Place, paradox, and transcendental connection in three of E. M. Forster's novels : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University
E. M. Forster's fiction reflects his own concern with the spirit of place and his seemingly fruitless search for a spiritual reconciliation between people and places. Three novels, Where Angels Fear to Tread, Howards End and A Passage to India, set out how place functions in Forster's fiction. In these, Forster poses what appears to be an insoluble question for the reader, and proves himself reluctant to achieve closure. This reluctance to provide answers to the theme of place is a reflection of the philosophical uncertainty which pervades his fiction. Readers are encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions and to negotiate the ambivalence of his novels in order to find their own answers to the baffling nature of life and relationships. Place, in Forster's fiction, contains an unseen force that is almost tangible. It determines the movement of the characters and guides them towards their intended destinations. The characters in his novels are transformed and manipulated by the device of genius loci; yet their changes never enable them to achieve permanent attachments with others nor with places. Although Forster's fiction shows no final harmonious home where ancestry and roots are established, the eponymous house in Howards End offers us a window. In it, the sisters achieve an affinity with place; however, there is still no space in which all of humanity can connect, and paradoxically, exclusion is essential to the final scene of reconciliation. Contradiction and opposition inform all of Forster's fiction. In each novel there are localities which represent the socially-controlled space on the one hand, and on the other, the unfettered region. Although Forster shows a Modernist tendency to nostalgically idealise the past, he continues to search for that delicate equilibrium between people and place. But just as he criticises and praises culture, he sees that the rural regions have their own contradictory attributes. This thesis traces Forster's treatment of place through personal, social, cultural, and spiritual sites, and the search for an esoteric home and transcendental reconciliation, becoming as it does an increasingly tentative and paradoxical theme.