I took the damned "Spoiler Alert" alert out--I think it keeps people from reading the actual review. That said, some of the following comments might be considered Spoiler, but I prefer to think of these comments as what Forster could have done better, should have done better, and any image of Hugh Grant spread-eagled on a table deserves to be noticed, IMHO.
At first, I thought rereading Forster’s gay novel for a group discussion would be fun. I liked it first time around and expected to like it as much this time. Perhaps it was having watched the film since the first reading. Maybe I couldn’t prevent myself from picturing Hugh Grant in the role of Clive Durham and a young Rupert Graves in the role of Scudder; whatever the reasons, rereading this novel, knowing where it was headed, made me impatient, made me angry, made me want to see the younger Hugh Grant shoved face-down over a table, depantsed, and deflowered in the most aggressive way. But, that’s just me.
Forster’s novel remained a featherbed of cozy, enveloping language. The early scene in which Mr. Ducie, a ‘senior’ at Maurice’s preparatory school and a man who felt the obligation to instruct Maurice in the “mystery of sex” (complete with a diagram drawn in the sand on a beach, then abandoned, and too-late-realized, left to be discovered by other casual strollers of both sexes. Oh my!) was still funny. The developing relationship between Maurice and fellow Cambridge student Clive Durham was still touching in its intimacy and affection—but then, but then, but then—
That relationship stalls at intimacy. Maurice is coaxed by Clive, led on (if you will), only to reach a wall—a wall of this-far-and-no-further. After ‘outing’ himself, Clive seemingly has no ‘out’ to arrive at. His bold confession to Maurice is overstated, leaving Maurice confused and wanting more. While this novel is certainly a matter of time and place, the Platonic relationship just doesn’t ring true for a contemporary understanding. The British stereotype—the conservative, asexual, slightly effeminate [my apologies, good Brits, but we are talking stereotypes, not realities]—registers as alien in modern readers of anything other than Christian fiction.
And it was this alienation from the characters that left me thinking, “Jesus Christ, Maurice, hammer him—nail his ass—show the lame fucker what he’s wanting but is too caught up in an ideal to grab.”
But, of course, that won’t do. We all know what rape is; there’s never good reason for it to occur—even in fiction. Poetic justice and poetic injustice are opposite sides of the same coin. They’re really two ways of saying the same thing.
The poetic justice, if such a thing exists, is Clive’s ultimate settling for passionless marriage while Maurice moves on—more power to him.
I don’t regret rereading Maurice
. It’s still fine story-telling and plotting. A reader has to understand that Forster, writing when he did, could only imagine, only hope for, a better time when people were able to be who they are, without fear of social or legal repercussion. I think I’ve been spoiled—three decades and still going with my own partner makes me both more generous and more selfish. It makes me wish others had, or could have, what I have—just not MINE.