Who am I? Why do I do what I do? When can I break the rules of society without being guilty? In the unique agony of seeking understanding, acceptance, and love, these several questions echo poignantly throughout human history. For all people these introspective problems—while difficult—desperately need answers, as answers to these questions dictate the choice to stay within the bounds of accepted ethics or to step out. The importance and difficulty of finding good answers to these questions intensifies for atheists and agnostics, since they must formulate answers with the full responsibility for their conclusions resting on their own shoulders. No religion can answer these questions for them. Thus, Forster, a humanist who shunned organized religions and endorsed the creation of individualistic creeds, if choosing to step out from established laws and customs, must ask, on his own, if his justifications hold true or if they converge with all other crimes against society. “The Other Boat” contains many of Forster’s personal humanistic moral perspectives on many issues including class conflict, colonization, racism, and adultery. However, most centrally, through a perspective of naturalistic fatalism, “The Other Boat” contains Forster’s personal moral justifications for homosexuality.
Readily available contexts for discovering and analyzing Forster’s moral justifications appear throughout critical scholarship on “The Other Boat,” yet many critics overlook these humanistic conclusions. In a biographical essay on Forster’s life, Carrol Viera notes that the collection The Life to Come and Other Stories, which includes “The Other Boat,” has generally been analyzed by critics from two perspectives. Most critics, she says...
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...ose difficult recurring questions, and from his own unique perspective he answers boldly: I am a homosexual. I do what I do because my nature dictates I must do it. I can break the rules of society without being guilty for nature disallows doing otherwise. These arguments for justified homosexuality live on today, and in many ways Forster’s naturalistic answers remain the dominant answers given by modern homosexuals. Through “The Other Boat” Forster gives their moral argument an early and eloquent voice, and though we agree or disagree we should laud him for that.
Forster, Edward Morgan. "The Other Boat." The Norton Anthology English Literature. Ed. Stephan Greenblatt. Vol. F. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.
Viera, Carrol. “E. M. Forster.” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Ed. John H. Rogers. Vol. 162. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1996.
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