Howards End – Chapters 41-44

Summary

After his indiscretion with Helen, Leonard is
consumed with a pitiless remorse that eats away at
him. Seeing Margaret and Tibby in a
cathedral one day, he resolves to confess his misdeed
to Margaret, hoping to ease his
conscience. However, he knows nothing of
Margaret–not even that she is married to Henry Wilcox–and
it takes him some time to discover her whereabouts.
He learns that she and Henry have gone to Howards
End; it is the very same day that Helens pregnancy
is discovered, when Henry and Margaret have their
terrible fight.

The next day, Leonard takes a train to Hilton and
walks to Howards End. On the way, he lapses into a
kind of daze, in which his extreme sorrow seems to
transform the squalor of his life into tragedy. His
grief seems to awaken something great in him. In the
meantime, Charles has gone to Howards End to
force Margaret and Helen to leave. When Leonard
arrives, he enters the house; Charles sees him, and,
echoing his fathers desire to “thrash him within an
inch of his life,” seizes the Schlegels great German
sword, and begins to beat Leonard with the flat of
the blade. Leonard stumbles backward into the
bookcase, which falls on him, covering him with
books. Leonard experiences heart failure and dies.
Charles leaves, stopping at the police station to
tell them that Leonard had a heart attack. The
police tell him that there will have to be an
inquest.

Margaret answers the policemens questions, saying
that Charles actions could not have caused Leonards
death, though they may have hastened it. She
decides to go to Germany with Helen, and she tells
Henry this; Henry shocks her by telling her that the
police have found that manslaughter was the cause of
death. Charles will spend three years in prison.
Henry is shattered. On the verge of a nervous
breakdown, he asks Margaret to take care of him.

Fourteen months later, Margaret, Henry, Helen, and
Helens child are all living happily at Howards End.
Henry and Helen have learned to like one another, and
are now good friends; Helens little boy plays
happily with the village children. London is barely
visible on the horizon. Henry is exhausted, and
still frail from his sudden confrontation with his
inner weakness; he is not his old self. He calls all
his children to Howards End–Dolly comes in
Charles place–to tell them that he is leaving the
house to Margaret, in return for which she will
receive no money when he dies. The children all
accept the dictate, though Paul, now returned
from Nigeria to run his fathers business, is
scornful. As they leave, Dolly comments that it is
odd that Mrs. Wilcox wanted Margaret to have
Howards End, and now she will after all.

When they are alone, Margaret asks Henry about
Dollys comment, and he reveals to her that his wife
wished to leave her Howards End. She tells him that
he did no wrong to keep it from her. Helen runs into
the room with the baby, announcing happily that the
meadow has been cut, and there will be “such a crop
of hay as never!”

Commentary

The novels conclusion is heavy with symbolism, but
the symbolism is fairly simple compared to the
nuanced ambiguities of the rest of the novel.
Leonards death comes when he topples a bookcase
on top of himself, symbolizing his terrible obsession
with educating himself and his failure to pull
himself from “the abyss” (of poverty) with books–in
a way, books ruin him as a human being before they
smother him and cause his heart attack. Charles
surprising conviction for manslaughter indicates the
eroding authority of the upper classes: no matter
how conventional and “solid” he acts, he cannot kill
a man with impunity and get away with it.
The final scene at Howards End provides a happy
ending for the novel, with Helen and Henry
becoming friends at last, and Henrys hypocritical
edifice being replaced with a more genuine human
presence. This final chapter also directly addresses
the question of “Who will inherit England?” by
featuring Henrys decision about who will inherit
Howards End itself. Margaret will inherit
Howards End, and she intends to leave it to Helens
child. In other words, Howards End will fall from
the materialistic upper class to the idealistic upper
class, and thence to an offspring of the upper and
lower classes. In a sense, the final living
arrangement at Howards End indicates Forsters belief
that, if people could “only connect,” there would be
a place for every class at Howards End, and in
England. The classes are becoming irrevocably
mixed; London is encroaching on the countryside, and
World War I is looming in the near future
(unbeknownst to Forster at the time he wrote the
novel, though even in 1910 he was certainly fearful
of a conflict between England and Germany). But for
the time, all is well; the classes can live together
happily, and the future of England seems less
uncertain, and less dim.