In the small town of Sawston, maintaining the respect of your neighbors is The Golden Rule. Mrs. Herriton prides herself on being a model for good manners, and her daughter Harriet also follows a strict code of socially acceptable behavior. When the family name is under threat of scandal due to Lilia's shocking marriage to a foreigner (where are those smelling salts?) the Herritons go to extreme lengths to save their reputation. In Where Angels Fear To Tread, Forster portrays the pettiness behind the Herriton's obsession with upholding their reputation at all cost.
Questions About Respect and Reputation
It's all well and good that the Herritons don't want to bring dishonor on their name, but when is enough enough? Where do we draw the line between what's acceptable to do to earn respect and what is going too far?
What does Forster think is immoral about the way Mrs. Herriton goes about maintaining her reputation?
Lilia attempts to rebel against the pressures of maintaining her reputation by marrying an Italian, but Forster doesn't allow her to have a happy marriage. Is he suggesting that she made the wrong decision in throwing away her reputation?
Chew on This
Lilia thinks that she is rebelling against the pressure of being a respectful widow by marrying a foreigner, but she comes to realize that she does care about having a good reputation.
Mrs. Herriton is so obsessed about her reputation that she'll go to immoral lengths to maintain it, even if it means that she's being a hypocrite.