One of the main questions Howards End asks us to consider is this: how can an English person go about being an English person in the England that the novel shows us? That sounds a little crazy, so we'll take a step back. The world of Forster's novel is rife with change and conflict, and each character we encounter is challenged by these changes and conflicts, not only on a political level, but on a personal one as well. It's up to them to decide, then, how best to reconcile their own personal desires and beliefs to the requirements of the society they live in – and it's a real challenge.
Questions About Identity
- How much does one's social background predetermine identity in Howards End?
- How are group identities described here – for example, family identities or national identities?
- Is it possible for one to change one's identity? Does anyone here actually undergo significant change in character over the course of the novel?
- How much is identity linked to principle?
Chew on This
In Howards End, characters' identities are informed largely by their social circumstances, and the only way for any character to change is through a shift in social status.
Identity is far from individual in Howards End, and Forster problematically groups characters' personas by their identification with families or nations.