What does it mean to be you, without judgement and ridicule. Can one ever truly be fully self with the world’s eyes constantly watching over for any abnormalities that don’t adhere to it’s views? These are a couple of the questions E.M. Forster tries to divulge in his work “The Other Boat”. His piece focuses on 2 young men Lionel March and Cocoanut who come from different races, classes, and nations but find themselves in a homosexual relationship as they are aboard a boat from England to India. During the time of this writing a homosexual relationship, especially between men, was unacceptable, and for many of the time an unforgiving sin. Men were supposed to be ‘dominating’ the women, not other men.
One character that Forster uses so well to paint the picture of this image is Lionel’s mother. On the first voyage as Lionel and Cocoanut are younger Mrs. March is onboard with her children, only not hardly attentive to them. As the children play without any prejudice or ill feelings towards one another, Forster portrays Mrs. Marsh as a very selfish, racist, snobbish, and uneducated woman. One of her comments to Cocoanut “You’re a silly idle useless unmanly little boy” spells many of her feelings out towards children, and other races. (Greenblatt, pg. 252) She is so perturbed and agitated that her son, one of a well respected name in England, would have the audacity to associate with this boy of a different color. I’d love to think in this generation we have no idea what this is like, but unfortunately some still hold on to these preconceived notions.
So how does Mrs. March impact Lionel’s affair with Cocoanut? Really she has everything to do with the demise of the relationship. Lionel after so seducing and kind words from Cocoanut finally gives in to his desires and gives to the sexual relationship. As I mentioned earlier this was taboo for the time. In part two of the piece we read Lionel’s letter to his mother where he writes “He has more than a touch of tar-brush”. (Greenblatt, pg. 250) This was a term that was used on the 1st voyage as Mrs. March conversed with Captain Armstrong. I have to imagine as a human this was probably in her nature, her being, and words like this were used regularly around her children including Lionel. His mother’s ill conceived notions of Cocoanut, and any unlike her in general, were so outspoken that she poured those feelings into Lionel. As Lionel and Cocoanut enter their relationship as they sail further away from Britain and further away from the judgement of the nation, the thoughts of his mother still linger with him. While Lionel is pursuing his hearts desire in one aspect, in another he wants to satisfy the world’s requirements. It’s very “Jekyll and Hyde”. See my previous blog if you’d like some more light reading. It wasn’t until Lionel remembered his mother’s distaste of his acts that he became consumed with the guilt of someone finding out and the judgement that would fall upon him.
This is so true for us today, as a mom I have to constantly check myself am I treating everyone how I would want my daughter to treat others. You can preach to love other’s until your blue in the face, but it’s what you do as they watch that will sink into their hearts. It’s such a sad story that Lionel felt that his sin was so unforgiveable that the only way he knew out was to murder Cocoanut and take his life along with it. Many today feel that same way. As a woman of God I can say there is no sin that is worth taking ones life over. We all sin, there is no big and small, and for Lionel to be so molded by society is such a shame. I just hope that in this generation we can continue to grow in that area, and change our hearts to no turn our nose up at what is unfamiliar to us.
Greenblatt, S. and Robson, C. (n.d.). The Norton anthology of English literature.