English Literature
E.M. Forster

E.M. Forster

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

E.M. Forster: A Celebrated English Author and Essayist

E.M. Forster, known as Edward Morgan Forster, was a highly renowned and accomplished writer of the twentieth century. His literary masterpieces, including the timeless classics A Room with a View (1908) and A Passage to India (1924), have solidified his place in English literature history.

Born on January 1, 1879 in London, Forster was the son of Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster, a Welshman, and Alice Clara Whichelo, an Anglo-Irish woman. Unfortunately, Forster's father passed away when he was just a year old, leaving him with a significant inheritance. His mother, with whom he had a close relationship, ensured a comfortable upbringing for him in Hertfordshire after they relocated there in 1883.

Forster attended a boarding school as a teenager, but he disliked its snobbish atmosphere. He went on to study history, literature, and philosophy at King's College, Cambridge, where he discovered his passion for writing and engaged in debate groups that shaped his liberal views. However, he did not secure the required grades to continue into his fourth year and instead traveled to Europe with his mother, visiting Italy and Austria. This love for traveling became a recurring theme in Forster's life and had a profound impact on his writing, particularly in A Room with a View (1908). Upon returning to London, Forster worked as a tutor for a brief period.

In 1904, Forster and his mother moved to Surrey and he also worked as a tutor in Germany before returning to England. In 1905, his first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, set in Italy, was published to critical acclaim. He went on to publish two more successful novels, The Longest Journey (1907) and A Room with a View (1908), which received widespread recognition. However, Forster's tendency to challenge societal norms in his writing often drew criticism from contemporary reviewers.

Forster's diaries from this time also reveal his bond with a young man named Syed Ross Masood, whom he tutored and is believed to have been in love with. Forster, who was homosexual, kept his sexual orientation a secret due to the stigma attached to it. He eventually entered into a close relationship with a policeman named Robert Joseph Buckingham in 1930, which continued even after Buckingham's marriage until Forster's death.

In 1910, Forster released Howard's End, a novel based on his childhood home in Hertfordshire that delves into class issues in contemporary society. He also wrote Maurice (1971), a love story between two men, but it could not be published at the time and was released posthumously according to Forster's wishes. During World War I, he served in the Red Cross.

In 1924, Forster published one of his most impactful works, A Passage to India, which explores British colonization in India. Inspired by two trips to India, one in 1912-13 to visit Syed Ross Masood's family and the other as a private secretary to a Raj official in 1921, this novel became an instant success. Although he continued to write essays and short stories, A Passage to India was Forster's final published novel. He then became a popular public figure, advocating for liberal causes and frequently appearing on BBC broadcasts in the 1930s.

After his mother's passing in 1945, Forster received an honorary fellowship from Cambridge and returned to the college, where he remained until May 1970 when he passed away at the age of 91 after suffering a stroke.

E.M. Forster's Literary Contributions

Forster's debut novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), was inspired by his time in Italy and explores the clash between English and Italian cultures.

Illustrating Contrasting Cultures in "A Room with a View"

E.M. Forster's novel "A Room with a View" is a continuation of the theme of clashing cultures he previously explored in "Where Angels Fear to Tread". The story follows Lilia Herriton and her daughter, Irma, who is sent to Italy with their neighbor and chaperone Caroline Abbott to tame Lilia's rebellious spirit. However, things take an unexpected turn when Lilia falls in love with and marries Gino Carella, a young Italian man from a lower social class.

A Tragic Tale of Love and Culture Clash in E.M. Forster's "A Room with a View"

Lilia's death in childbirth causes a rift between her Italian husband's family and her English siblings, Philip and Harriet. When Lilia's son becomes the center of a custody battle between Irma and Caroline, Lilia's half-sisters, and the late Gino's family, tensions rise. Harriet's desperate attempt to take the child leads to a tragic accident that devastates Gino. As Philip and Caroline return to England, their true feelings for each other are revealed, while Lilia's daughter is left in the care of her estranged family.

Through the character of Caroline, who chooses her Italian lover over her English suitor, Forster weaves a tale of clashing cultures. Set against the backdrop of Italy's open and passionate society versus England's reserved and class-obsessed norms, "A Room with a View" explores the complexities of love and societal expectations. It is considered one of Forster's greatest works, alongside his other Italian-based novel, "Where Angels Fear to Tread".

