I will be exploring how money and other privileges affect characters behaviour. As well as describing how Forsters portrayal of these characters driven by money affects the novels story and readers perspective of how ones lifestyle was in Edwardian times. The Shlegels and the Wilcoxs both have very different views on life. Though from similar social status the Shlegels are of German origin and are interested more by culture, whereas the Wilcoxs are deeply involved in the world of business.
The Wilcoxs wealth is demonstrated at the start of the novel as Charles drives Mrs Munt from the station to Howards End. It is clear straight away to the reader that the Wilcoxs must be of great wealth as a motorcar was a great privilege in Edwardian times and only the elite would have them. Helen and Pauls affair at the beginning of the novel also allows for the reader to see how much the Wilcoxs care for money as Charles states that Paul hasnt a penny, dooming the relationship barely before they even knew it had begun and finished.
Pauls lack of financial substance gives an interesting contrast to a modern audience. As in modern times most couples would not let money divide their love, whereas in Edwardian times it would ruin relationships in an instant. Mrs Munts first reaction to the affair is one of a pessimistic nature; she exclaims, What do you think of the Wilcoxs? Are they are sort? Are they likely people? This shows Mrs Munts interest is more in the Wilcoxs financial and social background.
Forster portrays the different interests of the two families in an interesting way, which affirms Margarets view that money is the second most important thing in the world. The Shlegels love for literature and music is demonstrated when the Shlegels go to a lecture on music and meaning. This is where Forster cleverly introduces Margarets interest in Leonard Bast. The Clerk is in the lowest rank of the middle classes but strives to better himself and his social status and cultural bacground.
The two meet rather awkwardly as Helen accidentally steals Mr. Basts umbrella. Helen immediately takes an interest in Mr Bast as she realises he is not very well off but she see his desire for the arts. Helen does not seem to understand how strong willed Mr Bast is, as she tries to help his financial situation by giving him money. He is offended by this as he wants to make his way in life, but he wants to do it by himself. This is when Helen learns that money is not as important as happiness.
It is clear from the way Helen and Margaret react to Mr Bast that the Shlegels are committed to personal relations. Helens interest in Mr Bast soon turns into something more as she begins to really admire his desire to climb the social ladder. Even when the Shlegels try to help Leonard by giving him money he returns the money out of principle showing that he does not want hand outs. The ironic factor in this section of the novel is that Helen invests the money and subsequently makes a profit.
This portrays how for some of the upper classes money is inescapable. F. R. Leavis stated that although the portraits of the Schlegels and Wilcoxes were reasonably accurate, Leonard Bast was an unreal creation, a mere external grasping at something that lies outside the authors firsthand experience, This critique is interesting as it shows Forsters portrayal of Bast as a generalisation of what he assumed of a class he knew little about.
Forsters depiction of the two families in the novel helps the reader understand how important happiness and culture is. The Wilcoxs unfortunately seem too involved in money to behave in a more ethical manner. When Ruth Wilcox dies, she leaves Howards End to Margaret Shlegel. Henry Wilcox knows from the beginning that the scrap of paper Mrs Wilcox has written on is no forgery, but Charles and the other Wilcoxs money driven personalities come in to play.
Charles says My dear father, consult an expert if you like, but I dont admit that is my mothers writing Why, you just said it was! cried Dolly. Never mind if I did, he blazed out. This confusion represents the Wilcox selfishness and in a way lack of respect for their departed mothers wishes. Although the piece of paper is not legally binding there is certainly a moral issue that would be looked upon far more seriously in modern times than in Edwardian.
Again this demonstrates how Forsters depiction of the Wilcoxs is far more based around money and material goods than morals and personal relations. I think that too many readers, one is quite shocked at when Margaret agrees to marry Henry Wilcox after having read about his families deceitful ways Leavis, also cannot believe, in other words, that a sensitive, imaginative, cultivated woman like Margaret Schlegel could ever be attracted to an obtuse, egotistic, unscrupulous, self-deceiving businessman like Henry Wilcox.
The material artefacts in Howards End have a great impact on the readers understanding of Edwardian times, as well as what portraying the two families interests. Motorcars represent class divides and the restless, money driven, modern civilization that the Wilcoxs are involved in building. They are cut off from the natural world as they travel at abnormal speeds again giving the impression of the Wilcoxs care for only one thing.
They also are brutally unsympathetic when they kill a girls pet cat and made no effort to comfort the child. The Schlegels books and sword portray the powerful, expensive European culture that Leonard Bast aspires to but cannot reach. In the end, the interfering of the Shlegels seems just as responsible for Leonards unhappy fate as the Wilcoxs lack of sympathy for Mr Bast throughout the novel, and the part the books and sword play in his death dramatizes.