British social comedy examines a young heroine's struggle against Victorian attitudes as she rejects the man her family has encouraged her to marry and chooses, instead, a socially unsuitable fellow she met on holiday in Italy.
About the Author
Edward Morgan Forster was born January 1, 1879 in London and was raised from infancy by his mother and paternal aunts after his father's death. Forster’s boyhood experiences at the Tonbridge School, Kent were an unpleasant contrast to the happiness he found at home, and his suffering left him with an abiding dislike of the English public school system. At King’s College, Cambridge, however he was able to pursue freely his varied interests in philosophy, literature and Mediterranean civilization, and he soon determined to devote his life to writing.
His first two novels, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) and The Longest Journey (1907), were both poorly received, and it was not until the publication of Howards End, in 1910, that Forster achieved his first major success as a novelist, with the work many considered his finest creation.
Forster first visited India during 1912 and 1913, and after three years as a noncombatant in Alexandria, Egypt, during World War I and several years in England, he returned for an extended visit in 1921. From those experiences came his most celebrated novel, A Passage to India, his darkest and most probing work and perhaps the best novel about India written by a foreigner.
As a man of letters , Forster was honored during and after World War II for his resistance to any and all forms of tyranny and totalitarianism, and King’s College awarded him a permanent fellowship in 1949. Forster spent his later years at Cambridge writing and teaching, and died at Coventry, England, on June 7, 1970. His novel, Maurice, written several decades earlier, was published posthumously in 1971.
Date of Birth:January 1, 1879
Date of Death:June 7, 1970
Place of Birth:London
Place of Death:Coventry, England
Education:B. A. in classics, King's College, Cambridge, 1900; B. A. in history, 1901; M.A., 1910
Read an Excerpt
The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"
"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M.A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."
"This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett, laying down her fork.
"I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in her letter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no business to do it at all. Oh, it is a shame!"
"Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued; "but it does seem hard that you shouldn't have a view."
Lucy felt that she had been selfish. "Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me: of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant that. The first vacant room in the front–"
"You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, part of whose travelling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother–a piece of generosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.
"No, no. You must have it."
"I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy."
"She would never forgive me."
The ladies' voices grew animated and–if the sad truth be owned–a little peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishness they wrangled. Some of their neighbours interchanged glances, and one of them–one of the ill-bred people whom one does meet abroad–leant forward over the table and actually intruded into their argument. He said:
"I have a view, I have a view."
Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone. She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him. He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He was probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into the swim. So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to her, and then said: "A view? Oh, a view! How delightful a view is!"
"This is my son," said the old man; "his name's George. He has a view too."
"Ah," said Miss Bartlett, repressing Lucy, who was about to speak.
"What I mean," he continued, "is that you can have our rooms, and we'll have yours. We'll change."
The better class of tourist was shocked at this, and sympathized with the new-comers. Miss Bartlett, in reply, opened her mouth as little as possible, and said:
"Thank you very much indeed; that is out of the question."
"Why?" said the old man, with both fists on the table.
"Because it is quite out of the question, thank you."
"You see, we don't like to take–" began Lucy.
Her cousin again repressed her.
"But why?" he persisted. "Women like looking at a view; men don't." And he thumped with his fists like a naughty child, and turned to his son, saying, "George, persuade them!"
"It's so obvious they should have the rooms," said the son. "There's nothing else to say."
He did not look at the ladies as he spoke, but his voice was perplexed and sorrowful. Lucy, too, was perplexed; but she saw that they were in for what is known as "quite a scene," and she had an odd feeling that whenever these ill-bred tourists spoke the contest widened and deepened till it dealt, not with rooms and views, but with–well, with something quite different, whose existence she had not realized before. Now the old man attacked Miss Bartlett almost violently: Why should she not change? What possible objection had she? They would clear out in half an hour.
Miss Bartlett, though skilled in the delicacies of conversation, was powerless in the presence of brutality. It was impossible to snub any one so gross. Her face reddened with displeasure. She looked around as much as to say, "Are you all like this?" And two little old ladies, who were sitting further up the table, with shawls hanging over the backs of the chairs, looked back, clearly indicating "We are not; we are genteel."
"Eat your dinner, dear," she said to Lucy, and began to toy again with the meat that she had once censured.
Lucy mumbled that those seemed very odd people opposite.
"Eat your dinner, dear. This pension is a failure. Tomorrow we will make a change."
Hardly had she announced this fell decision when she reversed it. The curtains at the end of the room parted, and revealed a clergyman, stout but attractive, who hurried forward to take his place at the table, cheerfully apologizing for his lateness. Lucy, who had not yet acquired decency, at once rose to her feet, exclaiming: "Oh, oh! Why, it's Mr. Beebe! Oh, how perfectly lovely! Oh, Charlotte, we must stop now, however bad the rooms are. Oh!"
Miss Bartlett said, with more restraint:
"How do you do, Mr. Beebe? I expect that you have forgotten us: Miss Bartlett and Miss Honeychurch, who were at Tunbridge Wells when you helped the Vicar of St. Peter's that very cold Easter."
The clergyman, who had the air of one on a holiday, did not remember the ladies quite as clearly as they remembered him. But he came forward pleasantly enough and accepted the chair into which he was beckoned by Lucy.
