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Themes

E.M. Forster offers up all kinds of diverse examples of English manhood in Howards End, and it's up to us to pass judgment on all of them. Some are ridiculous, some intimidating, and almost none of them are satisfactory. Masculinity is one of the crises central to this novel, and we have to keep asking ourselves what a "real man" should be like – what are the criteria in the world Forster creates, and are they actually useful?

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. Though Mr. Wilcox is touted as the "real" man in the novel, Miss Avery scornfully suggests that he's not "a real soldier" – what does this mean for our image of masculinity here?
  2. What does a character like Tibby represent? How does Tibby contrast with the other men we encounter?
  3. What does English manhood as portrayed by the novel look like? What, according to the narrator, are its flaws in its current, modernized state?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Though the Wilcox men are initially suggested as the reader's model for manhood, they are gradually revealed to be imperfect models, demonstrating that there is a lack of "real men" in the novel's vision of England.

All successful models of masculinity ultimately fail by the end of Howards End, suggesting that traditional male-dominated society is limping to an end.

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