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Literature / Maurice

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Sexuality clearly not being the only issue here.characters 

Set in and written during The Edwardian Era, but not published until after the author's death in The '70s, E. M. Forster's Maurice is a novel about the eponymous character, who is perhaps the most middle-of-the-road, ordinary, middle-class Englishman you can imagine, except that he's attracted to men. This is a big problem, because back then homosexuality was punished as a crime and condemned by society. 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 psychological 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, defying the Enforced Trope in literature that any gay relationship had to end in death or tragedy, which is why it was written in 1913 but not published until 1971, a year after the author's death.

The book had a 1987 Merchant-Ivory film adaptation starring James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, and Denholm Elliott.

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.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: In the novel, Scudder is subtly mentioned several times before Maurice actually encounters him. In the film, there is a brief scene early on that only serves to introduce him to the audience as a servant in Clive's house, and call him by name.
  • 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 profess their love for each other, but at Clive's insistence they don't have sex.
  • Closet Key: In the novel it is explicitly stated that Clive helped Maurice realize his sexuality. In the film, where we get less of a background about Clive's sexuality, it could be interpreted that Maurice is Clive's as well:
    Clive: Do you realize I would have gone through life half-awake if you'd had the decency to leave me alone?
    Maurice: Perhaps we woke up each other.
  • Cure Your Gays: Maurice goes to a hypnotist to try and turn himself straight, but it fails spectacularly.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Despite how much he denies it to himself and to his friend, it seems that Clive is still very much in love with Maurice. This is all the more tragic in the film adaptation where the final scene involves Clive imagining Maurice smiling and beckoning to him back in Cambridge while his wife was right by his shoulder. He stood by the window, beside Anne, not knowing he'll never see his friend again.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The 1928 D.H. Lawrence novel Lady Chatterley's Lover shares similar themes (like class difference) and both the gamekeepers are based on the same man, but the focus is a woman instead.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Maurice is hurt by Clive's rejection, spends a lot of time afterwards believing there's something wrong with him, and when he does find another man who loves him back, they almost break up because they're from different classes and afraid of what society will think. Nevertheless, their leap of faith pays off and they become lovers for life.
  • 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.
  • Forceful Kiss: In the film, Maurice plants one on Clive as the latter is just about to break up with him. They are nearly in a brawl at that very moment, and it ends with Clive having a bleeding lip and Maurice feeling terribly guilty and devastated.
  • Funetik Aksent: The book uses this technique to represent Scudder's lower-class speech, as faithfully rendered in the film.
  • Gayngst: The entire book features Maurice struggling with the societal prejudices about sexuality and class which he's internalized, and ends with him finally overcoming his doubt and accepting his true nature. Interestingly, what really sets off his Gayngst is his break-up with Clive; up until this point he was pretty content with their relationship. For Clive on the other hand, this is the moment when he basically declares himself straight and thereby ends his Gayngst which he had massively after Risley's trial in the film.
  • 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: The police arrest Risley for indecency using a young man who pretends to be gay to entrap him.
  • Incompatible Orientation: In a way, both Clive/Maurice and Clive/Anne. Maurice loves Clive. Clive's sexual orientation is gay, and he's willing to love Maurice platonically, but he believes that sex between two men is wrong and eventually decides to marry a woman instead.
  • Last-Name Basis: Alec who is often referred to as Scudder. According to Wikipedia 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.
  • 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.
  • Revised Ending: There was a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue written for the book note .
    • In the Epilogue, Maurice's sister Kitty meets him and Alec five years later in the countryside. Despite being unaware of the truth like the rest of the family, she initially behaves rudely towards Maurice. However, after a while, she realizes that Maurice is happy, unlike her, and wishes him well. Despite this, Alec and Maurice decide to leave the area due to fear of Kitty involving the police.
  • Second Love: Maurice finds love with Alec after loving and being rejected by Clive.
  • Servile Snarker: In the movie, the butler Simcox who's serving at the Durhams' estate is this. He seems to be the only one who knows fully well about the relationship between Clive and Maurice, as well as about Alec and Maurice later, and ever again drops subtly venomous comments that barely touch upon the subject and wouldn't be understood by an outsider but are pretty mean to Maurice and Clive. To Alec, he's much more openly contemptuous as he notices the latter's attraction to Maurice:
    Simcox: Easy start tomorrow; only Mr. Hall's pleasure to wait upon.
  • Sleep Cute: In the book, after Maurice and Alec spend a night together in London, it's noted that despite their efforts to sleep on opposite sides of the hotel bed, they nevertheless end up cuddled in each other's arms.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Clive's announcement that he is going to faint in the film.
  • Straight Gay: None of the gay characters, perhaps excluding Risley who has a certain Oscar Wilde vibe about him, are identifiable as such just by their dress or mannerisms.
  • 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".
  • Uptown Girl: Gender-inversion. 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.
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: Anne never got so much as a bit of interaction, making her and Clive's wedding night rather funny.