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Literary Lads Fest: Maurice Hall

Welcome to early 20th Century Edwardian England, where homosexuality was punishable by law and where gay men were forced to stay in the closet for fear of being found out and imprisoned, thus risking public shame for life. It is in this setting that the novel Maurice by E.M. Forster takes place, and its eponymous hero is one of my favourite characters in literature ever.
Maurice is a superb story because it not only examines homosexuality and homophobia in such a stifling environment, but it also manages to intersect with the classism inherent within British society itself by exploring Maurice's two very different relationships with both Clive and Alex. Maurice himself is not an idealistic, angelic trodden upon character - he has realistic flaws such as laziness, snobbery, and slightly sexist beliefs about his sisters and the women around him. Despite suffering prejudice himself as a gay man, as a privileged, upper class man he himself is not free from the classism ingrained within him from childhood and early age. It is only when he reconciles with Alex at the end of the novel that he manages to overcome his own misjudgement about working class people. It is Forster's refusal to paint Maurice as an unrealistic goody two shoes character moulded to win over the reader straight away that makes Maurice such a great and emotionally real character.

Maurice's inner turmoil with trying to accept himself as a gay man is so painfully real that we can still realise it as a struggle we are still all too familiar with today - his efforts to 'cure' himself by seeing a psychiatrist, his attempts to act more 'macho' around men at University - all are attempts at masking his true nature. I am always drawn to character stories that still remain relevant to social issues today, and Maurice IMO widely recalls this century's fight for LGBT rights not only in Britain, but all across Europe and the rest of the world.

His romantic relationships with both Clive and Alex are told so well that they're they don't scream THIS IS A TRAGIC GAY ROMANCE, but more two very intense love stories that battle against extraneous and unfair odds.  Another reason to appreciate Forster is that he was intent on giving the novel a happy ending - tired of all the tragedy and gloominess surrounding gay love stories, he wanted to write sort of 'gay fairytale' in which two men managed to overcome the odds and find happiness.

It's a truly great book and I highly recommend it - the film with James Wilby and Hugh Grant is terrific as well and remains largely faithful to the novel.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 20th, 2013 08:47 pm (UTC)
Yes, and I loved this flaw character as well, because of his flaws and the lessons he learns. I have not seen the movie yet. That happy ending also make this unpublishable until the seventies even thought it was written in, I forget, but I think 1916 or 1918.
Oct. 23rd, 2013 11:09 am (UTC)
This is a fantastic description of what's so wonderful about Maurice (the character and the novel). It really takes a while to warm to him as you read and that makes for a deeper affection for him, I think. Knowing that it wouldn't be published in his lifetime meant that Forster would have been less aware of his audience and their possible reaction when he wrote and I wonder whether that free-ed him up to write for himself, and therefore to write such a realistic and not-instantly-likeable central character.

I'd forgotten there was a film! I must see that. I read the book last year and loved it. I'd been resisting EM Forster on account of the Merchant Ivory films, but absolutely loved his writing and have bought Room With A View now. I intend to read it soon.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )