Maurice is heartbroken over unrequited love, which opened his heart and mind to his own sexual identity. In order to be true to himself, he goes against the grain of society’s often unspoken rules of class, wealth, and politics.
Forster understood that his homage to same-sex love, if published when he completed it in 1914, would probably end his career. Thus, Maurice languished in a drawer for fifty-seven years, the author requesting it be published only after his death (along with his stories about homosexuality later collected in The Life to Come).
“I am an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort.”
Maurice is one of those books that cuts deep because it has the ability to relate to so many readers — particularly queer.
The novel is sectioned pretty evenly as it follows a young man called Maurice in two parts of his life: his early years when he falls in love with his school friend, and then later when he falls in love with a gardener. In his first relationship, Maurice feels unloved: he and Clive never go beyond kissing and he is often kept at arms length until Clive decides to leave him and assume his ‘role’ in society: marry a woman.
Maurice has a pretty substantial breakdown, which is devastating to read. However, light comes back to Maurice’s life when he meets Alec, a young gardener full of life. In the second half of the novel, Maurice is no longer ashamed of himself and he is free to be himself, and love himself and Alec. It’s such a beautiful message, especially for a queer novel written in the early 1900s (published much later).
In the author’s note at the end of the novel, Forster wrote:
“A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn’t have bothered to write otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense, Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood.”
The core message of this book is that queer people deserve happiness, even in a society that disavows them. Maurice and Alec may not be able to be open about their relationship, but ultimately they can still be.