"I am so glad to see you," said the girl, who was in a state of spiritual starvation, and would have been glad to see the waiter if her cousin had permitted it. "Just fancy how small the world is. Summer Street, too, makes it so specially funny."
"Miss Honeychurch lives in the parish of Summer Street," said Miss Bartlett, filling up the gap, "and she happened to tell me in the course of conversation that you have just accepted the living–"
"Yes, I heard from mother so last week. She didn't know that I knew you at Tunbridge Wells; but I wrote back at once, and I said: 'Mr. Beebe is–' "
"Quite right," said the clergyman. "I move into the Rectory at Summer Street next June. I am lucky to be appointed to such a charming neighbourhood."
"Oh, how glad I am! The name of our house is Windy Corner."
Mr. Beebe bowed.
"There is mother and me generally, and my brother, though it's not often we get him to ch– The church is rather far off, I mean."
"Lucy, dearest, let Mr. Beebe eat his dinner."
"I am eating it, thank you, and enjoying it."
He preferred to talk to Lucy, whose playing he remembered, rather than to Miss Bartlett, who probably remembered his sermons. He asked the girl whether she knew Florence well, and was informed at some length that she had never been there before. It is delightful to advise a new-comer, and he was first in the field.
"Don't neglect the country round," his advice concluded. "The first fine afternoon drive up to Fiesole, and round by Settignano, or something of that sort."
"No!" cried a voice from the top of the table. "Mr. Beebe, you are wrong. The first fine afternoon your ladies must go to Prato."
"That lady looks so clever," whispered Miss Bartlett to her cousin. "We are in luck."
And, indeed, a perfect torrent of information burst on them. People told them what to see, when to see it, how to stop the electric trams, how to get rid of the beggars, how much to give for a vellum blotter, how much the place would grow upon them. The Pension Bertolini had decided, almost enthusiastically, that they would do. Whichever way they looked, kind ladies smiled and shouted at them. And above all rose the voice of the clever lady, crying: "Prato! They must go to Prato. That place is too sweetly squalid for words. I love it; I revel in shaking off the trammels of respectability, as you know."
The young man named George glanced at the clever lady, and then returned moodily to his plate. Obviously he and his father did not do. Lucy, in the midst of her success, found time to wish they did. It gave her no extra pleasure that any one should be left in the cold; and when she rose to go, she turned back and gave the two outsiders a nervous little bow.
The father did not see it; the son acknowledged it, not by another bow, but by raising his eyebrows and smiling; he seemed to be smiling across something.
She hastened after her cousin, who had already disappeared through the curtains–curtains which smote one in the face, and seemed heavy with more than cloth. Beyond them stood the unreliable Signora, bowing good-evening to her guests, and supported by 'Enery, her little boy, and Victorier, her daughter. It made a curious little scene, this attempt of the Cockney to convey the grace and geniality of the South. And even more curious was the drawing-room, which attempted to rival the solid comfort of a Bloomsbury boarding-house. Was this really Italy?
Miss Bartlett was already seated on a tightly stuffed armchair, which had the colour and the contours of a tomato. She was talking to Mr. Beebe, and as she spoke, her long narrow head drove backwards and forwards, slowly, regularly, as though she were demolishing some invisible obstacle. "We are most grateful to you," she was saying. "The first evening means so much. When you arrived we were in for a peculiarly mauvais quart d'heure."
He expressed his regret.
"Do you, by any chance, know the name of an old man who sat opposite us at dinner?"
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"We are friendly–as one is in pensions."
"Then I will say no more."
He pressed her very slightly, and she said more.
"I am, as it were," she concluded, "the chaperon of my young cousin, Lucy, and it would be a serious thing if I put her under an obligation to people of whom we know nothing. His manner was somewhat unfortunate. I hope I acted for the best."
"You acted very naturally," said he. He seemed thoughtful, and after a few moments added: "All the same, I don't think much harm would have come of accepting."
"No harm, of course. But we could not be under an obligation."
"He is rather a peculiar man." Again he hesitated, and then said gently: "I think he would not take advantage of your acceptance, nor expect you to show gratitude. He has the merit–if it is one–of saying exactly what he means. He has rooms he does not value, and he thinks you would value them. He no more thought of putting you under an obligation than he thought of being polite. It is so difficult–at least, I find it difficult–to understand people who speak the truth."
Lucy was pleased, and said: "I was hoping that he was nice; I do so always hope that people will be nice."
"I think he is; nice and tiresome. I differ from him on almost every point of any importance, and so, I expect–I may say I hope–you will differ. But his is a type one disagrees with rather than deplores. When he first came here he not unnaturally put people's backs up. He has no tact and no manners–I don't mean by that that he has bad manners–and he will not keep his opinions to himself. We nearly complained about him to our depressing Signora, but I am glad to say we thought better of it."
"Am I to conclude," said Miss Bartlett, "that he is a Socialist?"
Mr. Beebe accepted the convenient word, not without a slight twitching of the lips.
"And presumably he has brought up his son to be a Socialist, too?"
"I hardly know George, for he hasn't learnt to talk yet. He seems a nice creature, and I think he has brains. Of course, he has all his father's mannerisms, and it is quite possible that he, too, may be a Socialist."
