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Chapters 40-42

In these three chapters Maurice flees Penge, is terrified of the letters and telegrams he receives from Alec, and has it confirmed by Lasker Jones that he's not very likely to change.

The story Maurice told the Durhams about the girl he's supposed to have in town provides the excuse he needs to leave Penge immediately (and they can see he's feeling ill anyway). Clive drives him to the station, which gives Maurice the opportunity to probe him about Alec's background, but what he learns only upsets him more. How could he have fallen for a butcher's son? And he feels ashamed about abusing his hosts' kindness and hospitality. Getting back to home doesn't much help with his shame and guilt, as he's all too aware of betraying his mother and sisters with his lust. I'm not entirely sure if he's being a bit too hyperbolic there.

He's not prepared for all the communications from Alec that start arriving: a telegram, a letter, then another letter. In the first letter, Maurice's eyes are drawn to the sentence "I have key", referring to the boathouse, which in Maurice's mind turns into a great blackmailing scheme complete with accomplishes. But the sentence is also open to figurative meaning. At Lasker Jones's office, Maurice is trying to put into words what happened, and wonders how someone like Alec was able to press all the right buttons at the moment when Maurice's defences were down--so clearly, he did hold a key. To be honest, I find the fact that Alec writes a bit surprising. He feels deeply, that's clear enough, and clearly he respects the boundaries enough to write rather than turn up on Maurice's doorstep without warning, but still I can't quite reconcile the letters to the man. But it's largely a problem of Alec being so invisible in the book, a character whose thoughts we're not, on the whole, privy to.

A photo of an old letter by Lainey's Repertoire on flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence

Maurice goes to his second appointment with Lasker Jones with high hopes and a sense of urgency, but it is not to be. He's no longer open to suggestion, with the knowledge of having fulfilled his desires weighing on his mind. He's forced to confess all to Lasker Jones, who's still very nonjudgemental, but cannot offer any more help. He does, however, have a piece of advice: living in a country with a legal system derived from Code Napoleon, where homosexual acts are no longer a crime.

A photo of Code Napoleon volumes by umjanedoan on flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence

The mention of abroad prompts Maurice to explain his theory that in the past men had the wild woods of England to hide. While it might be a sweet idea, it's not offering much practical help at the moment.

With the hypnosis failing, Maurice is beginning to reassess his life. His work no longer seems a privilege but something pointless, providing a service to clients who are so conventional and utterly devoid of any sense of living joyous, exciting, fulfilled lives. At least he's had something. And he's going to be meeting Alec again, although on the neutral, respectable ground of the British Museum.


  • What do you make of Alec's letters?

  • Maurice goes through a wide spectrum of feelings in this chapter, but what do you think is the strongest/most important at this stage?

Photo credits:
Old letter by Lainey's Repertoire on Flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence
Code Napoleon, umjanedoan on Flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-16 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
At the beginning of the novel, one or two people expressed a sense of dislike with regards to Maurice, something I never felt. Until now. Much as he is a dear character, I feel that he has somehow betrayed what he and Alec had together in the Russet Room by showing Alec's letter to Lasker Jones, who then burns it.


That is a bit on the book which always twists my heart. I'd quite like to slap Maurice at that point, but the poor chap's main emotion I think throughout these particular chapters is complete and utter panic. He runs away, the full enormity of what he's done hanging over him and when Alec writes, Maurice completely misunderstands. He's also filled with disgust with himself that he acted on nothing but carnal instincts when Alec came to his bed the night before. Up until the moment at the cricket match when Alec didn't clap, I think Maurice had been riding on the concept of Alec being The Friend. And, however much they played together on the pitch, when the outside world starts to invade, then Maurice is reminded of class, which was a hugely important concept at the time of the book being written.

Alec's insubordination at not clapping I think panics Maurice into believing that Alec may not treat Maurice with respect in the outside world, and obviously the threat of blackmail is very real to him, especially as that is how he interprets Alec's letter.

As for the letters themselves. I think Alec has grasped the concept of 'friend' by this time, and he has fully understood what Maurice was saying when he asked Alec if he'd ever had a friend. Also, I think through Maurice's other actions and words, both those we read in the book and whatever else passed between them that night, Alec has come to his own conclusion about what Maurice means to him. Spurred on by this, and realising he has somehow, rather annoyingly probably, fallen in love for the first time, I don't think he has any other option but to write to Maurice.

