Study Guide

Howards End Chapter 19

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Chapter 19

  • The narrator waxes lyrical about the beauties of the English countryside for a little while. The reason, we learn, is that Frieda is visiting the Schlegels and Aunt Juley at Swanage, but she doesn't admire the scene as fervently as Aunt Juley would like.
  • Frieda and Aunt Juley have a silly almost-argument about the virtues of German salt marshes versus English lakes – this is clearly a national matter.
  • The party observes a train coming towards them, and Helen wonders if Margaret is on it. They wonder about the Wilcoxes' house – will it do for the Schlegels?
  • They have a little laugh over the Paul/Helen incident, and Helen declares that it doesn't matter anymore, as long as the Ducie Street house is nice.
  • Helen wishes absently that they might have Howards End, since it's such a nice house.
  • They discuss what Helen calls the "Great Wilcox Peril" of two summers ago as they wait for Tibby and Margaret to join them for tea on the hillside. Frieda makes a comment on the nature of love and emotional truth that reveals – to Helen and to the narrator – the essential difference between Germans and the English: the Germans are interested in Truth, while the English are interested in respectability. Or so it seems.
  • Margaret and Tibby approach in a pony cart, and Helen, who can't wait to hear the news, wants to know if she got them a house.
  • Margaret wearily says no, and explains quietly to Helen that she's had a marriage proposal from Mr. Wilcox.
  • Helen is amused – then distinctly unamused when she realizes that Margaret is having feelings for her suitor.
  • Helen throws a fit, telling Margaret that she mustn't marry Mr. Wilcox. Margaret thinks she's being a bit unreasonable.
  • Helen can't explain exactly why she is so upset. Both sisters take a minute to calm down. Margaret explains how it happened. She feels sure that he loves her, and that she has started to love him.
  • Helen tries to explain, in turn, her dislike for Mr. Wilcox, which began when she saw Paul frightened by his father – the Wilcoxes deal too much in the outside world of respectability and doing the proper thing, not the thing that one feels is right.
  • Margaret has no romantic illusions about her relationship; she knows that it will be prose, not poetry, as she phrases it. But she's OK with this – the important thing is that Mr. Wilcox is a good man, and a real man.
  • Margaret is determined not to let her marriage take over her whole life, and expects that he and she will continue to be independent characters.
  • She respects the Wilcoxes for what they've done – ancestrally, in a weird sense. They're the kind of people that make England what it is, and she values that. Helen tries to dismiss that impulse, but Margaret will have none of it.
  • Again, the narrator wonders poetically what makes England England – the land itself is somehow alive and animated by something.

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