E. M. Forster and the Gender of Dying
DOI link for E. M. Forster and the Gender of Dying
E. M. Forster and the Gender of Dying book
Born prematurely in Hardy's Jude the Obscure of 1895, the death plot associated with men in the twentieth century is coupled with a traumatic structure of repetition which denies agency to the male subject. This chapter begins to move away from an exclusive discussion of the structures of time and the uncanny associated with stories which center around the death of male characters to explore death as a gendered structure of substitution. In this structure, a man's death replaces a woman's death and in doing so gains narrative primacy as the male character loses the effect of narrative agency. My primary concern will be with E. M. Forster's Howards End, which associates death with male subjectivity and concomitantly predicates an excess of female agency, women characters able to predict or determine not only their own narrative futures but even, to some degree, the event of the male other's death. 1
Published in 1910, E. M. Forster's Howards End reads both like an uncanny prefiguration of the coming war and like a nostalgic ode to Old England. Forster painstakingly delineates a young man taught to live both materially and psychically beyond his means, who dies a sudden and senseless death, and is not mourned. Like Hardy's Jude, Leonard's life goes from bad to worse, a downward spiral which gains intensity and momentum until its only possible end is in his death. Forster rejects all of Leonard's attempts at agency and again, like Hardy in his determined narrative pessimism, explicitly identifies the young man's failure with the exigencies of modernity.