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Howards End

Howards End

by E.M. Forster

Howards End Chapter 15 Summary

  • Helen and Margaret are also struck by their experience with Leonard, and they can't stop talking about him to their friends at dinner that night. They keep finding ways to bring him up in conversation, even in relation to a paper on philanthropy that's being presented that evening.
  • "Mr. Bast" becomes a stand-in for the lower classes in general, and everyone tries to decide what could be done to make his life better.
  • The Schlegels and their companions argue about how to "educate" the poor; Margaret claims that money is the only thing necessary for education, and that everything else (culture, morality, etc.) follows from it.
  • Everyone is shocked by this statement, but conversation goes on in a humorous and jovial fashion until the dinner guests leave, and the Schlegels walk home happily.
  • The Schlegels stroll along the Thames embankment, and sit to look at the river. The sisters wonder if they should stay in touch with Leonard.
  • Margaret brings up the problem of their housing situation and mentions Mrs. Wilcox and Howards End in passing. From a distance, Mr. Wilcox (who's sitting with some friends further down the embankment) hears his name and walks over – he recognizes the Schlegels and says hello. He sounds masculine and protective, seeing that they're two ladies sitting alone at night, and while Helen resents this, Margaret thinks it's fine.
  • The two sisters chat politely with Mr. Wilcox, and Margaret inquires about Paul; the Wilcoxes have business concerns in the colonial world, and Mr. Wilcox politely evades some tension about England's competition with Germany (remember, this is right before World War I).
  • Mr. Wilcox changes the topic and asks how they're doing; Helen tells him all about their evening with their debate club, and he's amused and charmed by their idealistic pastimes. We learn that he's become quite a powerful man over the past couple of years, and he's riding pretty high right now.
  • Mr. Wilcox rather dismissively says that he wishes Evie would join a club like theirs, instead of breeding terriers (her new hobby).
  • Helen responds rather irritably and defensively, and Mr. Wilcox tries to calm her down, saying that he agrees that debates are healthy and useful – he wishes he'd been more of a debater when he was younger, as being a bit quicker would be helpful to him now.
  • Margaret diffuses the tension, and Helen laughs off her ill-temper. She changes the topic to Leonard, and tells Mr. Wilcox all about the argument their friends were having about how best to help him. The suggestions ran the gamut from simply giving him an annual income to sending him away for a holiday every summer. She asks Mr. Wilcox what he would do.
  • Mr. Wilcox, ever the practical man, laughingly says he can't think of anything else beyond what's been suggested, except to tell him to leave his current employer (the Porphyrion Fire Insurance Company), since he knows that it's going to go under.
  • Mr. Wilcox recommends that Leonard look for a new job now, while he's still employed, to avoid getting laid off later.
  • The economy makes it very difficult for anyone to get a job these days (we know how that feels), and we have to wonder what Leonard could possibly do. Mr. Wilcox has no suggestions, and gets up to go back to his friends.
  • As he's leaving, Margaret asks how Howards End is doing. We hear that the Wilcoxes have rented it out and moved away – they're worried that it's getting too suburban. Mr. Wilcox and Evie live in London with a country house in Shropshire, and Charles and Dolly still live in Hilton at another house.
  • They part ways, and Margaret and Helen decide to share their advice about the Porphyrion Company with Leonard over tea.

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