GRE General Test: RC-592813 GRE Reading Comprehension

E. M. Forster is an Edwardian in point of time, and he is equally so in spirit. His outlook on the world and his literary manner were already thoroughly developed in that epoch and have passed through the subsequent years of turbulence and cataclysm with remarkably little modification. The various modern revolutions in physics, in psychology, in politics, even in literary style, have not escaped his intelligent notice, but they can scarcely be said to have influenced him deeply. His response to the explosion of the Victorian dream of benevolent progress has been a modest and orderly retreat to safer ground to a tolerant individualism now unmixed with Utopian dreams, but nevertheless closer to Victorian ideals than to any of the popular creeds of today. Rather than conform to bad times, Forster prefers to remind us cheerfully that his views are atavistic.

The strength of Forster's resistance to the twentieth century is especially apparent when we place him beside some of his fellow writers. If Joyce. Lawrence. Pound, and the early Eliot represent the main current of the modern literary movement in English, we must admit that Forster,s private stream runs in an older channel. These others were radical iconoclasts whose rejection of bourgeois-democratic life was violent and shattering. Equally shattering was their fragmentation of the polite cadences of Victorian literature. In seeing the falseness of the old psychology, they conceived a scorn for the hypocrite lecteur; their role as apocalyptic prophets, as naysayers to the boredom and specious rationality of modern life, demanded that they be obscure and idiosyncratic. Forster, in contrast, unashamedly calls himself a bourgeois and remains faithful to the tradition of calm intelligibility. He is anti-apocalyptic in both his politics and his literary sense. To some degree his novels return us to the congenial Victorian relationship between writer and reader, with its unspoken agreement over the usefulness of the sociable virtues and its apotheosis of the happy family. Though Forster's heroes struggle against "society" as a body of inhibitions, their revolt is never truly radical. And Forster's ironical style, though it is unsparing in its probing at shams and half-truths, presupposes a confidence in the reader's sympathy and good judgment—a confidence that seemed quite archaic to the other writers named.

Forster’s resistance to modernity may account for the fact that his novels, though they are almost universally esteemed, have never won him a cult of fanatical disciples. With a few exceptions, critics have tended to explicate and admire his works without becoming heated over the possible merit of his ideas. Yet Forster decidedly is a novelist of ideas, and didactic moral content is hardly less conspicuous in his work than in Lawrence's. Forster's persistent "moral" is that the life of affectionate personal relations, disengaged from political and religious zeal by means of a tolerant eclecticism, is supremely valuable. This is not a stirring creed; in fact, it is a warning against allowing oneself to be stirred by any creed.
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