- Where Angels Fear to Tread
name = Where Angels Fear to Tread
E. M. Forster
language = English
William Blackwood and Sons
release_date = 1905
pages = 319 pp
isbn = NA
"Where Angels Fear to Tread" (1905) is a novel by
E. M. Forster, originally entitled " Monteriano". The title comes from a line in Alexander Pope's " An Essay on Criticism": "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread".
In 1991 it was made into a film by
Charles Sturridge, starring Rupert Graves, Giovanni Guidelli, Helen Mirren, Helena Bonham Carter, and Judy Davis.
On a journey to
Tuscanywith her young friend and traveling companion Caroline Abbott, widowed Lilia Herriton falls in love with both Italyand a handsome Italian much younger than herself, and decides to stay. Furious, her dead husband's family send Lilia's brother-in-law to Italy to prevent a misalliance, but he arrives too late. Lilia had already married the Italian and in due course becomes pregnant again. When she dies giving birth to a son, the Herritons learn that Lilia's one-time traveling companion, Caroline Abbott, wishes to travel to Italy once again, this time to save the infant boy from an uncivilized life. Not wanting to be outdone -- or considered any less moral or concerned than Caroline for the child's welfare-- Lilia's in-laws try to take the lead in traveling to Italy. In the public eye, they make it known that it is both their right and their duty to travel to Monteriano to obtain custody of the infant so that he can be raised as an Englishman. Secretly, though, they have no regard for the child; only public appearances.
Similarly to "
A Room with a View", both Italy and its inhabitants are presented as exuding an irresistible charm, to which eventually also Caroline Abbott succumbs. However, there is a tragic ending to the novel, while the film adds a suggestively positive scene.
Analysis: Forster's depiction of Italy
From reading "Where Angels Fear to Tread" one might conclude that Forster had an intimate knowledge of the
Italian culturehe describes. However, the author himself admits that that is not the case: "What's so remarkable is my own temerity. For I placed Gino firmly in his society although I knew nothing about it." (Stallybrass, 8) Forster purposely uses certain widely known clichés about Italy. Thus, the reader is - on a certain level - familiar with the Italian society that is described, because he is familiar with the stereotypes that Forster presents. Such clichés are for instance the romantic fascination with the natural beauty of Italy and the vital joy of living of its inhabitants.
The author uses Italy as a convenient backdrop to shed light on the seeming sterility and lack of passion of English morals and values. Italy, by contrast, exudes a primal passion and sensuous savagery that, while not "superior" to English ways, is nonetheless irresistible to restless hearts. Perhaps the most striking difference between the culture of Monteriano and of Sawston is the role and position of women. English society is portrayed as being
matriarchal: it is Mrs. Herriton, and not a male character, who dominates Sawston. Monteriano, on the other hand, is pictured as being a patriarchalsociety -- it is the latter, with hot-blooded, passionate men exuding an unrestrained masculinity, that attract Lilia and later, Caroline. In the end, Forster's book sheds light on the predicament of the West: Its values and beliefs may be well-thought out and "civilized," but virtue and civilization, order and decency come at a price: a lack of passion. The reader is left to ponder, what matters most: Truth or passion?
* Forster, E.M., Where Angels Fear to Tread, ed. by Oliver Stallybrass (London, 1975).
* Winkgens, Meinhard, ’Die Funktionalisierung des Italienbildes in den Romanen "Where Angels Fear to Tread" von E.M. Forster und "The Lost Girl" von D.H. Lawrence’, Arcadia, 21 (1986), 41-61..
* [http://emforster.de/hypertext/template.php3?t=waftt Plot Summary and Links]
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