Top critical review
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Sensitive portrayal of one man's battle with sexuality
on 10 February 2002
Maurice is one of those novels that caused a huge public outcry when it was published but that modern readers will finish wondering what all the fuss could possibly have been about. Maurice is the story of a rather mediocre middle-class man - the book's namesake - and his journey from university student to mature adulthood. Whilst at University he has a very close relationship with another man which borders on the actively homosexual and during this time and throughout the novel, Maurice battles with his 'deviant' sexuality. Whilst his friend ostensibly goes straight and marries (in order to inherit the family fortune and lay claim to the local parliamentary seat), Maurice never really puts the events of his student days behind him. His contact with this friend continues and it is during the periods he spends at his country manor that the majority of the book's action takes place. Eventually Maurice succumbs to his longings and is involved with one of the hired help, Scudder, which brings the issue of class into the picture to jostle alongside sexuality. The novel is a psychological portrait of one man and his struggle to reconcile his true feelings with the prescriptions of society and what it expects of him as a man. It was condemned at the time of publication for being immoral but addressed many issues ignored by Victorian literature and brought them out into the open for the first time. Forster himself was somewhat ostracised as a result but Maurice is a brave and moving attempt to move homosexuality into the public sphere and to make it socially acceptable. Whilst it is not the strongest of texts and can be guilty of stiltedness from time to time, modern authors dealing with issues of sexuality owe much to Forster's early work. Maurice is a sensitive consideration of sexuality versus puritanical societal values and depicts an internal struggle that many still go through in today's 'enlightened society'. Well worth a read.