Study Guide

Where Angels Fear to Tread Society and Class

By E. M. Forster

Society and Class

In Where Angels Fear To Tread, the emphasis placed on social class creates Grand Canyon-sized rifts between characters. For the people in Sawston, appearances are more important than reality, and strict rules for what constitutes "good" manners dictate all aspects of daily life. You better believe this gets claustrophobic.

When Lilia tries to run away from the manners pressure-cooker of Sawston, she has to face the new challenge of convincing the Herritons that her penniless Italian fiancé is a suitable match. The Herritons absolutely refuse to welcome a poor guy into their family, because this is Edwardian England and such things Are Not Done.

Unfortunately, Lilia's marriage does not end well, suggesting that the laws regulating social norms and class are difficult (sometimes even impossible) to escape. Ugh.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. How does this novel portray the divisions caused by the separation between social classes?
  2. What characteristics distinguish the upper class from the poorer working class?
  3. Is the importance placed on class in this novel limited to England, or does Italy also struggle with the same barriers between social classes?

Chew on This

If Gino had been an Italian noble, then the Herritons may have been more open to welcoming him into the family; but his status as the son of a poor dentist seals his fate as a completely unacceptable match for Lilia.

Lilia's failed marriage with Gino suggests that social class does matter and that she should have returned to England where she belongs.

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