Midway through E. M. Forster’s Howards End, the newly married Margaret Schlegel Wilcox returns to the titular country house to find it the recipient of an unexpected makeover. Closed since the death of the first Mrs. Wilcox and for months used as a warehouse for the Schlegels’ possessions, the house has been unpacked and reconstituted by the housekeeper, Miss Avery, who creates a new interior built from moments of Margaret’s own history. As Margaret moves through the house in surprise, she takes a virtual tour of her past: her umbrella-stand greets her in the entrance way, the infamous sword of her father hangs on the wall, Tibby’s books make up the library, her mother’s cheffonier stands in the dining room, and everywhere, “many an old god peeped from a new niche” (194). The carefully placed goods even link events from the more distant past with recent ones: Tibby’s old bassinet is, significantly, in the room where Helen stayed during her brief liaison with Paul Wilcox. A newly created space, Howards End is nevertheless temporally dense, showcasing not discrete moments, or even the passage of time from past to present, but suggesting rather a more free-flowing exchange among various times, uniting people, objects, and the house in a connective temporal web.

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DOI: 10.1215/ddnov.036030330

Full Citation:

Outka, Elizabeth. "Buying Time: Howards End and Commodified Nostalgia." Novel: A Forum on Fiction 36, no. 3 (2003): 330-50. doi:10.1215/ddnov.036030330.