“A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn’t have bothered to write otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense, Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood.”
Secretly, E.M. Forster had the heart of a romance novelist. I say that half in jest, but also half seriously. Romance novel HEA’s are serious business. We come to them for solace, for surety and comfort, and for the beautiful fantasy that two people can make it work even among the worst circumstances. And Forster was working under pretty poor circumstances, for to be happy, for him and his characters, was to go against most every social norm in existence at the time. This novel was famously not published until after his death, and was not very well-received even then.
I will admit that I liked the first half much less than I did the second. The first half has our hero Maurice unpleasantly trying to fit in and find himself, all while hiding the secret of his sexuality. It also features him being dumped by his first lover, who has decided to comply with society. But during the second half when Maurice meets Alec, and their relationship is “inappropriate” not just in terms of sex but of class, Maurice discovers a kind of freedom in just letting all of society go. Forster has his characters walk off into the proverbial sunset in defiance of all that his upbringing has taught him to admire, in the form of his former lover Clive, who he leaves standing alone.
We get this nugget from the hypnotist Maurice hires to cure him of his sexuality, as the hypnotist advises him to go to a country like France where his desires aren’t illegal:
“Will the law ever be that in England?”
“I doubt it. England has always been disinclined to accept human nature.”