Friday, November 17, 2006

A quote for my sister...

"I am grieved for your clerk. But it is all in the day's work. It's part of the battle of life."

"A man who had money," she repeated, "has less, owing to us. Under these circumstances I do not consider 'the battle of life' a happy expression."

"Oh, come, come!" he protested pleasantly. "You're not to blame. No one's to blame."

"Is no one to blame for anything?"

"I wouldn't say that, but you're taking it far too seriously. Who is this fellow?"

"We have told you about the fellow twice already," said Helen. "You have even met the fellow. He is very poor and his wife is an extravagant imbecile. He is capable of better things. We - we, the upper classes - thought we would help him from the height of our superior knowledge - and here's the result!"

He raised his finger. "Now, a word of advice."

"I require no more advice."

"A word of advice. Don't take up that sentimental attitude over the poor. See that she doesn't, Margaret. The poor are poor, and one's sorry for them, but there it is. As civilization moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it's absurd to pretend that anyone is responsible personally. Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk's loss of salary. It's just the shoe pinching - no one can help it; and it might easily have been worse."

Helen quivered with indignation.

"By all means subscribe to charities - subscribe to them largely - but don't get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no Social Question - except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be. Point me out a time when men have been equal - "

"I didn't say - "

"Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them happier. No, no. You can't. There have always been rich and poor. I'm not fatalist. Heaven forbid! But our civilization is molded by great impersonal forces" (his voice grew complacent, it always did when he eliminated the personal) "and there always will be rich and poor. You can't deny it" (and now it was a respectful voice) "and you can't deny that, in spite of all, the tendency of civilization has on the whole been upward."

"Owing to God, I suppose," flashed Helen.

HOWARD'S END by E.M. FORSTER (pg. 151, 152)


Elliot said...

Ouch. They both sound like dorks. I'm guessing he's supposed to be a clergyman - he sounds like a Hegelian Social Darwinist, and she sounds like an arrogant meddler - "we would help him from the height of our superior knowledge." Ha!

Anactoria said...

Nope and nope. He's not a clergyman. He's not religious at all that I can tell... well, maybe superficially because I think he does go to church... But as for his actual position, he's a very rich businessman.

And when she says "we would help him from the height of our superior knowledge," she's speaking sarcastically/bitterly. She tried to help someone out of kindness but due to misinformation provided by the businessman she ended up making a poor man's position worse.

Anactoria said...

And its a great book.