Study Guide

Howards End Chapter 8

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Chapter 8

  • The narrator speculates as to the roots of the odd friendship of Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel, which perhaps began before they even recognized it, when they first met in Germany.
  • Mrs. Wilcox unintentionally makes trouble at Wickham Place by calling on the Schlegels. Margaret and Helen aren't sure what to do – Margaret is especially concerned. Should she return the visit or not? How can they possibly be friends, given what's happened with Helen and Paul?
  • Margaret writes a letter telling Mrs. Wilcox that they shouldn't meet, just in case. Mrs. Wilcox immediately writes back to say that Paul has gone abroad, and Margaret instantly feels bad about her rejection of the other woman.
  • Margaret dashes off across the street to apologize in person. She's shown up to Mrs. Wilcox's bedroom, where they assure each other that there's no danger of Paul and Helen meeting.
  • They briefly discuss the Paul and Helen situation; Margaret wants to know how Mrs. Wilcox could tell that the young pair had fallen for each other. No answer is given.
  • Margaret makes like she's going to leave when the maid stops in to take away Mrs. Wilcox's breakfast tray, but she's invited to stay, and they chat a bit about Charles's recent wedding to Dolly, a pretty but silly young woman.
  • The talk turns to Howards End, and Mrs. Wilcox tells Margaret about a curious superstition – there's a set of hog's teeth stuck in the bark of the big wych elm tree at the house, and the locals think that chewing on a piece of bark will cure toothache. Margaret is intrigued.
  • It turns out that Howards End belongs to Mrs. Wilcox herself, not her husband – she was actually born there.
  • As the chatter moves away from Howards End, Margaret gets bored. She accidentally breaks a picture frame, and makes her excuses to go back home.
  • Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret say goodbye, and as they do, Mrs. Wilcox says rather an odd thing – she reminds Margaret that she's still just a "girl" (of 29), and is inexperienced. Margaret responds by admitting that she has a lot to learn, but she's already discovered that life is complicated and unexpected.

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