“Where Angels Fear to Tread” by E.M. Forster is a novel with a carefully constructed plot that intertwines themes of cultural clash, personal transformation, and the complexities of human relationships. The plot is structured in a way that allows these themes to develop and intersect throughout the narrative. Here’s an overview of the plot construction:
- Setting the Stage: The novel begins by establishing the social and cultural setting, focusing on the conventional, middle-class English Herriton family. The stage is set for a clash of cultures when Lilia Herriton, a young widow, travels to Italy with her friend Caroline Abbott.
- Initial Conflict and Marriage: The initial conflict arises when Lilia, defying the expectations of her English family, marries a much younger Italian man, Gino Carella. This marriage, seen as scandalous and impulsive by her English relatives, sets the central conflict into motion.
- The Herriton Family’s Reaction: The reaction of the Herriton family to Lilia’s marriage is a critical element of the plot. Their disdain for Gino and their efforts to ‘rescue’ Lilia from what they perceive as a mistake provide insight into their characters and attitudes.
- Tragedy and Escalation: A tragic turn of events occurs when Lilia dies, leaving behind a son. This tragedy escalates the existing conflict, as the Herriton family now aims to retrieve the child from Gino and bring him back to England.
- Journey to Italy and Cultural Encounters: The middle section of the novel focuses on the journey of Philip Herriton and his sister Harriet to Italy to retrieve the child. This part of the plot is crucial for its exploration of cultural encounters, misunderstandings, and the characters’ internal conflicts.
- Climax and Confrontations: The climax of the novel occurs in Italy, involving confrontations between the English characters and Gino. These confrontations are charged with cultural, emotional, and ethical tensions and lead to dramatic and unexpected outcomes.
- Resolution and Transformation: The plot resolves with the characters returning to England. However, they are significantly changed by their experiences. The resolution is not just about the external conflict but also the internal transformations of the characters, particularly Philip.
- Themes and Motifs: Throughout the plot, Forster weaves in themes of cultural arrogance, the limitations of idealism, and the complexities of human relationships. Motifs such as travel, communication barriers, and family dynamics are used to enhance the plot and deepen the thematic content.
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When Forster was about twenty six year old the novel was completed by Forster. The main theme of the novel is the conflict between the two cultures. This novel is one of the best novels of the novelist. The novels of Forster are marked by taut plot construction and creation of suspense through incident. “Where Angels Fear to Tread” is no exception to this rule. According to Verginia Woolf, this novel is much slighter but harmoniously beautiful. This novel is the first novel of the novelist, but there is no sign of immaturity in the whole novel, says R.A. Scott-James. It has been written charmingly and a well-constructed plot is supported by the novelist. There is a sign of youthness in the whole novel, According to H. V. Routh the plot has just touch of inventiveness. He throws his problem of spiritual misunderstanding into the boldest relief. He taken in an impulsive and only half convention alized English Woman out of a Priggish, Conventional circle. Forster, the humourist is aiming at something fundamentally human. The continuation of life as a symbolized by their child, who dies within a year, and the mother who a few days. This significance in absurd by the complexities of the story, with its seriocomic episode, unexpected and inevitable.
Other merit of the plot of this drama is intricacies gradual changes in characters, wit and satire. Evidence of construction is seen in the way of the world of Swaston and Monteriano meet and draw apart, meet and draw apart again. On the first occasion this happens, the force making for life suffer a defeat. On the second occasion there is a kind of victory. The structure of the pattern of the whole has in itself an aesthetic charm. Few novels are more technically skillful. Trilling observes that the novel ends with an almost intentional weakness pretending out in sad discourse. A point has been made an idea developed.
John Colmer says that it is a beautiful composed novel. It has an effortless symmetry and graceful proportion, certainly effortless compared with the more contrived structure of Howards End and the more consciously created pattering of “A passage to India.” The structure is not triadic. Forster develops the radical contrast between the passionate, instinctive life of the Italian town Monteriano and the Snobbish convention ridden provinciality of Swaston. Monteriano has its own snobbery and provincial limitations, as Lilia discovers as soon as she tries to escape from domestically and share the brotherhood of man.
Forster’s early plots are closely bound to the Meredithian formula of throwing egoism. The role of Monteriano in the novel is to administer comic justice to the English egoist. Egoism covers all forms of pretense and self-deception. Not only Harriet Herriton, but also Philip, Caroline and Lilia are trained with egoism, for each in partly blind to his own nature Philip and Caroline, the most flexible characters are chastened and enlightened in the course of the plot.
In summary, the plot construction of “Where Angels Fear to Tread” is intricate, blending a story of cultural conflict and personal drama with a deeper exploration of societal norms, individual identity, and the consequences of cultural and personal misunderstandings. The narrative structure effectively guides the reader through a journey of not only physical but also emotional and intellectual discovery.