An Englishman’s Home by Evelyn Waugh
In An Englishman’s Home by Evelyn Waugh we have the theme of identity, class, connection, control and pride. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator it becomes clear to the reader from the beginning of the story that Waugh may be exploring the theme of identity. Metcalfe though he is new to the village considers himself to be a countryman. Though the reality to those that live in the village and who are working class is that they consider Metcalfe to be still from the city. Similarly with the other characters mentioned in the story. They are considered to be visitors rather than residents of the village. Which in many ways sets them apart from the working class people in the village. There is no connection between Metcalfe, Peabury, Hodge and Hornbeam and those who live in the village. It may also be significant that Waugh never mentions any of the people who live in the village apart from Boggett. It is as though there is a class divide that exists. With Metcalfe and the other home owners being at the top of the scale. Metcalfe also doesn’t ask those in the village to help him or to protest at Hargood-Hood’s plans. Everything revolves around Metcalfe wanting to purchase the land with the help of others (Peabury, Hodge and Hornbeam).
At no stage does Metcalfe have any concern about what Hargood-Hood’s plans might do to the village. His primary concern is how he will lose the view that he has. The same can be said for the others whose land and homes are adjacent or connected to Westmacott’s field. The problem that exists is a middle to upper class problem and as such Metcalfe does not deem it to be appropriate to involve those from the village. Though they would have every right to be as distressed as Metcalfe considering Hargood-Hood’s plans. If anything Metcalfe does not make the necessary connection with those in the village. Though they may not have the wealth to stop Hargood-Hood they still have a voice which Metcalfe is not allowing them. Which may be the point that Waugh is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that at the time the story was written those of a lower class did not have a say in matters that may have directly involved them. Governance on an issue may have be left to those of the middle and upper classes.
Waugh may also be exploring the theme of pride. Lady Peabury takes exception that she has to partially pay for the field and considers the matter of shared ownership to be illegal. However the reality may be that Lady Peabury, who can well afford to buy the field herself, does not wish to play second fiddle to Metcalfe. Something that is further noticeable when Metcalfe calls the meeting. He takes complete charge and control of proceedings even though Lady Peabury is more accustomed to being in charge of matters. It is as though there is a trace of animosity between Lady Peabury and Metcalfe. Which makes the issue of buying the field difficult. Both Metcalfe and Lady Peabury can afford to buy the field on their own. However Metcalfe believes the responsibility for the purchase of the field should be an issue between himself, Lady Peabury, Hodge and Hornbeam. If anything Metcalfe is not following the traditions of the village about who owns a certain piece of land. Lady Peabury, Hodge and Hornbeam believe that the fault lies with Metcalfe who may have been frugal when he only bought seven acres when he was offered over sixty.
The end of the story is also interesting as it becomes clear to the reader that Metcalfe and the others are victims of a scam being led by Hargood-Hood and his brother Jock. Both men spending their time discovering weaknesses in a village and exploiting them. Something that neither Metcalfe nor the others are aware of. The price they pay for the land well exceeds its worth. However they are buying themselves peace of mind. No longer having to fear what Hargood-Hood might do. It is also interesting that Metcalfe tries to impress on others his importance. Something that is noticeable by the fact that he has the boy scout hall named after himself (and Lady Peabury) and he also has the name changed on the Brakehurst Arms. It is as though Metcalfe needs to sooth his ego or leave his stamp on the village. Something that may be pointless considering that others in the village still call the newly named Metcalfe Arms the Brakehurst Arms. Nothing has changed for those who live in the village. However Metcalfe has now positioned himself so that he may yield some authority. Just as he once had power when he worked in Alexandria. Now Metcalfe again believes that he has the ability to impose his will onto others. However the reality may be very different considering that those in the village still consider Metcalfe and those who have lived only twenty years in the village to be outsiders. Outsiders who have been conned by Hargood-Hood and his brother Jock.