"Oh, you relieve me," said Miss Bartlett. "So you think I ought to have accepted their offer? You feel I have been narrow-minded and suspicious?"
"Not at all," he answered; "I never suggested that."
"But ought I not to apologize, at all events, for my apparent rudeness?"
He replied, with some irritation, that it would be quite unnecessary, and got up from his seat to go to the smoking-room.
"Was I a bore?" said Miss Bartlett, as soon as he had disappeared. "Why didn't you talk, Lucy? He prefers young people, I'm sure. I do hope I haven't monopolized him. I hoped you would have him all the evening, as well as all dinner-time."
"He is nice," exclaimed Lucy. "Just what I remember. He seems to see good in every one. No one would take him for a clergyman."
"My dear Lucia–"
"Well, you know what I mean. And you know how clergymen generally laugh; Mr. Beebe laughs just like an ordinary man."
"Funny girl! How you do remind me of your mother. I wonder if she will approve of Mr. Beebe."
"I'm sure she will; and so will Freddy."
"I think every one at Windy Corner will approve; it is the fashionable world. I am used to Tunbridge Wells, where we are all hopelessly behind the times."
"Yes," said Lucy despondently.
There was a haze of disapproval in the air, but whether the disapproval was of herself, or of Mr. Beebe, or of the fashionable world at Windy Corner, or of the narrow world at Tunbridge Wells, she could not determine. She tried to locate it, but as usual she blundered. Miss Bartlett sedulously denied disapproving of any one, and added: "I am afraid you are finding me a very depressing companion."
And the girl again thought: "I must have been selfish or unkind; I must be more careful. It is so dreadful for Charlotte, being poor."
Table of Contents
Chapter I: The Bertolini,
Chapter II: In Santa Croce with No Baedeker,
Chapter III: Music, Violets, and the Letter "S",
Chapter IV: Fourth Chapter,
Chapter V: Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing,
Chapter VI: The Reverend Arthur Beebe, the Reverend Cuthbert Eager, Mr. Emerson, Mr. George Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish, Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy,
Honeychurch Drive Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them,
Chapter VII: They Return,
Chapter VIII: Medieval,
Chapter IX: Lucy As a Work of Art,
Chapter X: Cecil as a Humourist,
Chapter XI: In Mrs. Vyse's Well-Appointed Flat,
Chapter XII: Twelfth Chapter,
Chapter XIII: How Miss Bartlett's Boiler Was So Tiresome,
Chapter XIV: How Lucy Faced the External Situation Bravely,
Chapter XV: The Disaster Within,
Chapter XVI: Lying to George,
Chapter XVII: Lying to Cecil,
Chapter XVIII: Lying to Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch, Freddy, and The Servants,
Chapter XIX: Lying to Mr. Emerson,
Chapter XX: The End of the Middle Ages,
Reading Group Guide
In a journal entry from July, 1910, E. M. Forster wrote, "However gross my desires, I find that I shall never satisfy them for the fear of annoying others. I am glad to come across this much good in me. It serves instead of purity." Although Forster wrote this passage some two years after he published A Room with a View, it could have been written at almost anytime during his long life. However much he understood the "holiness of direct desire," the emotional purity one achieves by following the heart rather than social orthodoxy, he spent his youth and young adulthood, as Lucy Honeychurch nearly did, repressing his sexual desires to adhere to the expectations of society.
Forster was only twenty-nine years old when he published A Room with a View in 1908. He had already published two books,Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) and The Longest Journey (1907). He was a respected writer, but not yet a famous one, and the themes touched on in his earlier novels—passion and convention, truth and pretense—were now given complexity and eloquence, with the maturity of a more experienced voice, in his third novel.
The first seeds for an Italian novel were planted during an extended trip to Florence that Forster and his mother took in 1901. This journey not only unleashed Forster's creativity, but also provided a source of spiritual release from the rigid moral codes of English society. His depression over his own self-deception and his increasing mistrust of English middle-class society are mirrored in the conflicted relationship between the cautious, thoroughly English Honeychurches and the impulsive, free-spirited, socialist Emersons. Forster was tormented, like Lucy, with the possibility of becoming one of "the vast armies of the benighted, who follow neither the heart nor the brain, and march to their destiny by catch-words."
While Lucy embodied Forster's internal strife, Mr. Emerson was created in the image of a man Forster admired, Edward Carpenter, a social pioneer who believed in equality for women and open expression of homosexual love. First through his published works, and later as a friend, Carpenter was to Forster a beacon of spiritual and sexual liberation who guided him toward a deeper understanding of himself. For Lucy, Mr. Emerson is the "kind old man who enabled her to see the lights dancing in the Arno," who encourages her to follow her heart's and her body's desire, explaining that "love is of the body; not the body, but of the body." This advice she must heed, as Forster makes sure, in breaking from the fettered world of Windy Corner and choosing truth over deceit.
The happy resolution of A Room with a View did not come easily to Forster. He started work in earnest on the first draft of his novel in 1902, setting the story entirely in Italy. Forster began the final version in 1904, but put it aside to complete Where Angels Fear to Tread and The Longest Journey. Forster would not pick up A Room with a View again until 1907, when he commented to a friend, "It's bright and merry and I like the story. Yet I wouldn't and couldn't finish it in the same style." Completing the work would require another full year.