The Social Comedy Genre in "A Room with a View"

In the tradition of social comedies like "School for Scandal" and "Pride and Prejudice", "A Room with a View" uses satire and parody to mock societal norms and conventions. Lucy Honeychurch, a young English woman, travels through Italy with her cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, when they encounter the Emersons - a father and son who challenge their beliefs. Lucy's romantic encounters with the free-spirited George Emerson open her eyes to a different way of life, but Charlotte's disapproval forces them to leave Florence. Later, back in England, Lucy must choose between two very different suitors, each representing a different cultural perspective.

The Cultural Contrast in Forster's Novels

Like in "Where Angels Fear to Tread", Forster creates a sharp contrast between the Italian and English cultures in "A Room with a View", with Lucy's choice of lover revealing the favored lifestyle in the story. Cecil represents the restrictive and class-obsessed English society, while George embodies the passionate and liberal Italian culture that values authentic emotions. This theme is further explored in "A Passage to India", Forster's last full novel, which delves into the complexities of British colonialism in India.

Forster's Last Full Novel: "A Passage to India"

Considered his most sophisticated work, "A Passage to India" dives into the intricate dynamics between the British colonizers and the Indian people in the final days of the British Raj. Through the character of Adela Quested, a young English woman, Forster delves into issues of race, cultural misunderstandings, and personal relationships in a thought-provoking and nuanced manner. Both "A Room with a View" and "A Passage to India" showcase Forster's skill in exploring complex themes and creating multi-layered characters, cementing his legacy as a timeless and insightful author.

Exploring the End of an Era in "A Passage to India" by E.M. Forster

E.M. Forster's masterpiece, "A Passage to India", delves into the final days of the British Raj in India, a period of British occupation that lasted from 1858 to 1947. Drawing from his personal experience as a private secretary to a government official in 1920s India, Forster weaves a tale of cultural clashes and personal relationships in the Indian city of Chandrapore. As Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore, two English women, come to visit their sons and fiance, they are confronted with a shifting power dynamic and complexities of British colonialism. "A Passage to India" stands as Forster's crowning achievement in exploring the end of an era in British history.

The Struggle for Understanding in E.M. Forster's A Passage to India

E.M. Forster's novel A Passage to India delves into the complexities of cultural divide and prejudice between the British and Indian characters during British occupation. The novel also explores the challenges of forming meaningful connections in the face of societal and political barriers.

The story follows Mrs. Moore, an English woman who develops a relationship with Aziz, a Muslim Indian doctor, after they meet at a mosque. Their friendship, along with the liberal views of Fielding, an English school principal, sheds light on the difficulties of bridging the gap between the two groups. A party hosted by local British officials attempts to bring them together, but the underlying tension remains evident.

Fielding's house party, however, presents a more positive example of cultural mixing, with moments of understanding between Aziz and Fielding. But the arrival of Ronny, representing British snobbery, quickly ruins the harmonious atmosphere. The novel also highlights the damaging effects of class prejudice and ignorance, shown through Adela's behavior during a trip to Marabar hills with Aziz, Mrs. Moore, and Fielding.

During their exploration of the caves, a misunderstanding between Adela and Aziz leads to her accusing him of assault. Despite Aziz's innocence, his status as an Indian and Mrs. Moore and Fielding's support are overshadowed by Adela's privilege as a British woman. This results in Aziz's immediate arrest and trial, and Fielding's ostracism from the British community for standing by his friend. Adela's eventual admission of her mistake and Aziz's acquittal further intensify the social divide, causing Mrs. Moore's tragic passing during her journey back to England.

The final section of the novel takes place two years later, with Fielding returning to India. Initially, Aziz refuses to meet him, believing that Fielding has married Adela, which angers him due to their previous encounter. However, he later discovers that Fielding has married Mrs. Moore's daughter and reconciles with his friend, riding off together in the jungle.

E.M. Forster: Challenging Prejudice and Class Barriers

Throughout his works, like A Passage to India, Forster challenges the societal norms of prejudice and class barriers. His satirical tone in novels like A Room with a View and Where Angels Fear to Tread exposes the negative impacts of rigid class divisions on people's lives. Forster's writings call for breaking these barriers and promoting liberalism as a means to foster true understanding and connections between individuals.

Liberalism as a Solution in Forster's Novels

In late 19th century England, marrying someone from a different social class was highly frowned upon. In Forster's novels, like A Room with a View and A Passage to India, characters like the Emersons and Fielding challenge these societal expectations and embrace liberal attitudes. Forster's own beliefs and values are reflected in the principles of liberalism, which he champions in his works. Through his writing, Forster promotes the idea of acceptance and understanding as a means to break down barriers and unite people.

