­mance. A com­plex se­ries of events en­sues, buried se­crets, in­fi­delity and hypocrisy are un­cov­ered, spark­ing a con­fronta­tion at Howards End. Although the cli­max chal­lenges the re­la­tion­ships, unity pre­vails and hu­man con­nec­tion unites the fam­i­lies: the phrase “only con­nect” re­curs through­out the novel.

Howards End is con­sid­ered to have been one of Forster’s great­est novels. In an era char­ac­terised by hi­er­ar­chy and so­cial class, it fo­cused on the unity and con­nec­tion needed within the coun­try to work to­gether to­wards a bet­ter so­ci­ety.

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