The "bright and merry" surface of the novel owes much to the social comedies of Jane Austen and Henry James. Like the heroines of Mansfield Park and Daisy Miller, Lucy begins the novel as a naif on the threshold of adulthood in a strange new world. Forster captures the pretense and manners of her social world with uncanny acuity. As Virginia Woolf wrote, "The social historian will find his books full of illuminating information. . . . Old maids blow into their gloves when they take them off. Mr. Forster is a novelist . . . who sees his people in close contact with their surroundings." Like his forebears, he described the world around him with remarkable precision and insight.
Forster readily acknowledged his debt to the 19th-century domestic comedy, but said that he "tried to hitch it on to other things"—to the deeper themes of his work, such as the struggle for individuality and the barriers of social class. Forster's plots and landscapes carry greater metaphorical weight than those of his predecessors: Lucy's anguish in choosing between George and Cecil becomes a contest of modernity against the middle ages, honesty against hypocrisy, clarity against muddle. This subtext provides a richly textured counterpoint to superficial events. The novel's ending is not unambiguously joyful. It almost seems that Forster allowed George and Lucy happiness against his own instincts. "Oh Mercy to myself I cried if Lucy didn't wed," Forster wrote in a letter as he was writing the final version of the novel.
Ultimately Lucy was more successful in fulfilling her desires than Forster ever was. As he composed A Room with a View in 1907, Forster was still more than six years away from writing his great celebration of homosexual love, Maurice, and his first fully realized romance lay even further in the future. How did this repressed desire color the development of the novel? The critical literature has shown great interest in the erotic undertones of the men's bath at Sacred Lake and possible veiled references to Mr. Beebe's homosexuality ("somewhat chilly in his attitude toward the other sex"). Some even believe that the entire work is a homosexual romance with Lucy as "a boy en travesti." In the end the object of desire is probably less important than the passionate sentiment. What is remarkable, as critic Claude Summers notes, is that Forster's wrestling with homosexual desire should give rise to one of the richest depictions of heterosexual love in the English language.
Certainly A Room with a View can be appreciated from this perspective as a story of sexual awakening that provides insight into Forster's deeply felt struggle with his own sexuality. But it can be read on other levels as well. As a domestic comedy in the tradition of Jane Austen, it brilliantly skewers the world of Edwardian manners and social codes, providing some of Forster's most riotous and revealing portraits in the characters of Cecil Vyse and Charlotte Bartlett. It also can be enjoyed as a book about the contradictions and conflicts of being human: how we reconcile our inner lives with outside expectations, and how it is possible, by opening one's mind, to find faith and love in unexpected places.
ABOUT E. M. FORSTER
Edward Morgan Forster was born on New Year's Day, 1879, in Dorset Square, London, the second child (the first died soon after birth) of middle-class parents, Edward Llewellyn Forster, a Cambridge graduate and architect, and Alice Clara "Lily" Whichelo. When his son was just one, Forster's father died after a long battle with consumption, leaving the family little money and making Lily a widow at twenty-five. Unwilling to live with relatives and unable to afford a London apartment, Lily moved to a house in the English countryside, Rooksnest, where she devoted herself to her son. At Rooksnest, Forster's life was spent in the nurturing, overprotective "haze of elderly ladies" that included paternal aunts and Lily's friends, and he formed a deep emotional attachment to the place, drawing later on the memories for Howards End.
When Forster was fourteen, he and Lily faced the disheartening news that their lease at Rooksnest was up, and they moved to the suburb of Tonbridge Wells. Here, Forster attended the boarding school as a day boy, with classics as his major study. At Tonbridge he wrote for the school newspaper and won several awards for his essays, but nonetheless it was here, a place that contrasted so sharply with his happy home life, where his feelings of being an outsider hardened into an abiding distaste for the English school system.
Forster's intellectual and social life blossomed when, in 1897, he entered King's College, Cambridge. With the guidance and encouragement of his classics professor, Forster grew to admire the modern European writers Tolstoy, Proust, and Ibsen, and began to test his own powers as a writer. It was during these years, too, that he first began to acknowledge his homosexuality, falling in love with another undergraduate, H. O. Meredith, who would be the center of his posthumously published novel Maurice. Meredith helped Forster become a member of the "Apostles," the university's foremost discussion group, where he formed friendships with many of the intellectuals later associated with the Bloomsbury Group in London.
In 1901, with his formal education over and uncertain about a career, Forster, accompanied by Lily, set off on a year-long trip to Italy to study Italian history, language, art, and literature, and to work on a novel-in-progress. In 1903 he published his first short story, "Albergo Empedocle," and soon thereafter started to write for the Independent Review, a social and political journal founded by his Cambridge friends, to which he would contribute regularly for many years. His first three published novels, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), and A Room with a View (1908) received generally favorable reviews and made him a minor literary celebrity, but not until the publication of Howards End (1910) did Forster achieve major acclaim as a writer.
During 1912 and 1913 Forster journeyed to India, beginning a lifelong fascination with the subcontinent. A return journey to India in 1921 provided the inspiration for A Passage to India (1924), which was hailed as a masterpiece on publication. After writing five novels in succession, then ending a fourteen-year hiatus with A Passage to India, Forster retired as a novelist at age forty-five.
