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[241] Maurice – E.M. Forster


Read my first review from almost three years ago.

Maurice looked at him with tenderness. He was studying him, as in the earliest days of their acquaintance. Only then it was to find out what he was like, now what had gone wrong with him. Something was wrong.” [114]

Written in 1914, E.M. Forster was ahead of his time when it comes to social acceptance toward homosexuality. In Maurice Christopher Hall, one finds an unfairly generous share of virtues: privileged for success, Cambridge education, handsomeness, and business success. But deep in his heart is a misery because the only sex that attracts him is his own: he loves men and always had loved them. He renounces his faith, frees from claws of religion, and rebels against being his father’s double, refuses to uphold the tradition of upper-class propriety. He’s completely sold out for Clive Durham, who believes in platonic restraint and induces Maurice to acquiesce, for Maurice is humble and inexperienced at that stage.

I have become normal—like other men, I don’t know how, any more than I know how I was born. It is outside reason, it is against my wish. [126]

Maurice and Clive are both outlaws. Whereas Maurice does not cease to love, Clive chooses to assimilate to the social norms, and that is, heterosexuality. After what seems to be (Forster makes it seem to be) some kind of “hellenic” temperament that flings him into Maurice’s affectionate arms, Clive quickly turns to women and sends Maurice back to the prison of loneliness. Even though their actions demonstrate a difference in courage, what Forster wants to emphasize is one’s will to suffer. It touches me immensely that Maurice pours into his love dignity as well as the richness of his being—he never stops loving even when his heart is broken. Clive, on the other hand, has avoided suffering by adopting the easy way. Although it’s indisputable that he intends no evil toward Maurice, Clive slowly deteriorates through his political pretensions and self-deceit.

Not to crush it down, not vainly to wish that it was something else, but to cultivate it in such ways as will not vex either God or Man. [70]

The love of women would rise as certainly as the sun, scorching up immaturity and ushering the full human day . . . some goddess of the new universe that had opened to him in London, someone utterly unlike Maurice Hall. [130]

So Maurice’s fall actually acclerates his descent to the pit bottom, but suffering has only prepared him and toughened him for what is in store, true love. I’m not sure if the relationship woe makes Maurice more courageous, it certainly makes him stronger. Unlike Clive, Maurice is more inclined to accept human nature as his suffering and pain have shown him a niche behind the world’s judgment. When he relapses with Clive’s gamekeeper at the house, he has taken a risk and they have loved. The exchange between Maurice and Alec are suggestive but affirmative. That they have both taken a risk to love has put them in a test of which the outcome bodes auspice. In Maurice, E.M. Forster has deftly delved, ahead of his time, in the issues of homosexual love, openness, class, and self-deceit. It’s a poignant and yet redeeming story of one’s journey to find love, through suffering, doubt, and conviction.

Did you ever dream you’d a friend, Alec? . . . Someone to last your whole life and you his. I suppose such a thing can’t really happen outside sleep. [197]

255 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

31 Responses

  1. Yet another book that I have not heard of and you are telling me about it! I swear I could do a TBR pile that is just books that I learn about on your blog. I’m glad you are here to introduce us to books that many of us seem to miss otherwise!

  2. This is another one I read in HS and I must say I like it more than most of the books I read at that time. I found Maurice to be sweet and innocent in some way that I really connected with him. Wasn’t overly fond of the movie though. I think it’s that I just don’t like Hugh Grant’s acting all that much.

  3. I havent read this book and I simply must in fact I do believe that I have two copies of this which is a bit greedy. It’s a book that I can’t understand why I havent read sooner. I will pop that higher up on the TBR imminently.

  4. That last passage you shared is the perfect example of how poignant this story really is. This is one of those books that I’ve always had in the periphery of my TBR, and had no earthly idea what it was about. Excellent review.

  5. Excellent review, Matt! This will be my next Forster.

  6. Your review makes me definitely want to read this – it sounds very rewarding.

  7. Beautifully written review. This novel, even though written early in the 20th century, reflects my own experience decades later. I read it in 1971 or 72. It helped me lay the foundation for hope and courage, striking some of the first dents into my protective armor. The book is still relevant to many individuals. I have friends my own age (early 60s) who, after a lifetime of denial and strategic dissimulation, are just now facing the issues of who they are and what they should do. Your review reminds me that this work might be helpful to them.

  8. Great review. I loved this book, but read it probably 15 years ago. Must re-read! I remember liking the movie, too, by the way.

