E.M. Forster’ Where Angels Fear to Tread is a novel published in the 1905s originally entitled Monteriano. An English literature that is believed to be a modernist novel thanks to its thematic that deals with philosophical ideologies and also social class, art reality relationship, human nature, ethics, norms, consciousness, fair-mindedness and others. It was turned into a film in 1991. The most important events of the story happened in Monteriano, Italy and in Sawston, England.
Speaking of its narrative, it is a third-person narrative, in which the narrator is, unlimited, uninvolved in the story and unknown and unidentified, but reliable in term of knowing the characters, their thoughts, intentions, sentiments, qualities, and weaknesses, and also reliable in terms of objectivity: His thoughts about such or such a character or accident is objective with no interference of his own judgements or prejudices. Speaking of the thematic, the novel is about consciousness, social appearances and ethics. The novel is highlighting cultural encounters between two different cultures: Italy and Britain. It is criticizing the way the English sees the Italians and vice versa. The stereotypes and prejudices are often at the forefront of any interaction between two different cultures which prevent any kind of acceptance or understanding.
Moving to its characters, the story is about two families: two different nationalities, backgrounds, histories and cultures; an Italian family and an English. Lilia, the wife or Mr Charles- who is diseased- lived under the roof of his family-in- law with her mother-in-law: Mrs Herriton , her brother-in-law: Philip, her sister-in-law: Harriet and her daughter Irma. The Italian family is represented by Gino, Lilia’s husband, and Italians people such as the landlady and others. Mrs Herriton represents the lady of the house, the guardian of the family, and of the norms and ethics of the society. Her character symbolizes the English society: A society that cares the most about its reputation, appearances. Philip Herriton, the puppet of the mother’s will, represents the art admirer, charmed by Italy, its towers, walls, and Romance. He represents the minority of people that would go beyond prejudices and stereotypes so as to admire art. On the other hand, he represents the controversial relationship between the art and reality. As well, he represents the bridge between England and Italy, the possibility of coming into terms with the charming, strange characters of the Italians and the arrogant, ethical of the English. Harriet a strong believer that cannot understand and judge people, she in order to keep her family’s reputation, pride and appearance was the cause of the death of Lilia’s and Signor Carella’s baby. Lilia symbolizes women that would sacrifice everything their social class, their nobility in order to be herself again; she represents widows that have to remain at the service of their husband’s family till their death. Signor Carella, husband is the Italian Lilia was married to, he represents the youth as uncaring, ambitious and somehow ignorant.
Forster is criticizing the British society for keeping appearances, arrogance, pride and tea habits –ironically criticized by the Italians--, at any cost notwithstanding others: others feelings, principles, ethics and so on. The story involves some examples of female conditions: reverence towards male, obedience and inclination: women were obliged or supposed to continue to live with their husband’s family otherwise they would be alienated from their family-in-law and be disinherited. Also, Forster discussed the impact of the places and spaces on the human psychology, sentiments and behaviours. Even the choice of the name of Sawston was symbolic. “Saws” referring the machine that has no heart, no morals, no principles and that cares only to its duty which refers to the duty of the society, to keep their charitable attitude, arrogance and appearance and never to lose them.
Where Angels Fear to Tread is a novel of the Modernism era. it highlights many issues that were often discussed such as the philosophical ideologies, human psychology, for instance. It is text that portrays social realism, its characteristics and details: how people behave, what their real intentions were, and so on. All in all, E.M. Forster criticised many an English behaviour and thought and also corrected some of the mutual misunderstanding between the English and the Italians, some of the stereotypes and prejudices.