He spent the second half of his life as a voracious reader, reviewer, and supporter of young writers such as J. R. Ackerly and Eudora Welty. A prominent public intellectual, Forster became the first president of England's National Council on Civil Liberties and was a lifelong spokesman for personal and political tolerance, testifying in the trial that successfully overturned the ban on D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.
King's College awarded Forster an honorary fellowship in 1946, and he spent the rest of his years in Cambridge. Leading an active literary and social life to the end, Forster died in 1970 at age 91.
- How are Lucy's character and mood captured in the descriptions of her piano playing throughout the novel? Why does she refuse to play Beethoven in Mrs. Vyse's well-appointed flat? What compels her to sing, after breaking her engagement with Cecil, the song that ends with the line "Easy live and quiet die"?
- Forster's use of light and darkness, vision and blindness, day and night has transparent meaning in many passages: Lucy throws open the window of her room with a view while Charlotte closes the shades. Cecil is best suited to a room, while George is in his element in the naked sunlight of the Sacred Lake. Discuss the variations on the theme of clarity and shadow in the book, for example the twilight on the Piazza Signoria before Lucy witnesses the murder, or her attempts to flee "the king of terrors—Light" in the novel's second half.
- Lucy and George both stand outside Britain's traditional class structure. George is a clerk, the son of a journalist and grandson of a laborer. Lucy is the daughter of a lawyer and her social status is "more splendid than her antecedents entitled her to." What role does social class play in the novel? Why did Forster choose Cecil to deliver the statement: "The classes ought to mix...There ought to be intermarriage—all sorts of things. I believe in democracy."?
- Mr. Beebe is portrayed early in the novel as an observant, thoughtful counselor with a good sense of humor and an unusually open mind for a clergyman. Soon after meeting Lucy he predicts that "one day music and life shall mingle" for her. Why does he fail, in the end, to support her decision to leave Cecil for George?
- In comparison, Charlotte Bartlett is absurdly prudish, forbidding her cousin even to sleep in the bed where George Emerson had slept. If George's surmise at the novel's end is correct, what motivates her to help bring the lovers together by facilitating Lucy's fateful meeting with Mr. Emerson? What does this turnabout suggest about the repressive forces in society? Is she, as George jokes, made of the "same stuff as parsons are made of"?
- "Muddle" is one of Forster's favorite words and seems to carry more weight in his work than in current colloquial usage. Lucy declares at the end of Part 1, "I want not to be muddled. I want to grow older quickly." What does Mr. Emerson mean when he uses the word to describe Lucy's state of mind near the novel's end, saying, "It is easy to face Death and Fate...It is on my muddles that I look back with horror"?
- Lucy and George's final happiness is clouded by their severed relations with those she left behind. The Honeychurches "were disgusted at her past hypocrisy," and Mr. Beebe will never forgive them. Do you think Forster believes, as Lucy asserts, that "if we act the truth, the people who really love us are sure to come back to us in the long run"?
- What is "medieval" about Cecil's attitude toward women in general and toward Lucy in particular? What role is she allotted in his notion of chivalry? Why does Lucy feel, after George throws her blood-stained photographs into the Arno, that it is "hopeless to look for chivalry in such a man"? What kind of companionship and protection does George offer in exchange?
- Forster, who was greatly influenced by the art of Italy during his first visit there, not only explores the proper relationship of life and art in A Room with a View but also uses art to illuminate his characters. What do we learn about the inner lives of George and Mr. Emerson from their views of Giotto's fresco in Santa Croce (Chapter 2)? Why is Lucy's outburst over Mr. Eager like "Leonardo on the ceiling of the Sistine"?
- A frequent criticism of Forster's plots is his reliance on coincidence and chance. What improbable circumstances are required to unite Lucy and George? Is George right when he says of their reunion in England, "It is Fate. Everything is Fate"? Does the novel suggest an external force that brings the lovers together?
- There are many kinds of deceit in the book: betrayal by friends, secrets betweenlovers, and most importantly Lucy's self-deceit. Four of the last five chapters show Lucy lying to nearly everyone else in the book. Which kinds of lies are most harmful to the "personal relations" that Forster cherished?
- Though sparing in his descriptions of physical love, Forster often expresses the physical component of spiritual passion indirectly, as in his description of Lucy's piano playing: "Like every true performer she was intoxicated by the mere feel of the notes: they were fingers caressing her own; and by touch, not by sound alone, did she come to her desire." What balance between the physical and emotional expressions of love does Mr. Emerson suggest in his statement, "I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal. . . . I only wish poets would say this too: love is of the body; not the body, but of the body"?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Room With A View is a novel not only about the journey to find true love, but also about the difficult decisions one is faced with when one must decide to either listen to the expectations of others, or their own heart. In this novel the main character, Lucy takes a trip to Italy with her cousin, and upon her arrival meets the Emerson¿s. Lucy belonging to the upper class of society thinks she could never have an attraction to someone of the lower class, like the Emerson¿s. Love was something Lucy was hoping to find in Italy, but as soon as she arrived back to her home in England she promptly became engaged to Cecil, a man of the same social class as her. Lucy soon realizes that she is not truly in love with Cecil, and discovers that she is in love with George Emerson. Everyone Lucy knows expects her to marry someone wealthy and proper, like Cecil, but instead of listening to what others expect of her, Lucy listens to her heart, and allows herself to be in love with George. Throughout Lucy¿s journey to find true love Forster conveys the message that others expectations cannot guide one to the path of love, only one¿s heart can. I recommend this book to anyone who struggles when faced with making the decision of following others expectations, or following their heart. This novel will teach its readers that what one truly desires is the only escape to genuine happiness.
If you have a difficult time understanding older English, this book will be a challenge. However, stick with it. It has humorous characters who delight and intrigue. Lucy Honeychurch is a force to be reckoned with when she finally throws off the nonsense of society. This is a story that takes a young girl through a self-understanding process and gives the reader food-for-thought. If you can ponder her decisions and understand her choices, you will find a great heroine within the pages of this story. Lucy seems feeble and weak, but by the end, you find her quite the opposite. Watching her transformation is wonderful and well worth the time.
The union of love between two people cannot be wholly attained unless each partner first establishes their own, independent identity. E. M. Forster¿s witty and coming of age novel articulated this message through the novel centering on Lucy Honeychurch¿s dilemma of pursuing love and independence in a confined social and mental environment. Mr. Emerson is a brave character that displays Forster¿s thoughts towards new-age liberalism and ultimately influences Lucy to find her own independent identity. The message Forster communicated in the novel created a timeless and beautiful love story for all generations. Anyone who picks up this novel will find it to be a great read.
A Room with a View is simply amazing. Forster throws in SO much subtle wit it actually had me laughing out loud quite often. A very satisfying love story, and overall an excellent read!
I just love the characters in this book , in particular old Mr. Emmerson. I guess you could say this is a Love story, and also a young woman "coming of age story". It's also a novel with a great cast of characters. I think Forster did a great job of embodying different belief systems in his characters without making them caricatures.
So many are familiar with the Merchant/Ivory movie released in 1985 and the wonder of it all is that the book and movie are equally beautiful! Naturally there is more in the book and the metaphors for the 'room' and the 'view' become more clear after one has read the book, but since the novel is short, the directors were able to include so much of it in the movie. The book is funny, romantic and so full of life and truth, though it might be difficult for the modern reader to understand why such a fuss is made about the kiss George gives to Lucy. The book says so much about how we deceive ourselves, even those of us who are not from upper class English society. (Perhaps that is why there are so many divorces?) Lucy comes so close to making a terrible decision that would have ruined her life but Mr. Emerson saves the day. He is so honest and real that you love him at once. Almost all the characters are lovable if exasperating in this book - even Cecil redeems himself in the end. He is a pompous snob throughout but when Lucy breaks off their engagement, he humbly wishes to know why and accepts her reasons with dignity. Italy as a metaphor for life and passion works so well and Forster alludes to how religion, social mores and repression can 'muddle' things up, but all is well in the end!
I love this book! It is a very touching book and I am now dying to see the movie! Helena Bonham Carter ( Lucy Honeychurch) is my favorite actress!
Enjoyed this descriptive classic. Excellent character development. Plot was enjoyable. Forster has the ability to pick one up wherever they are and deposit them into France and Victorian England. The trials of love are wonderfully written.
This is one of the best books I have ever read! Right from the start all the way to the end!!
Well written. Although a love story, much more goes on between characters. This novel takes a light-hearted look at the absurdities of the society during this era. Also it touches on the society's change. It is timeless in the lesson of how we get in our own way. There is only one complaint; there are many typographical errors. At one point a couple of pages were totally unreadable. Still, the story was well worth it.
The formatting on my copy was quite bad. Beware if you plan to buy. At least when I got it, it was free. However, the formatting was enough to make me delete it.
Thins book is by far one of my favorites from E.M Forster. He did a great job with this one. The characters are real and believable while the plot is fun and exiting. It has the perfect mystery of romance and shows just how persistant love can be. A must read for classic lovers:]]
E.M. Forster's A Room With a View is a masterpiece. I truly had trouble putting this one down. My only qualm is that it wasn't quite long enough. Viva Italia!
This book pokes fun at the Edwardian culture--its rules, hypocrisy, etc. The characters will make you laugh out loud, they are so perfectly done. It is not so much a love story as a story of Lucy changing from 'proper lady' to 'thinking lady.' I highly recommend this book!
