Study Guide

Howards End Chapter 27

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Chapter 27

  • Helen begins to doubt herself – what's she doing, anyway? She figures that it'll all work out in the long run.
  • Helen strives to explain Mr. Wilcox to Leonard after they put the drunk Jacky to bed. She tells him that she believes in "personal responsibility," meaning that she thinks everyone should think of themselves in depth and come to a level of personal understanding.
  • The world, according to Helen, is divided into people who have this sense of responsibility and self (like Leonard, Helen, and Margaret), and those who don't – like Mr. Wilcox, and other powerful men of his ilk.
  • Leonard has rather complicated feelings about Helen – he feels somewhat proprietary of her, and is beginning to think that he doesn't like her sister (he wonders if Helen herself does).
  • Unbeknownst to Helen, Leonard already knows about Mr. Wilcox's relationship to Jacky, but doesn't want Helen to find out.
  • Helen asks about Jacky, which makes Leonard uncomfortable. The couple has been married for three years, and it clearly hasn't been a good marriage. Leonard's family has cut him off entirely because of it.
  • Helen, never one for discretion, asks about his family (his immediate family members are all lower-middle class and his grandparents were actually laborers – though Leonard is embarrassed, Helen doesn't look down on him). Helen asks why they don't approve of Jacky, and she figures out the truth – Jacky was a prostitute.
  • Leonard tries to get Helen to stop worrying about his problems, and tells her that he'll just settle down to ordinary life after they get back to London. Helen is troubled by this – after all, he's the man that used to walk at night and yearn for something more.
  • Leonard himself dismisses books, and says that he's learned not to have so many fantasies; in order to be a dreamer, one also has to be rich.
  • Helen explains that in her philosophy, things like money and practicality are the opposite of real life – and men like Mr. Wilcox don't really understand capital-L Life.
  • Leonard is confused by all of this; he wants to engage at this higher level, but he's still occupied by the very real troubles of his life. Where will he get a job? What will he do? Talk can only go so far.
  • Helen keeps talking about death, trying to explain that understanding the idea of it puts everything in perspective and teaches people to truly value love and life. Her generalizations are poetic, but, we suspect, extremely naïve.
  • A letter for Helen (from Margaret) arrives, as well as a note for Leonard.

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