He isn't a man who is afraid to express himself, he certainly wasn't afraid to come to Maurice's room, albeit only because he was leaving the country and had nothing to loose in the long term. If it had gone badly, he could just hole up somewhere. But, Alec has a lot of bravery about him, and his feelings for Maurice are such that he just can't let him go away without Alec trying to see him again.

Finally, about the 'I have a key'. Alec certainly does - he has the key to Maurice's feelings and thoughts, and Maurice knows this...which must absolutely and utterly terrify him. Alec knows him for who he is, not superficially like Risley or Clive, but very deeply I think.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-16 09:43 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
You are right I think - it does seem a bit over the top for Lasker Jones. But I suppose it had to go, and Maurice could hardly set it alight himself! I never fail to get angry at Maurice for this, but you know, I doubt Alec would care. If Maurice told him he would say 'well, not to matter Maurice, you're here now'. I feel he's quite a pragmatic man.

The whole of society at that time was precariously balanced on this notion of class and what one could do and not do, so I suppose Maurice is only a reflection of that. Seen from a hundred years later it's very annoying of Maurice, as you say, but, at the time, I think there would have been a lot of consternation about Maurice even contemplating being with Alec in the first place, so his swaying back and forth on the issue wouldn't be as frustrating as it is now.

In fact, I think I read somewhere, that had there been any attempt at publishing, there would have been more of a furore over the class issue than the homosexual part.

At least Maurice calms down in the next chapters and begins to see that Alec is only as scared as himself about the outcome.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-17 05:37 pm (UTC)
sweet_fallacy: made by <lj user="amachete"> (Default)
From: [personal profile] sweet_fallacy
I think Maurice had been riding on the concept of Alec being The Friend.
It's all he's ever known, even when it was merely this vague concept that spoke to him in his dreams.

To be honest, I find the fact that Alec writes a bit surprising.

I'm with [personal profile] into_the_greenwood on this one. I mean, what else was he to do? I don't believe that their night in the Russet Room was meant to be anything more than a one time occurence. Or at least that's what Alec told himself, when in fact he had had his eye on Maurice since the beginning. Now having had a taste of what he wanted, and with his departure for Buenos Aires fast approaching, how could we question his desire for more?

Having some understanding of Maurice's position, Alec didn't wish to impede on his life. This meant that he couldn't just turn up or call, as [personal profile] queen_ypolita said, but rather send a letter/telegram leaving an open window for Maurice to reach him whether that was to come to the boathouse or write a rejection. Alec didn't even say to meet him on a certain time on a particular date, but gave the gentleman some leeway so that he could come at his convenience.

As for the content of the letters, I feel that they were reflective of their conversation the morning after their night in the Russet Room. Alec asked to share once more with Maurice, which to them must mean more than mere sex. Alec's confession to having a copy of the key is no surprise to us for we already know he can be insubordinate. Not only does he resent the Durhams for treating him so lowly, but... if we were to go back to the dinner scene where he had Simcox ask if Maurice would like to take a bath, that was bordering on 'too bold'. Not to mention that he climbed into a gentleman's window in the dead of night. Both actions were telling signs of his mounting desperation.

it does seem a bit over the top for Lasker Jones.

I'm afraid I disagree. That's incriminating evidence of his client's misconduct. Best to get rid of it immediately rather than risk it falling into the wrong hands one way or another. As for Maurice's betrayal in handing it over to Lasker Jones... While it may be frustrating for one partner to be so open and the other so mistrusting... well, Maurice has very good reasons. Nevermind the class difference or the legality issues of homosexual relationships, though both very valid points for it's time, EVERYONE, even his former lover, tells him how wrong this is. He feels weak, as though his body and it's desires are not his own. And although he's already begun treatment for his condition, all Alec had to do was climb into his window when Maurice had been feeling particularly low and say, "I know." A man he hardly knew and yet what power he has over Maurice. Of course he was frightened.

Now, I'm not a huge Maurice Hall fan considering how he treats his family and so forth, but I can forgive him this.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-19 04:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angie-sylvie.livejournal.com
There's one good thing about Maurice taking umbrage at Alec sending him a telegram: at least he once and for all abandoned the harebrained idea of writing Alec a cheque! (Or giving him a bike or whatever.) That would be dangerously close to treating him like a whore, paying him for services rendered, and would probably be the end of it for Alec, who after all wouldn't take even the five shillings tip.
Maurice can be so clueless sometimes that I just want to shake him, and to so entirely misinterpret that beautiful first letter Alec wrote him as well...