A Room With a View is a true love story taken place in the 20th century, as we meet the protagonist of the novel, Lucy Honeychurch, a fairly well off young british girl forced on holiday in Florence, Italy with her unwelcoming cousin Charlotte, in which she is introduced to a English Father and son. Lucy learns the life of the lower class and grows to understand that there is more to a person than status and wealth. Lucy is faced with a phycological battle with making choices for herself rather than for everyone else. “Have you ever noticed that there are people who do things which are most indelicate, and yet at the same time—beautiful?” (1.1) This gives readers a sense of hope. We want to see Lucy progress and mature as a character, but the constant denial will drag on with her as a character and her continued cliche personality takes time to grow and develop. I couldn’t tell what point the book was trying to push, either the romcom mushy gushy love story, or the surreal dive into the human mind and behaviors which can be changed with one simple encounter. The discussion of passion within Lucy is a theme that keeps the reader interested. “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting both for us and for her.” (1.3) The characters even want Lucy to expand her mindset. All of this discovery is mixed and pushed with her new experiences in this foreign country and city. I can relate with her curiosity of walking through Florence for the first time. While the city itself is small, you feel a sense of exploration, observing tall building hundreds of years old, holding countless historical artifacts. Like Lucy, I felt lost, and I wasn’t sure if i’d ever get used to it. This book captures Florence like no other book I have read, and will keep your mind imagining the stone streets and tall, ancient buildings throughout Lucy’s time there. While the characters were very simplistic, I enjoyed the simple love theme spread across the story. This book is perfect to pick up and read in a day or two on a warm summer evening, relaxed with a loved one, or cat nearby. You don’t have to focus too hard, but rather enjoy this story and experience a simplistic love story in Florence. I would suggest this to anyone who doesn’t take reading too seriously, and can be easily distracted with plot. Overall, I enjoyed this book, and someday may pick it up again on a summer evening to relax.
Lucy Honeychurch is visiting Italy with her cousin, Charlotte, who as an older single female has come along as a chaperone. While on the trip, she meets an "original" older woman, Miss Lavish, who is writing a novel; the stuck-up clergyman Mr. Eager; and the Emersons, a father and son duo whose forthrightness and political leanings rather shock some of the more orthodox crowd. Her time in Italy affects Lucy greatly: she sees a man murdered and experiences her first kiss. Upon returning home, she must decide between living up to the expectations of tradition, as embodied by her cousin Charlotte, or following the desires of her heart.Perhaps it's because I read [A Passage to India] as an English major, or maybe it's the many layers to E.M. Forster's classic story that made me feel, when reading it, that I could write a paper about his use of inside and outside, of old and new. Class distinctions are still important, particularly to the older characters and city dwellers, while less so to the younger and country folk. Lucy's fiance says at one point that Lucy pictures him inside a room, which seems connected with his repression of her spirit and independent thought, hugely in contrast with George Emerson and Frank Honeychurch's behavior outdoors in the Sacred Lake. The layering of metaphors and brilliant characterizations made this a real pleasure to read, and I would not hesitate to read it again knowing that I would get just as much - if not more - out of it with multiple readings. At the same time, the story is accessible and compelling, a classic that is neither long nor slow reading. Highly recommended.
Well, I think I'm going to be teaching this book this year. I see the themes that make it a good one to teach to adolescents. I have a little trouble reading it, though, unless I'm not tired and have no distractions...I tend to get a little lost in the words!
I first read "A Room With a View" by E.M. Forster when I was in college, and though I remembered the book with fondness and kept thinking I should reread it, what I couldn't actually remember was why. Finally, I can answer: the writing is wonderful. It's full of all these little truths and statements about life you've always thought yourself but never put into words. And the story, though simple (a young woman goes abroad for the first time to discover the world and discovers much about life along the way), is true in that way only fiction can be. It's a fast read as well: you feel you've only just begun and look up to discover you're somewhere in the middle, then done.
The female protagonist is self-centered and dim-witted. Her conversation (and thoughts) are 90% about herself, and 10% just silly. Unlike any Jane Austen heroine, I would not have the slightest desire to meet her in person. Her general appeal seems to rest upon her youth and good looks, her passionate piano playing, and her appreciation of nature; indeed, she seems almost a force of nature, an embodiment of a pure, childish life force. Does she ever once perform a genuine act of kindness, let alone empathy? She feels shame, that's all, when she can see that her actions negatively impact someone else, but not empathy, not a true human connection. Neither does she have a single original thought.Nevertheless, the entire book is worth it for the scene at the end where Mr. Emerson forces her to face the truth: her overwhelming desire to be trusted has led to nothing but lies. This scene was beautifully read by Joanna Davis. "They trust me," she hisses; "But why should they," he answers, "when you have deceived them?"What is the point of trust built on lies? Mr. Emerson is the one person in the book I would love to meet and know better. Truly kind, thoughtful, analytical, and intelligent, the one jarring note is his refusal to accede to his wife's desire to baptize their son. If he thinks it means nothing, then why not make her happy? It can be explained only by his reverence for the truth:"Am I justified?" Into his own eyes tears came. "Yes, for we fight for more than Love or Pleasure; there is Truth. Truth Counts, Truth does count."She "never exactly understood," she would say in after years, "how he managed to strengthen her. It was as if he had made her see the whole of everything at once."Truth counts.***"Mr. Beebe--I have misled you, I have misled myself--""Oh, rubbish, Miss Honeychurch!""It is not rubbish!" said the old man hotly. "It's the part of people you don't understand."***
A very good, understated story about an extended holiday that blooms into romance. A young woman traveling with her older, overbearing cousin in Italy is consumed more with the squabbles of British manners than with enjoying the sights of Florence, and more concerned about properly obtaining a Room with a View than with the view itself.The contrast between characters is strong and important to the development of the message of the novel, and seems characteristic of Forster's work.Much like "Pride and Prejudice," this novel is about people taking the long way around their strict society to get where they always needed to end up, and Forster has an excellent turn of phrase on how difficult it is to direct one's own life:"Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome ¿nerves¿ or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire. "
If you liked Pride and Prejudice you'll probably like this story of a young woman who almost marries the wrong guy. She's a little immature but it's a fun read and it all turns out in the end.
