by E.M. Forster
"There seem two roads for arriving at Beauty-- one is in common, and all the world has reached Michelangelo by it, but the other is private to me and a few more. We come to him by both roads."
The entry below will openly analyse E.M. Forster's Maurice and address specifically its possible themes, symbols, and intent. No plot-related spoilers will be divulged.
If you were to look up works of gay fiction, there are few titles-- if any-- you would find referenced as one of the best as frequently as Maurice. First published in 1971, Forster's novel actually dates back to 1914, and yet, perhaps distressingly so, its reason for literary significance, even at such a late date, hadn't seemed trivial. It's the first novel of my run on gay fiction that is of substantial note in the cannon.
Characteristic of Forster, Maurice is a novel with a humanist theme. Maurice is a normal man in almost every imaginable way: He's an attractive young man, of good social rank, capable but not impressive, nor is he very brave or especially smart. He's perfectly average except, of course, that he's gay and it's this that sets Maurice apart from other people. It is part of his private road: The way by which he comes to the world and other people that is unlike that of anyone else.
Through Maurice, Forster is making a case for empathy. Not only is Maurice misunderstood by other people, but he misunderstands them as well; two struggles that are at the heart of this novel, consistently embodied in Maurice's loneliness. Forster makes Maurice normal in every way imaginable to insist on normalcy's relativeness to personal nature. It's not something that can be weighed comparatively between people.
Maurice and Clive, at first so similar to one another become the other's foil, and the results, sparing detail here out of consideration, elicit strong emotion. Maurice, Clive and Alec each serve, in their way, Forster's assertion.
Maurice is a work of deft subtly, exploring empathy, love, and class within the confines of the old novel: elaborate craftsmanship in the guise of a simple romance. It's the sort of novel whose beauty doesn't dawn on you until the crisis of plot and cleaver turns of phrase have turned to embers in your memory: still drawing oxygen, but no longer serving to distract. The novel insists upon being read twice.
It's a book worthy of it's place in the cannon not only for its historical literary significance, but also for its genuine merit. Perhaps I come to Forster by two paths myself, but I can only expect I'll be returning soon.
Up Next: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon