Study Guide

Howards End Chapter 11

By E.M. Forster

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Chapter 11

  • In an abrupt shift, we find ourselves leaving a funeral. We see the attendees milling around, and learn that this is a Wilcox family funeral, in Hilton – it turns out to be Mrs. Wilcox's. We see the goings on from the perspective of a wood-cutter, who's saddened by the events.
  • The people of the village obviously cared for Mrs. Wilcox, and for her husband, as well. Charles, however, is not as popular. There's a sense that the younger generation is somehow worse than their parents.
  • The wood-cutter keeps working as the people drift away, and, even though he disapproves of colored flowers at a funeral, takes one of the flowers from the grave and leaves (he later regrets not taking all of the flowers, since it freezes over that night).
  • At Howards End, the whole family is in mourning. Mr. Wilcox is overcome with memories of his dead wife's goodness and innocence, and he can't believe that she's gone – she didn't tell him of her illness, and died rather suddenly.
  • Evie comes in with the day's mail; she wants to help, but she's not sure what to do.
  • She goes back to Charles and Dolly, and Charles goes in to see their father next. He's equally unsuccessful at getting Mr. Wilcox to eat anything, but pretends to be in charge.
  • Dolly, Charles's new wife, is useless. She's frivolous and unfeeling, and she can't help but wish that Mrs. Wilcox had died before the wedding, so she wouldn't have to be in mourning.
  • Charles, Dolly, and Evie embark on some trivial conversation about the trees in the village – they can't face up to their real sorrow. It's the Wilcox way to avoid things that are deeply felt, even though they are truly sad at heart.
  • Even obnoxious Charles is full of feelings; everything around the house reminds him of his mother. Evie is also struck by her mother's absence, not just in the house, but in her life. As the narrator sadly comments, the children's sadness is different from their father's, for "a wife may be replaced; a mother never."
  • Charles thinks over his mother's will, which seems fair enough – all of her things are divvied up between her husband and children (Mr. Wilcox will get Charles End, and Charles will get it after him).
  • Charles decides that he and Dolly will return to London so he can go back to work, because to stick around Howards End would be too depressing.
  • Charles heads down to the garage, notices that there's some mud on his new car, and harasses the chauffeur for a while. While they're talking, Dolly comes out and tries (incoherently) to communicate something strange to him: Miss Schlegel (Margaret, that is), "has got" Howards End.
  • Everyone's all in a tizzy. Mr. Wilcox tries to clear things up by explaining: he's received a letter from the matron of the nursing home where Mrs. Wilcox died, in which a note from Mrs. Wilcox is enclosed. The note says that she wants Margaret to inherit Howards End.
  • The whole family is taken aback. Dolly foolishly tries to intervene, but is told not to meddle.
  • The note isn't legal, but that's not the issue. Mr. Wilcox clearly wants to do what is most loyal to the memory of his wife; Charles, on the other hand, thinks that Margaret must have interfered somehow in her own interest (he assumes that everyone is as selfish as he is).
  • The family deliberates for hours. The narrator steps in here and agrees that the Wilcoxes shouldn't give the house to Margaret, since the last minute change isn't legal – and, after all, it communicates something about their mother that they couldn't understand. To Mrs. Wilcox, the act was spiritual; Howards End was more than just a house to her, and she saw Margaret as a kindred spirit and an heir to what the house represents. To her husband and children, though, Howards End is simply an asset.
  • This final bequest seems treacherous to the Wilcoxes – they can't believe Mrs. Wilcox would do such a thing. They decide that the whole thing isn't at all like her, and dismiss it. There's more talk about Margaret – none of the Wilcoxes seem to like her, and Charles and Dolly put her down for sending the scandalous colored chrysanthemums, and even for coming to the funeral. They attribute her oddness to the fact that she's not "really English," but is instead a "German cosmopolitan." Mr. Wilcox puts his foot down and says that they are not to blame her, since she was just as in the dark about all of this as they were.
  • Charles brushes the incident off and diverts the conversation back to his new car and the chauffeur. It seems like this troublesome interlude is over.

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