Write a note on English character as discussed by E.M.Forster
It is a true fact that the character of the English is essentially middle-class. It is historically proved that towards the end of the 18th century the middle class started to get the upperhand in the British Community. They achieved wealth by Industrial Revolution and political power by the Reform Bill in 1832. They were responsible both for the rise of the British Empire and for the growth of the literature in the 19th century. Though solidity, caution, integrity, efficiency, lack of imagination, hypocrisy are the characteristics of the middle class, in England they are thought to be the national character and it was for these the middle class ruled England more than 150 years. Napoleon called the English as ‘a nation of shop keeps’ and the English feels proud of thinking them ‘a great commercial nation’. There are two other classes namely aristocracy and poor but the crities fix their eyes to the middle calss just as they eye on the poor in Russia and aristocracy in Japan. Russia is symbolized by the peasants or the factory workers whereas Japan is symbolized by the samurai.
It is the public school system which can be described as the heart of the middle class. It is basically a local institution. But this school system is not known all over England. It can inspire some other great institution and it is by no means unique as because it is created by the middle class. This school perfectly can educate the social and spiritual complexities before hand. Disciplines, boarding house, compulsory games are its attractive features.
After leaving the school the boys may either goes into army or business or continue his study in University and then he takes the service of a doctor or a school teacher or barrister or a journalist. Many men look back to their school days and truly believe that those days were golden period of their life when they worked together. The school was then a miniature world to them. They utterly believe that one who does not love school can not love the country. It is for this as they want to prolong that by gone time they join in ‘Old Boys Society’. Some of them remain old boys of the school they basically worship the school. They never debate on the subject. They go farther and think of those schools that are not like the public schools — different rather like the sands of sea. They advance towards the future with a developed mind and body but with an undeveloped heart and it is for this undeveloped heart the English face the troubles all over the world.
An Englishman can feel but they fear to feel. They are taught in the public school that feeling is a bad thing. He must not express much joy on sorrow even would not open the mouth too wide when he talks. He will box up his emotion and will let them out whenever occasion comes.
Another feature of the English is the slowness of their character. The writer cited an example. Once in a coach there were some Frenchmen and Englishmen. Suddenly the coach caught on the stonework of the bridge and started tottering. The Frenchmen became excited but the Englishmen remained cool. An hour later the coach was rescued. The Frenchmen had forgotten all about the danger and were chattering gaily. The Englishmen just began to feel it. The Englishmen are by nature realistic and they can do what to do in sore time. They feel slowly and ungainly when the work in over.
The Englishmen are not cold hearted because from them we get one of the richest poetry. Therefore, it is meaningless to search the warmth, the emotion in the English. The nature of the English is not easy to understand. It is as mysterious as a sea about which we can not know anything standing on the shore.
The Englishman is not annoyed by criticism. It never strikes him critics may speak against him he remains static. But the people of other nations feel uneasy in criticism and after express their anger against it. An Englishman is out and out realistic. He thinks more about the betterment of the society. He thinks to be more corrected in his behaviour, more religious for developing his ethical qualities and more merciful.
English character is incomplete. It is also true that no national character is complete one. For some qualities we have to go for one direction to another. An English character is incomplete. It has two layers — self complacent, unsympathetic and reserved but plenty of emotion under it, plenty of brain power. But these are used only to strengthen the previous ideas. With such things they can not be popular. The writer says that there is little vice in him and no real coldness in the English.
The writer hopes and truly believes that in the next twenty year he will find a changed which will make the English more lovable. The supremacy of the middle class is lacking and none can say what the new element should be introduced by the working classes. It can unhesitatingly be said that they will not read in the Public Schools. The writer believes that the truth is great and it shall remain forever.