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Scholarly Article

Anindita Sarkar

Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M Forster in the Mirror of Lacanian Psychoanalysis

matriarchal figure, Lacanian Psychoanalysis, symbolic, imaginary, sibling rivalry,


The novel Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M Forster narrates the tale of Philip Herriton, the conscientious son of Mrs Herriton who is trapped in the chronic clasp of his querulous mother, a matriarchal figure. Although the novel revolves around the rescue mission of the illegitimate baby begotten by Lilia, the deceased sister-in-law of Philip Herriton, the novel charts the journey of Philip’s quest towards self-exploration. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the novel under the light of Lacanian Psychoanalysis demonstrating the progression of the male protagonist through the Lacanian model of the imaginary and symbolic order. The novel portrays Philip enmeshed in an elaborate tissue of interwoven, contradictory, mutually modifying perspectives. This paper demonstrates the initial inconsistencies and unstable progression of the male protagonist Philip, under the influence of the maternal in the imaginary stage. Jaques Lacan has argued that a subject can construct its identity only when it is able to serve its narcissistic first love for its mother. As the novel proceeds Philip is able to dissociate himself from the symbiotic relationship with his mother by conceding himself into the cultural realm of the Symbolic order. The paper also brings to our notice the conspicuous sibling rivalry between Mrs Herriton’s children, Harriet and Philip, who compete for winning the allegiance of their mother.

About the Author

Anindita Sarkar is an MPhil Research Scholar at Jadavpur University. She may be contacted at

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