Sexuality clearly not being the only issue here.
Set in The Edwardian Era
, E.M. Forster's Maurice
is a novel about the eponymous character, who is perhaps the most middle-of-the-road, ordinary, unexceptional, run of the mill, average
middle-class Englishman you can imagine, and also homosexual. The book begins with an awkward "all you need to know about sex" talk delivered by a teacher to him as a young boy, setting the tone of heteronormativity and the pyschological constraints that Maurice will spend most of the book trying to escape.
Many years later, Maurice is a Cambridge student, still average, until he happens to meet Clive Durham
, who becomes his best friend. Clive eventually confesses his love to Maurice, hoping that Maurice will understand thanks to reading Plato
. He doesn't. However, after some time to think, Maurice realizes that he loves Clive and they make up, leading to a happy relationship for the next two years. Unfortunately, Clive, who was adamant that their relationship be completely sexless, eventually starts siding more with society's views of homosexuality and decides to drop Maurice and get married to Anne
Maurice, upset and more certain than ever that he wants to be "cured
", sees a family friend, Dr. Barry, who tells Maurice he's talking rubbish and closes the subject. After some time passes, Maurice tries seeing a hypnotist, who tells him there's a small chance he can be cured, but that they can try. Maurice mucks this up phenomenally shortly thereafter by having sex with the under-gamekeeper
at Clive's estate, Alec Scudder. Scudder
is in fact moving to Argentina in a week, but because Maurice is infatuated, he does his best to persuade Scudder to stay in England, willing to give up his job and social status in order for them to be together. Surprisingly, it has a Happy Ending
, no deaths
, which is why though written in 1913, it was published in 1971, posthumously.
The book had a 1987 Merchant-Ivory film adaptation which was rather good, starring James Wilby, Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves.
Maurice provides examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: The novel describes Clive as not a particularly attractive man, compared to Maurice, who is referred to as being handsome by both his family and Clive himself. In the movie, Clive is played by Hugh Grant, who is quite attractive on-screen.
- Adaptation Distillation: The movie adds Risley's indecency trial to provide extra motivation for Clive breaking up with Maurice, and it works pretty seamlessly.
- Bi the Way: Alec, in the novel, explicitly states that he "cares for" both men and women. One of the first times Maurice sees him is kissing two maids; in fact, he actually envies Alec's ability to interact with the maids so easily, especially since he found them to be very unattractive. This is found as a deleted scene in the film.
- Bury Your Gays: Averted. Also lampshaded by Forster in a 1960 essay about the book. However, a deleted scene from the film had Risley commit suicide after the above mentioned indecency trial.
- Chastity Couple: Maurice and Clive.
- Closet Key: In the novel it is explicitly stated that Clive helped Maurice realize his sexuality.
- Cure Your Gays: Maurice goes to a hypnotist to try to change. Fails spectacularly.
- Distaff Counterpart: Some view the 1928 D.H. Lawrence novel Lady Chatterley's Lover as this, which has similar theme (like class difference) and both the gamekeepers are based on the same man.
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- The Edwardian Era: It's set just before the First World War with the feel of a Genteel Interbellum Setting.
- Enter Stage Window: Happens in both of Maurice's relationships. He first climbs into Clive's room and later Scudder climbs into his room.
- Funetik Aksent: The book uses this technique to represent Scudder's lower-class speech, as faithfully rendered in the film.
- Gayngst: Though the ending avoids it the entire book features Maurice trying to overcome both society's and his own prejudice concerning sexuality (and class) in attempt to accept his homosexuality. It's just that territory.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Maurice doesn't take his sister's interest in Clive very well.
- Happy Ending: An essential aspect of the story, and, as stated above, what made it unfit for publication until long after it was written.
- Held Gaze: Happens a few times.
- Honey Trap: Risley falls into one.
- Incompatible Orientation: In a way, both Clive/Maurice and Clive/Anne.
- Inter-Class Romance: After a failed platonic romance with Clive, Maurice has sex with the under-gamekeeper at Clive's estate. Their class difference even more than their homosexuality is what nearly stops them from pursuing a real relationship.
- Last Name Basis: Alec who is often referred to as Scudder. According to the The Other Wiki Forster did this to illustrate the idea of class difference. Maurice and Clive also only refer to each other by last name in school until they accept that they've fallen in love. The last paragraph of the last chapter of Part One is them saying each other's first names.
- Oxbridge: The perfect location for a homo-romantic relationship between school fellows that is doomed to fail.
- Poor Communication Kills: In hindsight, the misunderstanding between Maurice and Alec after their night together could have been avoided if Maurice had answered Alec's letters and admitted the feeling was mutual, therefore preventing Alec's unnecessary attempt to scare him by threat of blackmail. Granted, Maurice had every right to be nervous about starting a relationship (since Alec '"could'" have ratted him out if he wanted to), but he should have at least responded to Alec as a sign of courtesy.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Some people have criticized the ending as too unrealistically happy, claiming that it would be impossible for Maurice and Alec to maintain a homosexual and interclass relationship in early 20th century England, but Forster actually based them on real-life couple Edward Carpenter and George Merrill who were able to do just that.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Maurice basically gives one to Clive at the end of the novel. He criticizes him for being so preoccupied with maintaining his social status that he probably doesn't know if he truly loves Maurice or Anne. He also gets on Clive for trying to convince him to deny his homosexuality, despite the agony that it's clearly caused him, as well as trivializing Maurice's (former) passionate love for him.
- Second Love: Maurice's relationship with Alec.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Clive's announcement that he is going to faint in the film.
- Straight Gay: All the gay characters, excluding Risley.
- Suddenly Sexuality: Subverted. In the book, Clive decides overnight that he is no longer in love with Maurice and now is attracted to women, having grown out of his interest in men. This is all told to the reader from his perspective. At the end, it's revealed that only much later that would he realize he was kidding himself. Since this is all internal monologue, the movie opted to make it more obvious that he was just giving up for respectability's sake.
- Train-Station Goodbye: Maurice is sent home after disobeying the dean at Cambridge. Maurice and Clive hold hands until their hands are "ripped from one another".
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: Anne never got so much as a "Lie Back and Think of England", making her and Clive's wedding night rather funny.