Study Guide

Howards End Principles

By E.M. Forster

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Do you ever get yourself into situations where you know that you're making an argument that's going to come back and bit you in the you-know-where, but you do it anyway, just because you're too proud to admit that you're even a little bit wrong? Of course you have – we all do. And, because they're human, so do almost all the characters in Howards End. The whole novel is basically a long demonstration of the difference between principle and action, and the problems that can come from being inflexible about either of these things.

Questions About Principles

  1. Does this story have a "moral"? Is there a guiding principle at work in this novel? If so, what is it?
  2. Many of the characters we encounter are principled to a fault – how much idealism is too much idealism?
  3. Is it possible to find a balance between the two extremes we see in the novel of Helen's strictly idealistic principles and Henry's intense pragmatism?

Chew on This

Throughout the novel, the notion of "proportion," though dismissed at first, emerges as the only way to balance idealism and the real world.

The novel's characters enact the need for a middle ground between high ideals and low desires through a spectrum of three characters, Helen, Margaret, and Henry; these characters function in relation to each other as representations of different attitudes.

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