Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Alternately Rhapsodic and Dryly Humorous
Forster's tone is often an odd juxtaposition of highfalutin and quirkily humorous, with very little middle ground in between. Howards End is no exception; its tone alternates between the quite-serious and the quite-silly. Forster manages to express the dire philosophical and social troubles he's trying to communicate here, while all the while maintaining a healthy sense of humor. This makes for a novel that is both difficult and delightful by turns. It manages to encompass a weighty sense of the social troubles at stake, while still maintaining an oddly conversational, almost familial intimacy.