Home Quotes Biographies Free Essays and Articles Discussion Forum  

Maurice

 

Two travelers walk down the path set before them–one with complete abandon, the other with the restrictions of class, society, and civilization. They walk together “to the station, since their ways lay together that far” (204). From there, their roads diverge. One continues walking, entering a forest of lush green, abandoning himself to natures most primal callings and his own congenital homosexuality. The other hangs his life upon a marriage, one in which “[he does not] worry whether [his] relation with [his wife] is platonic or not,” only that the relationship is enough to hang his life on (245). This latter traveler effectively comes to a halt. What end comes to these different travelers; to what vastly different places do their minutely different handlings of their situation take them? Forster turned his sights towards the answer to this question. In Maurice, Forster makes it quite lucid that the traveler who continues walking, Maurice, meets with an eternal lush green while the one that halts, Clive, is stopped by conformity and society imposed restrictions. Clive can therefore only watch as the summer lush green turns into something mundane, effectively completing the transition of green into gray. But say, simply for the point of philosophical discussion, that Forster ended his book with the imminent forest of green that awaits the self-accepting Maurice and Alec. Where then would our point of relativity lie? We would be hard-pressed to discover the end of Clive’s chosen road had Forster chosen to not include chapter 46 of Maurice. What kind of ending would that be? After all, if the best place to start is the beginning, surely the best place to end must be the true end. Therefore, it becomes apparently obvious that Forster’s 46th chapter was meant to show us the ends of two different paths taken to deal with one’s own nature, in this case congenital homosexuality. Forster includes the 46th chapter to show two endings to two different paths that serve to remind us of the happiness that could be ours should we choose to accept our nature and the inevitable misery and lack of fulfillment that awaits us should we choose to instead conform to the established norms of society.

The road of conformity and self-denial is not an abandoned and forsaken one. What temptress, therefore, seduces and pushes Clive along this wretched path? This temptress promises that his needs in life will be placated by work, politics, and conformity. However, Forster, using Clive as a paragon of an unfortunate victim to this seductress’s calling, brings us to the conclusion that work, politics, and acceptance in society can no more satiate our more primal callings and our congenital nature, than a hamburger can quench our thirst. This road seems appealing only to those who seek “shelter from poverty and disease and violence and impoliteness; and consequently from joy; God slipped this retribution in” (218).  Shelter from poverty can be obtained by work, while shelter from violence and impoliteness can be obtained by conforming to society and becoming one with those that would offend you. But this so called ‘haven’ protects from joy as well. With chapter 46, Forster warns us against this ‘haven’ by showing a dejected Clive who ultimately “[returns] to the house, to correct his proofs and to devise some method of concealing the truth from Anne” (246). The house, that Clive returns to, serves as a symbol of society, much as the white house serves as a symbol of politics. Clive’s house, with impressionable servants and political meetings, can never bring about joy and happiness, and instead transforms Clive into what he ultimately becomes, a man who wonders ‘what could have been’ while never experiencing the pleasures derived from love and living free from society. Such an existence as Clive lives after rejecting his nature, is paralleled by the life of the prominent composer Tchaikovsky, to whom Forster alludes. Maurice is in fact thrilled when he learns of Tchaikovsky’s marriage which “conveys little to the normal reader, who vaguely assumes incompatibility, but it thrilled Maurice. He knew what the disaster meant and how near Dr Bary had dragged him to it” (162). Marriage, between a man and a woman, is a socially accepted occurrence that in the case of a congenital homosexual is a disaster. In the name of social acceptance, Clive marries Anne, his relationship to whom is not at all platonic. This act does nothing to bring joy, happiness, or fulfillment for Clive; thus proving Forster’s point that the only road to happiness lies in self-acceptance, while any other path surely leads to misery.

Forster uses chapter 46 as a relativity point to show how much better the lush forest of green is when compared to the mundane and unfulfilling life that Clive resorts to after his final encounter with Maurice. Without this ending, it would be impossible to gauge how much better Maurice really is for following through with his own nature. The image of a persistent Maurice wandering towards the boathouse, finding what he truly loves and believes is right, is the epitome of something that can only be imagined. It seems so unreal, impossible if you will, that true happiness lie within the simple act of throwing off the chains of society. So when Alec says, “And now we shan’t be parted no more, and that’s finished” (240), it is difficult to take these new events in stride, that is until we first gauge them against the unhappiness that ensues Clives rejection of his nature. Once we find how mundane Clives existence becomes, and how unfulfilling his relationship with Anne is, it becomes a little less difficult to accept that true happiness can follow Maurice’s blatant disregard and lack of concern for society imposed laws, rules, and norms. It becomes even more necessary to make this connection when Forester directly states that “he (Clive) and Maurice were alike descended from the Clive of two years ago, the one by respectability, the other by rebellion, nor that they must differentiate further” (245). This further implies two roads that stand side-by-side throughout Maurice and Clive’s college years but part and take drastic turns, for better or for worse, for self or for society.

Two paths stand before you, which appeals to you? Keep in mind the cold warmth of society, and the false fulfillment from devotion to work and politics. To go against nature, living a but mundane existence, or to risk love, risk losing it all. Forster has given me insight as to the end of these roads, insight that I could not of had had I not been given a point of relativity. Chapter 46 serves to generalize the lesson learned from this novel: to follow through with whatever nature has deemed appropriate for yourself. Forster, through this chapter, serves to remind us to always accept our nature and the different natures of others, or face the vengeful wrath of self-hate. With this ultimatum I bid you choose the forest of green, whatever that may symbolize to you, while staying away from the gray coldness no matter how warm it may seem to be.


          

2006 Philosophy Paradise