I actually love the letters, they give a rare insight into Alec's emotions and the way his mind works.
The second one especially seems to me like a stream of consciousness, just laying down on a piece of paper all the thoughts tumbling ceaselessly through his head. He's desperately trying to run through all the reasons he might have "offended" Maurice, the reasons why the man who called him a "dear fellow" is now spurning him. Poor love.
Of course the half-hearted references to blackmail aren't quite so endearing but I don't blame him for being angry.

I agree with Into the Greenwood that Maurice's main emotion is panic. Never the brightest bulb in the chandelier anyway, this panic is so strong that it's short-circuited the thinking part of his brain pretty much altogether, I reckon.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-20 03:32 pm (UTC)
sweet_fallacy: drawn my <lj user="ironicbees">, made by <lj user="sweet_fallacy"> (J&W: Glimpses)
From: [personal profile] sweet_fallacy
at least he once and for all abandoned the harebrained idea of writing Alec a cheque!

Too true! Though... Alec's reaction depends on the gift and his interpretation of the gesture. A cheque would be insulting, but if Maurice got him something practical yet more personal -- like... I don't know, really good quality shoes, an expensive watch or a fancy pen set -- perhaps Alec would have cherished it as a keepsake.

God, can someone please do some AUs? Clive misses the cricket game, so no unpleasantness came about and when Maurice offers him a gift, Alec decides...? Maurice finds Alec waiting on the boat to Buenos Aires where he hands the former gamekeeper a package. Below deck, Alec opens it and discovers...? There could be disastrous hijinks where Maurice gets it all wrong or fluffy goodness where he does good. You know you want to!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-20 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
I did harbour ideas once of writing Maurice going to see Alec off, being asked by Fred if he wanted to see Alec's kit, then going down to the cabin, Alec appearing, and both of them sailing to Buenos Aires...

...but I found I just couldn't do it! Messing with EM Forster's canon seems somewhat blasphemous for me, although I've no qualms reading and enjoying other people's take on things, hypocrite that I am! LOL

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-22 04:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angie-sylvie.livejournal.com
Yeah, sometimes I wonder what would've happened if Alec hadn't been going to Argentina.
Would they just have kept meeting secretly until it all fizzled out, with no sense of urgency in place to force them to make decisions?
AU Maurice? If people aren't too offended by the idea, it could be quite fun...

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-22 07:40 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
That's an interesting idea, because I think he only risked going up to Maurice's room because he had nothing to lose as he was leaving the country a few days later.

So I think had he not been going, he may well have continued to gaze from afar,although I think if Maurice was an occasional visitor to Penge, they may eventually have managed to get together somehow, but it doesn't seem terribly likely.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-22 08:16 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
How do you think they would have got together if Alec wasn't going away? I've been pondering this, and wonder if, even if Alec wasn't leaving, he would, like you suggest, be thinking of moving on to something else at some point, and perhaps he and Maurice may still end up together but at a later point in time.

I wonder if Maurice himself might have instigated something, like he almost did with Dickie Barry? After all, Alec is amenable to it, so if he thought Maurice was interested that might have provided the impetus for them both to try something.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-22 08:39 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
I think you're right about all the chance encounters, so I'm sure it wouldn't have taken them too long to get to the stage where they both knew they wanted something to happen, especially since Maurice realised that it was Alec's presence at Penge that had made things less tedious for him.

A little wander by the boathouse one evening could lead to anything...

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-20 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
I think something like a pen set would have been acceptable as a gift Maurice would offer at the quayside (he has something with him in the film, which I've always wondered about, and it's the right size for a nice pen set). I think Alec would treasure something like that, and I think it would be more appropriate and acceptable than shoes, or even a watch.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-22 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angie-sylvie.livejournal.com
Oh yes, quite right, at the stage their relationship had reached by the time the Normannia was sailing, a parting gift would have been a very nice thing.
Thank goodness it wasn't required!

I always wondered what was in that parcel too...

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-22 08:05 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
This mythical pen set is rapidly becoming reality in my mind! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-20 04:34 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
All that money/gift stuff was so cringeworthy! I had to squint through it this time around, muttering 'Oh Maurice! What are you thinking?!'

You're absolutely right about the letters, they show Alec to be a good person, who is only (justifiably) confused about Maurice and his behaviour.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-08-22 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] into_the_greenwood
Yes, I think you're right about Maurice perhaps going overboard. But at least if it was something like the pen set, I think even if it were expensive and a bit showy, it would a USEFUL item to have, and I think Alec would approve, and be quite proud to have been given it.

Totally agree that a cheque would have been a disaster! That would have been a serious faux pas on Maurice's part, coming after the refusal of the tip, and all that represented.