E.M. Forster was a renowned English novelist and essayist known for his liberal views and strong stance against racial prejudices. Unlike the other characters in his works who let their biases cloud their judgement, Forster's portrayal of liberalism as a solution to conflicts, specifically in terms of class expectations, is evident through his character, Fielding. However, this is not the only instance where Forster explores this theme in his writing. Can you spot other examples?

5 Intriguing Facts About E.M. Forster

Edward Morgan Forster was born on January 1st, 1879 and inherited £8000 from his great-aunt at a young age. This allowed him the financial freedom to pursue writing without the need for another source of income. Despite being offered a knighthood, Forster declined, possibly due to his rebellious and liberal nature. He chose to attend the radical King's College, Cambridge, attracted to its progressive reputation. In his 20s, Forster struggled to find his purpose but his wealth allowed him to explore various interests. Despite keeping his sexuality private, Forster donated a significant sum to the Homosexual Law Reform Society in the 1960s.

The Wisdom of E.M. Forster: Memorable Quotes from His Works

  • "If Lilia was determined to disgrace us, she might have found a less repulsive way... Have I put it correctly? May I surmise that he has not got one penny? May I also surmise that his social position is nil?" - Philip questioning Lilia's actions in Where Angels Fear to Tread.
  • "For six months she schemed to prevent the match, and when it had taken place she turned to another task—the supervision of her daughter-in-law. Lilia must be pushed through life without bringing discredit on the family into which she had married." - Mrs Herriton's actions towards Lilia in Where Angels Fear to Tread.
  • "The Honeychurches were a worthy family, but he began to realize that Lucy was of another clay; and perhaps—he did not put it very definitely—he ought to introduce her into more congenial circles as soon as possible." - Cecil's thoughts on Lucy in A Room with a View.
  • "The book, as if it had not worked mischief enough, had been forgotten, and Cecil must go back for it; and George, who loved passionately, must blunder against her in the narrow path. 'No—' she gasped, and, for the second time, was kissed by him." - George acting on his feelings for Lucy in A Room with a View.
  • "Aziz was exquisitely dressed, from tie-pin to spats, but he had forgotten his back collar-stud, and there you have the Indian all over: inattention to detail; the fundamental slackness that reveals the race." - Ronny's opinion of Aziz in A Passage to India.
  • "But they were friends, brothers. That part was settled, their compact had been subscribed by the photograph, they trusted one another, affection had triumphed for once in a way." - The narrator describing the friendship between Aziz and Fielding in A Passage to India.

Can you draw connections between these quotes and Forster's recurring theme of class and liberalism in his work?

Notable Aspects of E.M. Forster's Life and Work

  • Forster was born on January 1st, 1879 and enjoyed a privileged upbringing.
  • His debut novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, was published in 1905.
  • A Room with a View and A Passage to India are two other well-known works of his.
  • Class and liberalism are prominent themes in Forster's writing, reflecting his personal beliefs and values.

Citation: 1) Nicola Beauman, 'Forster, Edward Morgan (1879-1970)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2006.

E.M. Forster: A Portrait by Dorothea Cooke

While there are several portraits and photographs of E.M. Forster, the most recognized painting of him is by Dorothea Cooke, currently housed at London's National Portrait Gallery.

Dora Carrington's Democratic Perspective on E.M. Forster's Literature

E.M. Forster's acclaimed works often convey his support for democracy and liberalism. Throughout his writing, Forster advocates for a society that is open and accepting, reflecting his own beliefs.

The Climactic Ending of Howards End: Justice and Generosity

The characters in Howards End face numerous challenges and conflicts, leading to a dramatic finale. Ultimately, the main antagonist, Charles, is held accountable for the death of Leonard.

The Impact of E.M. Forster's Writing Style on Literature

Despite facing imprisonment for his actions, the character in Forster's novel, Howards End, is ultimately brought to justice. In contrast, the wealthy owner of the estate, Henry, makes a fair and generous decision to pass the estate on to Margaret and eventually, to the child of Helen and Leonard. This gesture symbolizes unity and compassion, highlighting Forster's exploration of human nature.

Forster's writing style seamlessly combines elements of realism and poetic language. His depictions of situations and characters are relatable and straightforward, while his use of vivid imagery and detailed descriptions adds depth to his storytelling. This unique blend effectively conveys Forster's ideas and perspectives to readers.

E.M. Forster's Impact on Literature and Society

Despite being nominated thirteen times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Forster never received the award. However, this does not diminish the impact of his writing, which continues to inspire readers and society as a whole. Forster's themes of justice, compassion, and unity, along with his masterful writing style, have solidified his place as a renowned and influential author.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime