A matter of values
Recently widowed Lilia leaves her overbearing in-laws in England, to tour Italy, which her brother in law assures her is enchanting. Completely entranced by the Italian lifestyle and culture, Lilia falls for a handsome but penniless younger man and impulsively marries him. Her scandalized mother-in-law immediately disowns her for bringing shame upon the family. A year later, Lilia is dead in childbirth, and while her English in-laws have no genuine interest in her infant son, a chance remark from a family friend impels them to seek custody in order to save him from a “savage” upbringing. Where Angels Fear to Tread is no love story. Forster began his writing career with this book of contrasts, introducing themes that would occupy him for the rest of his life. The sterility and pretensions of upper middle class Edwardian society are scrutinized against the passionate (and heavily stereotyped) lifestyle of the Italians, and come up short. What matters more, duty or happiness, self control or self expression, intention or outcome? This novel is described as social satire, and it has its amusing, farcical elements, but the subject matter is serious and the ending, tragic.