The Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge used at one time to display a painting called The Little Faun.1 A table is set beneath flowering cherry trees, and a small boy is standing on it, pulling at the branches. Beside him, also on the table, is the little faun: two young women are standing by, and one of them tweaks its tail. The faun parents, dim animal shapes, watch guardedly through leaves. It is a characteristic piece of Edwardian whimsy, full of shimmering pink and white; but a more knowing generation may detect tell-tale undertones. That domestication of the wild, that dainty sexual titillation, the breaking of taboo as the child stands upon the table — all these things add up to a distillation of the evasively erotic that typifies much writing of the period, an example of the Victorian compromise carried over into the field of sex awareness. ‘Naughty but nice’ — the coyness of Edwardian music-hall coquetry is an attempt to tame the beast, and an instance of that incurable English tendency to dissolve all uncomfortable realities in charm. It was a temptation to which Forster himself was not immune, and his early short stories in particular provide us with examples of his yielding to it. But, more importantly, they show us the way in which he rose above it, and thus sharpened his literary style so that it could undertake more far-reaching explorations in his novels. Instead of rejecting the feeble literary tradition outright, he worked his way through it to a fully mature comprehension of his own.
KeywordsShort Story Longe Journey Imaginative World Literary Style Spiritual Materialist
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