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MAURICE by E. M. Forster

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:22 am    Post subject: MAURICE by E. M. Forster Reply with quote

Forster's novel about homosexuality (published in 1971) came to light only after his death. Originally written in 1913-14, it was revised twice by the author (1932 and 1960) but apparently he thought it too controversial to be publishable, even in the more tolerant climate of his later life.

Presented here is an England that discreetly looks the other way while young men form sexual attachments for one another. Pretending that these attachments never happen was a necessity given the laws that made homosexual relationships a crime.

Maurice Hall appears at 14 but we see him on into his early adulthood, as he becomes a stockbroker. He has always regarded girls/women as if they were another order of being, creatures from a different planet, perhaps. He can't work up any physical interest in them. But he forms intense attachments to men--notably Clive Durham, a schoolmate.

It looks as if the bond between Clive and Maurice will become permanent--when suddenly Clive declares that he has discovered that he likes women and is about to marry one. Aware that Clive's family is eager to have an heir, Maurice feels helpless and devastated.

Some years later Maurice visits Clive and his wife and experiences a crisis, culminating in his decision to visit a hypnotist in an attempt at correcting what he feels obliged to think of as a defect. Toward that end, he lies to Clive and his wife, saying he's already engaged to a woman.

Meanwhile he's rapidly developing a relationship with Alec Scutter, a newer servant in the Clive Durham household who is about to emigrate to Argentina. Alec is crude and lower class, with a chip on his shoulder, and shrewdly knows how to suggest blackmail to Maurice without being blatant about it.

That Maurice is disintegrating by this time should be apparent to the reader. There is an incident where he knocks an older man down on a train and causes his nose to bleed. There is the way he lashes out at a servant unnecessarily. Without putting his battle into words, he is clearly struggling hard against what he feels to be true--that his homosexuality is innate and irreversible--and what he knows is expected of him: a heterosexual existence. He sees himself with his chosen partner, Alec, defending their life against a critical world: "...when two are gathered together, a majority shall not triumph" is what he feels he and Alec must demonstrate.

Many old notions in England are in the process of crumbling at the time when this book was written. The story is not an especially good. This may be because Maurice either does some very odd things--yelling "Come!" out the window repeatedly at Clive's so that Alec will climb up to his bedroom window, for instance--or because the author hasn't made it clear how much of what is described is real and how much is a dreamscape. However, the character of Alec stands out. He is completely understandable, and his often ignoble part in the events shows how very keenly the class differences must have made themselves felt.

Forster is especially sensitive to the class structure that was deeply embedded in the world he inhabited, and this book is one more instance of that sensitivity. But, astonishingly (considering the time when it was written), he also provides an eloquent statement of the homosexual's dilemma.
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