For the past six weeks or so, Delycia and I have been reading Howards End for a few minutes each morning, and very slowly but surely I'm beginning to understand and appreciate what Forster was trying to do in this book. I have found it to be confusing at times, often losing track of who this character is and what that character wants, but gradually the good structure of the novel is revealing itself. Just yesterday, in fact, we realized that "proportion" is an often repeated idea in the book. Since we are reading it on my Kindle, we were able to quickly search the book for the word "proportion", and it came up dozens of times, the first back on p. 17. (We're on p. 170 now.) Here is a quote from p. 70, Mrs Wilcox speaking:
"Life's very difficult and full of surprises. At all events, I've got as far as that. To be humble and kind, to go straight ahead, to love people rather than pity them, to remember the submerged—well, one can't do all these things at once, worse luck, because they're so contradictory. It's then that proportion comes in—to live by proportion. Don't BEGIN with proportion. Only prigs do that. Let proportion come in as a last resource, when the better things have failed ... "