Howard’s End is a famous novel, which is written by a great English novelist and a versatile short story writer named, Edward Morgan Forster. It has been published and broadly released in 1910. Forster’s novel mainly depicts a unique story of class struggle during the early days in England. The story of Howard’s End has captured the heart and mind of many readers, as it showcases a distinct narration of social complexity and dilemma back in the ancient days.
Due to its broad success, James Ivory has made a movie adaptation of Forster’s novel in 1992, which mainly present the identical story and theme. Class Differences in Howards End (1992) The movie Howards End serves as a successful adaptation of the novel written by Forster, more specifically in the aspect of class struggle. Considering the many similarities of the book and the movie, one of the most apparent themes that surface among the rest is the concept of class struggle (Poplaski 64).
The relationships between the classes, in relation to how it is presented in the book, are shown in the film through a variety of elements and scenes. The struggle of the characters to move and relate to one another is shown through the lenses of power, material possessions, and opportunities. Definition of Class Struggle and Class Struggle in Howard’s End Class Struggle is often characterized as the conflict of different classes in the society. However, the definition of class struggle varies from different kinds of perspective and ideology.
From Marxism’s point of view, class struggle is defined as a conflict between the working class (the lower class) and the capitalist (the higher class) in terms of economic and political stability in a given type of society (Slaughter). Thus, Karl Marx further defines class struggle as difference between the business class, which he called as bourgeoisie, and working employees, which he referred to as proletariat (Slaughter).
On the other hand, according to Geoffrey Ernest Maurice De Ste. Croix, a well known and reputable British historian, class struggle is “fundamental relationship between classes and their respective individual members, involving essentially exploitation, or resistance to it” (44). De Ste. Croix believes that class struggle does not inevitably involve communal action by a given class and that it either has direct or indirect activity on a political surface. As for the story of Howard’s End, class struggle is characterized as social conflict among the different classes in the society.
Thus, the central theme of class struggle in the story of Howard’s end progresses around the aspects of social stability, economic strength and wealth. The Wilcoxes reflect class struggle in Howard’s End in such a way that they have enormous superiority against the Basts, as they have greater financial prowess, more especially with the amount of businesses that they possess and control as the higher or business class of the society. On the other hand, the Basts mirror class struggle in a totally different way with that of the Wilcoxes, as they struggle and work really hard to further instigate their position and worth in the society.
Unlike that of the Wilcoxes, the Basts are having more difficulties in terms of getting the respect and sympathy of most people, more especially those who belong in the higher or middle class of the society. Power In general, power can be observed based on two distinguishing factors. First, it is defined by the holder of power. Second, it is defined by the basis for possession of power. In the movie, power is concentrated on the upper echelons of the society and is structured as an inverted pyramid where it trickles down but becomes less for each level.
When this is applied to the characters of the movie, the greatest amount of power is concentrated on the Wilcoxes and is followed by the Schlegel sisters. The Basts are given the least amount of power, which is sometimes tantamount to having none at all. The source of power for the Wilcoxes is their wealth accumulated from the businesses they own. As for the Schlegel sisters, their share of power comes from their intellect, their status as German descendants, and a respective amount of wealth.
Consequently, the Basts are given little amount of power because they lack the needed wealth in order to earn a significant position in the society. Nonetheless, the Basts, especially for Leonard, have the wealth of knowledge but this remains insignificant as a tool for earning a portion of power. The concept of power plays an important aspect in the struggle between the classes. As shown in the movie, it is associated with the rights and privileges given to a particular class in the society. While it is difficult to argue whether power influences privileges or vice versa, the fact remains that the two are related.
Likewise, it is used as a means to further oppress or extend privileges to those who have a lesser share of power. For example, the amount of power held by Mr. Wilcox is used in order to relinquish the sinful affair he had with Jackie ten years ago. Despite the negative stereotypes often associated with being a lover, Mr. Wilcox is able to release himself from the possible repercussions because he is associated with power and wealth. In fact, he is able to dismiss the thought without facing severe consequences.
In another part of the story, a similar deed is found with the unexpected pregnancy of Helen that is further worsened by the fact that the father of the child is married to another woman. The society also has standards for the incident but the role of power on the issue is highlighted by the remarks made by Mr. Wilcox. The relatively lesser amount of power held by Helen is not enough for her to escape from the consequences of her condition, which is why Mr. Wilcox insists on finding a way. The interference from Mr. Wilcox shows that he realizes the need for the use of his power in order to save Helen from the situation.
Material Possessions In the book, the author can resort to descriptive words that rely on the imagination of the readers in order to distinguish the struggle between the classes in relation to their material possessions. However, this is not the case for the movie, which makes use of visual representations to show the inherent differences between the classes. The distinct material possessions that served as the source of the class struggle are the shelter, food, and clothing, which are essentially the basic needs of mankind.
