Study Guide

Where Angels Fear to Tread Gardens and Landscapes

By E. M. Forster

Gardens and Landscapes

Descriptions of gardening and landscapes in Where Angels Fear to Tread are often used to suggest the ways in which people, like plants, can be cultivated and shaped. Characters are frequently connected to different kinds of natural scenery. When Forster describes Mrs. Herriton in her garden sowing seeds in neat, perfectly arranged rows, this is symbolic of her orderly, regimented way of life, and more generally, of the oh-my-gosh-get-me-out-of-here claustrophobia of English society. Just check it out:

They sowed the duller vegetables first, and a pleasant feeling of righteous fatigue stole over them as they addressed themselves to the peas. Harriet stretched a string to guide the row straight, and Mrs. Herriton scratched a furrow with a pointed stick. (1.60)

The image of Mrs. Herriton scratching a furrow with a pointed stick makes us want to run screaming to the hills (of Italy).

In contrast, the landscape of Italy is described in terms of its openness—the country is too vast to be tamed, and when Lilia travels to Italy, she feels liberated from the stifling Sawston. It's also just, well, super pretty:

But as they climbed higher the country opened out, and there appeared, high on a hill to the right, Monteriano. The hazy green of the olives rose up to its walls, and it seemed to float in isolation between trees and sky, like some fantastic ship city of a dream. (2.65)

Huh. We have to think real hard about which one we like better. A garden full of peas, "duller vegetables," and "righteous fatigue," or "the hazy green of the olives" and a "fantastic ship city of a dream." This is a tough choice… oh wait. No, no it's not. Italian landscape FTW.

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