Where Angels Fear To Tread- Forester’s First Farce
Introduction of book, Where Angels Fear To Tread
“Where angels fear to Tread” is E.M Forester’s first novel which at first sight seems to be a farce. The story is set in Sawston- a small village in England where everyone seems to be conscious of public opinion especially the Herritons. Evident from the opening scene, Forester’s comedy relies extensively on irony. In the opening, we are introduced to Lilia Herriton- a several years widow who has been living with her in-laws since Charles Herriton’s death- She is boarding the train to Italy with Mrs. Abott.
While Lilia departs from Swaton leaving her family behind, they seem to be happy, both Lilia and her ensuing drama were leaving. Howbeit, her in-laws didn’t trust her to be in Italy alone and hence sent her with Caroline Abbott who was ten years younger than Lilia and was considered much more responsible to save the Herritons from Lilia’s disgrace. This situational irony can be observed throughout the book, “Where Angels Fear To Tread” but certainly isn’t the only aspect of humor.
Let’s Dive Deeper!
The farcical humor in “Where Angels Fear To Tread” continues as Lilia in Italy ends up marrying a much younger commoner- Gino with the encouragement of Mrs. Abbott. Lilia’s in-laws go above and beyond the call of duty to prevent the marriage. Forester here introduces his theme of the cultural clash between Northern and Southern Europe. As Lilia later realizes, the differences in customs between the English and Italians she finds her second marriage to also be a failure leaving her heartbroken.
She found herself restricted in the patriarchal customs of Italy and saw no spark in Gino’s eyes that originally drew her. Eventually, she dies giving birth to his child. The Herritons who had cut Lilia off and in the first instance their mixed-racial grandson, in the later half of the story, are caught in fret at the thought of an English child growing up in Italy.
Here again, Forester, the author of “Where Angels Fear To Tread” comments upon the cultural clash. The Herritons sent Philip, Lilia’s brother-in-law who used to fancy Italy and its lack of sincerity. He implied that true life and beauty are found in passion, open honesty, living life to its fullest and most intense, and casting constrained English mannerisms that kept many of them living unhappy and unfulfilled life but post his encounter with Gino he seemed to have forgotten about Italy’s magic and had accepted his life to be forever bland.
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Reviewing deeper: Where Angels Fear To Tread
Forester brings in a reality check for the romantics who romanticize beauty and passion in a foreign country. He attempts to clear-cut the lines between reality and imagination. The Italy that perhaps the English characters in the novel had thought of didn’t stand true to their imagination and instead brought disgrace back to England which they hoped would have stayed with Italy. The satirical highbrow comedy later poses the question, of how the Herritons will get back Lilia’s child or if will they once again fail in Italy similar to Lilia’s Marriage.
Forester’s “Where Angels Fear To Tread” explores themes of class difference, and bourgeois obsession with appearances is a must-read for every literature enthusiast to understand the cultural clash between parts of Europe, the concerns of English commoners, and the cost of romanticizing the foreign. The book’s remarkable use of irony and satire to convey such dense and dull thoughts unequivocally makes it a must-read.
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