  9. Wonderful review Matt. He certainly was ahead of his time and I love the passages that you choose to share with us.

  10. I’m so glad you liked Maurice. In 1986 when I was in high school I saw the movie A Room with a View and loved it so much. Soon after that I saw in a magazine that Merchant Ivory were in the process of making a film of Maurice. I couldn’t believe that a “gay” film was going to the the same cinematic treatment as Room with a View. I also couldn’t believe that Forster wrote a “gay” novel. Much to my surprise the public library where I worked actually had the volume on the shelf. I took it home when the library closed that night at 8:30 and started reading. I didn’t put it down until I finished it at 3:30 in the morning. Although not my favorite Forster, Maurice still holds a really special place in my heart.

  11. Matt, I always love your reviews, especially on books I have previously read like Maurice. I always obtain an insight or something I missed when I first read It has been years since I have read this book, and feel I need to reread it and watch the movie. I wonder what Forster would say about the changes in society in the 40 years since his death.

  12. I think we have discussed our shared love of this book before, Matt. Something so touching, so heartbreaking about it. That love or friendship, as you quote, that cannot exist outside of sleep. That love we all crave but find occasionally reinterpreted by the norms/ mores of others. Just love this book.

  13. Kathleen:
    Maurice is probably lesser known among other Forster works. He chose to not publish it due to the nature of the subject matter (homosexuality) until after his death.

  14. Ryan:
    I watched Murice over the weekend–that Hugh Grant plays Clive Durham, who is not my favorite character, simply won’t make him any more attractive. The movie I thought was well done, especially in portraying the English society after the turn of the century.

  15. savidgereads:
    I read it together with Giovanni’s Room the first time I did. I must have rushed through it the first time because I don’t remember the book’s being so difficult to read as it deals with religious issues.

  16. Sandy:
    Maurice is not known to most readers, except for those who scrupulously peruse GLBT literature. It’s one of the most popular books (I just recently found out) for coming-of-age gay men who are now in their 40s.

  17. JoAnn:
    Yay!! We do form a great book club JoAnn! 🙂

  18. Marieke:
    Even though it’s not as popular as A Passage to India or Howards End, it’s definitely a very kindred and candid portrayal of gay men in the turn of the century in England.

  19. Greg S:
    D (David) mentions exactly the same point about how modernly relevant this book is even after 40 years of release. What amazes me is that Forster was way ahead of his time to have written this book, which was not too short of a banned book, back in 1914. I’m sure the closeted men now will find their venues to sexual gratification, but the denial is what fetters them. It was insightful and bold on Forster’s part to have delved deep into this back in early 20th century.

  20. gentle reader:
    I watched the movie over the weekend and loved it. It’s so faithful to the novel.

  21. Staci:
    It’s both literally and emotionally difficult to re-read this one. I can resonate with it as I turn the pages.

  22. Thomas:
    Consider the time it was written, the book must have been banned if it was published. Then even in 1971 when it was finally published, the society was still homophobic.

  23. D:
    I have enjoyed our discussion on the book and watching the movie together. The film was well done I thought and does not seem outdated. What amazes me is that Forster was way ahead of his time to have written this book, which was not too short of a banned book, back in 1914. I’m sure the closeted men now will find their venues to sexual gratification, but the denial is what fetters them. The whole notion of “normality” is a lie. How can anyone challenge the love between any two human beings, regardless of their sexes and color? What is “normal”? Forster has been so ahead of his time to address the absurdity that heterosexuality is normality.

  24. Frances:
    Forster makes the point that love cannot be measured by social majority.

  25. […] [241] Maurice – E.M. Forster […]

  26. […] [241] Maurice – E.M. Forster […]

  27. I accidently posted to your 2007 review–not sure how I navigated to that one. Probably because I clicked on your favorite list. But, this is a good review also.

  28. […] since college, namely, Howards End and Brideshead Revisited, and watching the motion picture of Maurice, I have the craving for movies adopted from classic novels.The holidays would be high time for […]

  29. […] of our society. These books include The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Maurice by E.M. Forster, and Giovanni’s Room by James […]

  30. […] that have never finished saying what they meant to. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Maurice by E.M. Forster, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale […]

  31. […] (1987), directed by Silver Lion, is a film based on the novel (book review) of the same title by E. M. Forster. A tale of homosexual love in early 20th century England, it […]

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