While traveling in Italy, a young Victorian woman Lucy Honeychurch hopes to explore and learn about the artwork and architecture of the area. Instead she has a brush with violence that leads her into a an intrigue with a young man. She flees her passion, traveling from Italy back to England, where she must learn to listen to her own heart. I was impressed with Forster's take on his characters, making them complicated and interesting and often funny. I especially enjoyed his portrayal of Lucy, who's independent spirit is hidden deep down beneath her layers of appropriate behavior. Forster treated her as a person and even advocates a level of equality between a man and a woman, especially in romantic relationships, hinting that the kind of man as protector role which puts women down is a backwards kind of ideology. Forster is compassionate about his characters, showing depth of soul and potential for redemption even in the antagonists whom other writers might villainize. On top of that Forster's writing style is gorgeous with crisp clean prose. He weaves in metaphor beautifully without resorting to the kind of over the top sentence construction that can be confusing and is often seen in older works. The simplicity of style makes for a smooth and easy read. I loved it. More Forster, please!
"Let's go to Italy!" "Yes, let's!" I decided to read this book for the wrong reasons (our upcoming trip to Italy and my incessant need to immerse myself in all things Italian) but by the time I'd finished reading the first page, marveling at the beauty of Forster's writing, I knew I'd found a new addition to my list of Books You Must Read. Our main character, Lucy Honeychurch (what a great name!) is off to Italy with a relative. She meets a man, George Emerson, who startles her, frightens her, with his intensity, and she bolts back to her secure home in England and quickly becomes engaged to a comfortable man. But it is too late for comfort, and when she finds herself unexpectedly meeting up with George again, Lucy must choose between a life and a semblance of a life. Beautiful writing. You will love this book.
I don't know how I ended up with this book, but after I did I started to notice it on all kinds of "Best 100 Novels of All Time" lists.I'm not sure what that was about. It was fine, I didn't hate it, but it wasn't anything particularly special either.The story is that of a girl taking a holiday with her spinster aunt. She meets a boy, kisses him and is apparently 'ruined' (the book was written in 1908). She eventually becomes engaged to another man, despite this secret of being 'ruined'. Of course, she eventually runs into the original young man that she kissed, breaks off her engagement and lives happily ever after.
A Room with a View is yet another "classic novel" that I never got around to reading¿nor did I ever see the movie based on it. Apparently the book has made a few "100 best novels" lists and has received some pretty good praise. I also haven't read much by Forster¿actually the only other book I read by him is A Passage to India. I did notice a few similar tones or themes between the two books.Similar to Passage, A Room with a View is a romantic period piece involving a young woman undertaking some exotic travels. We start off in Italy with a young woman, Lucy, and her chaperone, Charlotte, staying in a hotel overlooking Florence. The book title comes from an early experience in the book where Lucy and Charlotte are disappointed to find that their hotel room does NOT have a view of the river. Some other tourists, a father and son¿the Emersons, hear their conversation and offer to change rooms with them.Through a series of both mundane and extraordinary events, Lucy experiences Italy. She makes new friends and is discouraged by her aunt/chaperone Charlotte to not make friends with the Emersons who are largely looked down on by all other visitors to the hotel. Naturally, Lucy and the son, George, are pushed together by a variety of circumstances. She finds herself excited, frightened and confused by her feelings towards him and by midway through the novel they are separated and she has decided to hate him.As Part Two of the novel opens, we find Lucy back in England, engaged to be married to another man, Cecil. It's evident that she doesn't love him and in many ways doesn't even like him. But she's confused about who she is and what she wants. To confuse matters more, the Emersons come to stay in the same quiet little town. In many ways you can probably predict the story arc. There are a number of surprising and unexpected elements but the general progression of the book is somewhat predictable. Many of the characters are flat and unremarkable. And yet, the book is deemed a classic and lauded as great. So what makes it so?One thing is that the book is vivid with details. It creates a wonderful backdrop of setting and culture as it describes and shows England and Italy. There is a lot of depth in the way the two countries and cultures are counterbalanced against one another. That counterbalance seems evocative of an underlying theme in the novel.Where Italy is portrayed as more open and free, England is shown as stifling and constrictive. Indeed the tourists flee from England to Italy in an attempt to gain freedom from their home. While there are many static characters, they too may be part of the thematic contrast against the few very dynamic characters¿showing the difference between the staid, predictable characters and the developing, emerging characters.Although there are some political nuances, iI think it's safe to say that the novel isn't commenting so much about the politics or culture of Italy vs England as it is about the idea of growing as individuals (particularly women) by breaking free of repression and oppressive conformity. Rather than simply accepting the status quo and allowing ourselves to be pushed into a box, we need to learn how to think for ourselves, find out what we truly want to become and then work to break free and become what we are capable of.In many ways, this felt like a fairly typical period romance from the late-19th/early-20th century. And in many ways it is. But with its detailed writing and intriguingly nuanced characters as well as interesting counterpoints, I can see where this novel gains its praise. It's not likely to be something I would read again and again, but it is certainly worth exploring and could certainly benefit from a close reading with attention to theme and detail.****4 out of 5 stars