In the movie, the Shlegels are faced with problems in relation to their house. They are forced to find another place to live in because their lease is going to end to give way to the construction of new infrastructures, which Meg referred to as houses similar to that of Mrs. Wilcox. In this particular instance, it is shown that those from the lower class can be deprived of their basic needs in order to provide more for those who belong to the higher level in the class system. As Meg and Helen finds a way to move to another house soon, Meg inadvertently seeks the help of Mr.
Wilcox as she considers his capabilities for finding them a house. Sooner, Meg ends up marrying Mr. Wilcox. Questions related to her intention of marrying Mr. Wilcox shows that it is related to the class to which the latter belongs. As Santas mentioned “she likes the solid businessman in him, the money-making and enterprising tycoon whose kind have helped erect the pillars of the British empire” (161). To a certain extent, Meg used the marriage in order to reap the material benefits of becoming associated with the upper class.
Food and clothing remains an insignificant factor for the Wilcoxes and the Schlegel considering the abundance of such for their consumption. Similarly, the occasional scenes shot at the house of the Basts show the worse housing conditions made available for their family. Likewise, food and clothing remain scarce for the Basts. The difficulties faced by the Basts in relation to these needs are further highlighted in the wedding of Mr. Wilcox’s daughter. As soon as Meg meets Helen, who brought the Basts to the wedding, she is immediately confronted with the fact that the couple is in a state of starvation.
They are allowed to eat at the gathering with the help of Helen but their presence caught the attention of Mr. Wilcox’s son and daughter-in-law. Mr. Wilcox’s son, Charlie, questioned Jackie Bast whether she is associated with the bride or the groom in order to find out if she is really a guest. The behavior of Charlie and the rest of the family towards the presence of the Bast show the detachment of the upper class with that of the lower class. In opportunities provided to them, the members of the upper class would highlight the things that set them apart from the members of the lower class.
Opportunities First, the opportunities for acquiring a job remains a big issue for those in the lower class while those in the middle- and higher-class enjoys a relatively wider set of opportunities. Throughout the story, the plight of Leonard Bast is shown in relation to his employment opportunities. His problems regarding work started when Meg asked Mr. Wilcox how he could be of help to a clerk who is working at an insurance company. Mr. Wilcox, after finding out the name of the company, said that the organization is rather unstable and Leonard should find another job.
The Schlegel sisters consequently advised Leonard to do as Mr. Wilcox said but he immediately got terminated from his new job. Soon after, he faced difficulties looking for a new job as he tried from one organization to another. At a later scene, Leonard shared his perspective on why he is having a difficult time in getting hired. His explanation is highly associated with the class he belongs to and compares it with the upper class. According to Leonard, the members of the upper class can easily change and find a new job whenever they are in a situation similar to what he is in as of the moment.
On the other hand, the poor, like him, have a difficult time after they lose their current job. Not only is this difficulty associated with getting employed but is also related to how they would avail of services or products that they need in order to survive. In relation to this, Mr. Wilcox did not take any personal responsibility over the mishaps of Leonard’s unemployment. Despite the fact that Helen continuously pointed out that it is his fault, he remained undisturbed by the incident and is not even bothered by the condition of Basts after the advice he made.
Likewise, he refused to help Leonard despite his qualifications and the availability of jobs in his company. His refusal might be related to his inherent detachment with that of the poor. In fact, he once told Helen that she should not “take up that sentimental attitude over the poor” (Forster 193). Second, the opportunities of moving from one class to another proves to be difficult and is often taken negatively by the members of a particular class. As for the Basts, their only option for marriage is someone from their own class, which did not actually enjoyed ample focus in the movie.
The relationship that is focused throughout a greater part of the movie is composed of members from two different classes. The people involved are that of Mr. Wilcox and Meg, who came from the upper class and middle class, respectively. The marriage between people from the middle class and upper class is not prohibited but is often rejected by members of the upper class. In the case of Mr. Wilcox and Meg, the children of the former did not fully accept the latter even after everything that has happened. Despite the kindness shown by Meg, the children of Mr. Wilcox remained insincere with the relationship they formed with her.
Likewise, they casted doubt over the favors asked by Meg from Mr. Wilcox as they considered these favors as exploitation. The behavior of Mr. Wilcox’s children is a manifestation of the common disapproval held by the upper class towards the inclusion of a person from the lower class. While there are rooms for movement in between the classes, the barriers that have to be broken remain tough and difficult to handle. Summary and Conclusion The movie Howard End is a distinctive portrayal of class struggle as it brings life to the words laid out in the novel by Forster.
The film successfully represents the concept of class struggle as it is used in the novel. Despite some differences from the novel, the movie is able to invest in the scenes and the elements of the story in order to create a similar portrait of class struggle with that of the book. More specifically, the class struggle is shown through power relations, material possessions, and opportunities. Throughout the film, the idea of class struggle existed from the beginning until the end. It can be said that the centrality of class struggle is related to the real-world experience that surrounds the novel at the time of its publication.
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