The second dream is more difficult to convey. Nothing happened. He scarcely saw a face, scarcely heard a voice say, “That is your friend,” and then it was over, having filled him with beauty and taught him tenderness. He could die for such a friend, he would allow such a friend to die for him; they would make any sacrifice for each other, and count the world nothing, neither death nor distance nor crossness could part them, because “this is my friend.”
Maurice follows the story of Maurice, a gay man in the early 1900s, as he falls in love, gets his heart broken, and gets his heart repaired. This book hit me… really hard.
The idea of class conflict is at the forefront. There are two love stories here, one between Maurice and his school partner, and one between him and a garden worker. In one of these, his class colleague asks for their relationship to never go beyond kissing; he is always at arms’ length, until he is discarded altogether. In one of these, he is free to love as he is, freed from the bounds of false intellectualism and performance.
It’s not clear from the summary how sectioned this book is, but it is decidedly split: the first half deals with Clive and the eventual breakdown of that relationship, while the second half deals with Maurice’s attempts to ‘cure’ himself and then eventually, with Alec. I found the first half of this novel interesting. The second half made me cry of happiness. It’s infused with so much more hope.
The final scene focuses point of view on Clive, framed in the light, while Maurice is a voice in the dark; that, though, is his happy ending. Maurice ends the novel in love in the dark, while Clive ends the novel thinking that his lack of love in the light is superior. (It is we, as the audience, who must make our own decisions on that matter.) I enjoyed the movie, which I saw before reading the book, a lot. Though it’s easy to quibble with certain changes made from the book to the movie, there’s one bit I particularly like: the final shot, in which Clive looks out at the greens, wondering what he could have had, had he not been afraid.
There’s something profound about giving a happy ending to two men falling in love in a time where they were few and far between. In the outro, E.M. Forster says this:
“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.”
When this book was written, in 1913 and 1914, this seemed almost ridiculous, that two men could fall in love, and not marry, and be happy. Forster wrote this novel almost to challenge that idea. This book could not even published until after his death, in 1971, and was then incredibly controversial. This book made me feel like I believe in love again.
Also, and this is only a minor spoiler, but I think about this scene a lot:
“You do care a little for me, I know… but nothing to speak of, and you don’t love me. I was yours once till death if you’d cared to keep me, but I’m someone else’s now… and he’s mine in a way that shocks you, but why don’t you stop being shocked, and attend to your own happiness.”
SPOILER: [what if it was 1910 and i crawled through your window and gave you a kiss and then you realized you were in love with me after giving my last name to your schoolteacher… and we were both boys]