When the Novel or the Play’s the Thing – "Fin de Siècle" Meets Sex, Class, and Literary Ambition


  • Jocelynne A. Scutt University of Buckingam




Society, Women’s status, Class, Fin de siècle, Henrik Ibsen, E. M. Forster, John Galsworthy


The fin de siècle had been stirring writers to engage artistry in depicting class permeating society and the oppression of women under Victoria’s regime. E.M. Forster’s and John Galsworthy’s lyrical style allowed them to explore what the Victorians had hidden: disparities between working-class England and upper-crust, and women’s lives subjugated to the Empire’s demands. In 1879, Henrik Ibsen had published A Doll’s House, a precursor of what was to come. Forster and Galsworthy were more subtle and yet equally stark in incorporating society and politics into their art. The skilfulness of their invention lies in the ability to cover class, deception, deceit, and unlawfulness while beguiling their readers into a state of unwariness and then confronting them with the unexpected. In Howards End, published as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth, Forster explores class, subterfuge, social borders and boundaries so as to incorporate into his lyricism the crushing of a last will and testament, theft of property, unmarried motherhood, murder or manslaughter, all the while painting a picture of bucolic charm and purportedly happy families and marriages. Nobel Prize winner Galsworthy’s Man of Property (the first book in what became known as The Forsyte Saga) was published shortly before Howards End – similarly combining the poetic with the practical, the idealism that generated hope for a new world in a new century with the expectations that come with the pragmatism of a certain type of Englishman: ‘my property’, ‘my own’, ‘my wife’, ‘my life’, ‘my family’, the ‘my’ being foremost, yet challenged by the changes brought by the fin de siècle.





Articles and Essays

How to Cite

When the Novel or the Play’s the Thing – "Fin de Siècle" Meets Sex, Class, and Literary Ambition. (2024). Synergies: A Journal of English Literatures and Cultures, 4. https://doi.org/10.4454/syn.v4.904