The Challenge of Our Time Summary By E. M. Forster


“The Challenge of Our Time” is a beautiful and instructive essay nicely written by E. M. Forster, who is known as a great novelist, essaying, philosopher, short story writer, and social reformer of the modern history of English literature. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class differences and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. Among his famous novels included,

  • A Passage To India
  • Where Angles Fear to Tread
  •  Howards End
  •  A Room with a View

            Forster also wrote two great volumes of the collective essays ‘Two Cheers For Democracy’ and ‘Abinger Harvest’. The present essay ‘The Challenge of Our Time’ has been extracted from ‘Two Cheers For Democracy’.

Analysis Of The Challenge Of Our Time

            The essay ‘The Challenge of Our Time’ is first given in the form of a talk by Forster in a seminar where writers, artists, and intellectuals assembled to discuss the challenge of the time. The writer and artist were greatly influenced by science and technology in human life. E. M. Forster defended his discussion of these problems by saying that an artist supposed to care for man cannot remain indifferent to such problems.

            E. M. Forster started this essay with a statement that,

            “Temperamentally, I am an individualist.
             Professionally I am a writer and my books
            emphasize the importance of personal
            relationship and the private life,
            for I believe in them.”

            As an individualist, he understands the problem faced by the world. Through this essay, he describes the problem ‘The Struggle of the Spirit to cope with the modern world,’ which according to him is the greatest challenge, faced by mankind.

            After witnessing the terrible period between the two world wars, Forster looks back at the Victorian era which was really a wonderful period. It was a period of generosity and humanism, in which education was given a lot of importance. But the problem with Victorian education was that it did not make people understand their economic position. When money came in the form of fat dividends, people never realized that the poor were being exploited for them to get so much money.

 “The poor have kicked.
 The backward races are
 kicking – and more
 power to their boots.”

            In the modern Age, however, dividends have been reduced to almost nothing. The poor and the backward classes no longer allow themselves to be exploited. Therefore, in order to face this challenge, we must combine the old values with the ‘New Economy’. According to Forster ‘Laissez – Faire’ (Free Trade) will not work in today’s world. In the present day, planning has to be done not merely for the body, but for the spirit.

            Forster feels that every artist has a task to perform while facing the challenge of our time. Artists must be free to voice their views. Their aim must be to provide art for art’s sake and not for moral and social purposes. In other words, Forster says that art is the greatest inspiration for mankind. It frees his mind from the problems caused by the modern age.

The intellectual is definitely closer to humanity than the scientist. This is because the scientist is under a lot of pressure and control. He is isolated by mankind and does not get a chance to come closer to society. Forster says that scientists must respect the individual’s thoughts and feelings, though their scientific inventions for the benefit of society in general. Only when individual feelings are given importance can we face the challenge of our time.


            Thus, at the end of this essay, E. M. Forster says about Scientists,

“It is high time he
 came out of his
 ivory laboratory.
 We want him to plan
 for our bodies. We do
 not want him to plan
 for our minds.”

Are you struggling to keep up with your English Literature Coursework? Do you need detailed, customized English Literature Notes to help you better understand the texts you’re studying? “Look no further! Our customized paid notes will help you achieve your study goals quickly.