E. M. Forster : Contribution to Novel

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      Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970), the son of a cultured family, was educated at Tonbridge and had travelled widely. An intellectual and Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, he ranked among the most cosmopolitan men of his day. His novels are only five in number. After the early Where Ange Fear to Tread (1905), with its well-drawn characters, its comedy, and the typical concern with the conflict between two different cultures, comes The Longest Journey (1907), a less attractive work, which does, however, show the same skill in characterization. A Room with a View (1908), like his first novel, is set in Italy, and contains excellent comedy very delicately handled.

Forster's two masterpieces, Howards End (1910), and, much later, A Passage to India (1924), both of which deal with the misunderstandings which arise in relationships, between individuals in the one case, and between races in the other. A Passage to India was the latest of his novels, and is unrivalled in English fiction in its presentation of the complex problems which were to be found in the relationships between English and native people in India, and in its portrayal of the Indian scene in all its magic and all its wretchedness.
E. M. Forster

      Then come Forster's two masterpieces, Howards End (1910), and, much later, A Passage to India (1924), both of which deal with the misunderstandings which arise in relationships, between individuals in the one case, and between races in the other. A Passage to India was the latest of his novels, and is unrivalled in English fiction in its presentation of the complex problems which were to be found in the relationships between English and native people in India, and in its portrayal of the Indian scene in all its magic and all its wretchedness.

      But though his output was small, the quality of his work was such as to place him among the foremost writers of the period. As well as his novels he published three collections of short stories, The Celestial Omnibus (1911), The Story of the Siren (1920), and The Eternal Moment (1928), and two critical works, Aspects of the Novel (1927) and Abinger Harvest (1936). A collection of miscellaneous essays, lectures, and talks, some on political and others on artistic themes, appeared in 1951 under the title, Two Cheers for Democracy. He is a writer for the discerning rather than a best-seller. Basically a moralist, concerned with the importance of the individual personality, the adjustments it must make and the problems it must solve when it comes into contact with a set of values different from its own, he is the advocate of culture, tolerance, and civilization against barbarity and provincialism.

      E. M. Forster studies the complexities of character with a subtlety of insight and an appreciation of the significance of the unconscious which mark him as a modern. His characters are rounded and vital. He has great gifts for telling a story, but he disregards conventional plot construction and frequently introduces startling, unexpected incidents.

      Forster's craftsmanship is of the highest order. With a cool, often ironic, detachment, he presents the problems arising from his imagined situation with fairness and breadth of outlook, though he is to some extent lacking in emotional fire and human warmth. He has an excellent faculty for capturing the very feel and tone of his background - A Passage to India offers a good example of this. Though his best novels often touch tragedy, his true field is comedy, whimsical, delicate, and biting, which is never long absent from his Work. He combines a style as easy and cool as his general attitude toward his problems and characters, with a gift for good dialogue, marked descriptive powers, lightness of touch and precision, and conciseness of presentation.

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