by E.M. Forster
Howards End Dissatisfaction Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
He felt that he was being done good to, and that if he kept on with Ruskin, and the Queen's Hall Concerts, and some pictures by Watts, he would one day push his head out of the grey waters and see the universe. He believed in sudden conversion, a belief which may be right, but which is peculiarly attractive to a half-baked mind. (6.20)
Leonard is unhappy with his lot in life, but is curiously, rather desperately optimistic in a way – he thinks that he can somehow change himself wholly through his attempts to absorb culture.
Certainly London fascinates. One visualizes it as a tract of quivering grey, intelligent without purpose, and excitable without love; as a spirit that has altered before it can be chronicled; as a heart that certainly beats, but with no pulsation of humanity. It lies beyond everything: Nature, with all her cruelty, comes nearer to us than do these crowds of men. A friend explains himself: the earth is explicable--from her we came, and we must return to her. But who can explain Westminster Bridge Road or Liverpool Street in the morning--the city inhaling--or the same thoroughfares in the evening--the city exhaling her exhausted air? We reach in desperation beyond the fog, beyond the very stars, the voids of the universe are ransacked to justify the monster, and stamped with a human face. London is religion's opportunity--not the decorous religion of theologians, but anthropomorphic, crude. Yes, the continuous flow would be tolerable if a man of our own sort--not anyone pompous or tearful--were caring for us up in the sky. (13.2)
Here, the narrator depicts a kind of abstract dissatisfaction – this is different from Leonard's personal struggle, but is definitely related to it. He's talking about the dissatisfaction of modern urban life, in which humanity is subjected to a force alien to it – that of the city itself (in this case, London). There's something about the inhumanity of the city that forces mankind to seek solace elsewhere, like in the idea of God.
One guessed him as the third generation, grandson to the shepherd or ploughboy whom civilization had sucked into the town; as one of the thousands who have lost the life of the body and failed to reach the life of the spirit. Hints of robustness survived in him, more than a hint of primitive good looks, and Margaret, noting the spine that might have been straight, and the chest that might have broadened, wondered whether it paid to give up the glory of the animal for a tail coat and a couple of ideas. Culture had worked in her own case, but during the last few weeks she had doubted whether it humanized the majority, so wide and so widening is the gulf that stretches between the natural and the philosophic man, so many the good chaps who are wrecked in trying to cross it. She knew this type very well--the vague aspirations, the mental dishonesty, the familiarity with the outsides of books. She knew the very tones in which he would address her. (14.3)
Margaret recognizes what Leonard himself might not – that he would be much, much better off living the life of the country, like his ancestors. However, driven by the desire for "culture," he's been warped and transformed into a kind of predictable mockery of the middle class.