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Howards End

Howards End

by E.M. Forster

Howards End Chapter 16 Summary

  • Leonard comes over for tea the next weekend, but it doesn't go well at all. Helen and Margaret start asking him questions about his job, and he gets suspicious immediately.
  • The women keep pushing the issue, asking if the Porphyrion is a good company. Leonard gets irate.
  • The fact of the matter is, he doesn't really know; to him, the company is like a giant, and he only does what the giant tells him to do.
  • The sisters come right out and tell him that a friend has told them that the company is going to go bust. Leonard denies it – kind of. He gets flustered by the Schlegels and doesn't really say anything either way.
  • Helen and Margaret continue to pursue the issue, and ask more and more questions. Leonard gets frustrated by the idea that they're wasting precious time talking about money, and he finally butts in with talk of books.
  • Unfortunately, they're interrupted right away by Evie and Mr. Wilcox, who bustle in with two adorable puppies.
  • Helen is captivated by the pups, which Evie bred and named Ahab and Jezebel.
  • Leonard is not amused by this interruption, and makes to leave. Helen absently tells him to come again, and he can't stand this. He bluntly says no, he won't, since it would be a failure.
  • This gets Helen's attention, and, insulted, she asks why he would say such a thing.
  • Leonard and Helen yell at each other – he thinks they're patronizing him, and she thinks they just want to help.
  • Leonard appeals to Mr. Wilcox, who agrees that it's not fair for him to show up to tea, only to have his "brain picked" by the Schlegels. Leonard thinks that the Schlegels only wanted to make use of him somehow to get inside information about the Porphyrion or something, and is highly insulted.
  • Margaret enters into the fray now, and explains the impulse that she and her sister felt to help him – it has to do with the connection they felt with him last week, when he talked about his walk and his struggle against the dullness of life.
  • Leonard responds huffily that they were pressing him for information and storms out. Helen goes to try and talk sense into him.
  • Margaret is left with the Wilcoxes, who agree that she was splendid. She explains that he was the friend of theirs who works at the Porphyrion and jokingly blames Mr. Wilcox for the row, since it was his advice in the first place.
  • Margaret blames herself and Helen for the fight, but the Wilcoxes think she's being too generous. They think Leonard is simply not of their "kind" – even Margaret agrees that he's not a gentleman, and that he suspected that they were taking advantage of him.
  • She tries to make them understand what's interesting and likable about Leonard – his ambitions to escape humdrum everyday life. Mr. Wilcox, the voice of practical reason, gently shoots down all of Margaret's idealistic views.
  • Mr. Wilcox and Evie assume that Leonard is cheating on his wife, and that he's fundamentally "naughty" and untruthful. Margaret holds out in her belief that he's honest in his desires to find something better, and that it makes him a "real man."
  • Margaret goes to find out what Helen's doing; apparently, Leonard left a while ago. Margaret brings her sister back to the Wilcoxes, and they pretend that everything's OK. The puppies are a good distraction.
  • As the Wilcoxes leave, Mr. Wilcox comments that he's worried about the Schlegels – they shouldn't be left on their own.
  • Evie admits that she likes Helen, but not Margaret. She's clearly not a kindred spirit; she is healthy, athletic, and attractive, but not a very poetic soul. A few days later, she suddenly but unromantically gets engaged.

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