Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
A Room with a View may be considered in two parts, with part 1 taking place in Italy and representing the Greek world and its Dionysian element and part 2 taking place in England and representing the medieval or ascetic. A synthesis of the views or divisions will provide a balanced perspective.
Miss Lucy Honeychurch, a young Englishwoman, and Miss Charlotte Bartlett, her cousin and chaperon, arrive at the Pension Bertolini and are disappointed to find that they have been misled about their rooms. They are not south, but north, and neither has a view. During dinner, Mr. Emerson and his son, George, generously offer to exchange their rooms, which do have a view. Emerson believes that women like looking at a view; men do not. He does not care what he sees outside; his view is within. Charlotte and Lucy are startled by the so-called tactlessness and indelicateness of their offer. They see Reverend Arthur Beebe, who assures the ladies that some niceties go against the grain. He agrees to act as an intermediary and makes arrangements with the Emersons to switch rooms. Charlotte is careful not to give Lucy the room formerly occupied by George. She believes that, in a small way, she is a woman of the world and knows where some things can lead.
Later, Beebe hears Lucy playing the piano and asks if he can say something daring. He tells her that if she could live in the way that she plays Beethoven, it would be very exciting for everyone. Music provides the one outlet for Lucy’s enormous passion and is indeed a force that will eventually lead her to a more vital and spontaneous existence.
Lucy later decides to go for a walk alone. She sees Mr. Emerson at Santa Croce Church. He is clearly a nonconformist and guides her through the Giotto frescoes. Lucy finds that she is very comfortable with him, but she is confused over why he is so concerned about his son. Meanwhile Miss Eleanor Lavish, a novelist, and Charlotte are wandering about Italy alone. Miss Lavish believes that only by exploring the unknown does one get to know a country. She tells Charlotte that she has her eye on Lucy, for she believes that Lucy is open to the physical sensations and can be transfigured in Italy.
Lucy walks through the Piazza Signoria and passes two men arguing over a debt. She faints at the sight of the ensuing street brawl as a stabbed man, bleeding from the mouth, dies at her feet. George is there to retrieve her. After he revives her, she asks him to get the photographs that she dropped during the chaos. Because they have blood on them, George throws them away. The Italian’s death brings them close together. Lucy asks that George not tell anyone about the incident.
Traveling with a number of guests from the pension, Lucy and Charlotte drive to Fiesole. The group disperses, and Lucy asks to be taken to speak with Beebe. The driver mistakenly leads her to...
(The entire section is 1183 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Lucy Honeychurch and Charlotte Bartlett are disappointed by the Pension Bertolini, where they are staying in Florence, and by the fact that their rooms have no view. They are embarrassed at dinner at the pension when Mr. Emerson offers for himself and his son to exchange rooms with the two women, as their rooms have a view. Lucy and Charlotte’s unhappiness decreases when the Reverend Arthur Beebe, whom they had known previously, and who has been appointed rector of Lucy’s home parish, joins them at dinner. After dinner, he manages to convince Charlotte that the exchange of rooms will not put the women under any obligation to the Emersons. The change, although effected, merely confirms Charlotte’s opinion that the Emersons are ill-bred.
At Santa Croce Church, Lucy meets the Emersons, who guide her to the Giotto frescoes that she has come to see. She finds that she is more at ease with Mr. Emerson than she had expected to be, although she is confused by his rejection of artistic and religious cant and his concern about his son.
Late one afternoon, Lucy declares that she is going for a walk alone. She buys some photographs of paintings that she has seen and then walks through the Piazza Signoria. As she does so, she passes two men who are arguing over a debt. One stabs the other, and the stricken man, bleeding from the mouth, dies at her feet. At that moment, she sees George Emerson watching from across the square. As he reaches her side, she faints. After she has recovered, she sends him to get her photographs, which she had dropped. Disturbed because they are covered with blood, he tosses them into the Arno on the way home. When Lucy asks why he has thrown the pictures away, he is forced to tell her. He feels that something very significant has happened to him in the piazza. Lucy and George stop near the pension, and Lucy leans beside him over a parapet and asks him to tell no one that he had been there. Perturbed by their enforced intimacy, she is puzzled and amazed when George says that the murder has made him want to live.
In a large party, the visitors at the pension, together with a resident English chaplain, drive toward Fiesole. Lucy, excluded from Miss Lavish’s conversation with Charlotte, asks one of the drivers to direct her to the clergyman. Instead, he leads her to George. Lucy finds at the end of a path a terrace covered with violets. While she stands there, radiant with joy at the beauty of the place, George steps forward and kisses her. Charlotte, whom neither Lucy nor George had seen at first, calls to her cousin to return to the group.
Charlotte tells Lucy that George is a cad and that obviously he is accustomed to stealing kisses. She takes advantage of Lucy’s need for sympathy to indicate that George’s way of life, as she sees it, is merely brutal. In the morning, Lucy and Charlotte leave the pension, taking the train for Rome.
Back at her home in Surrey, England, Lucy becomes engaged to Cecil Vyse, whom she had visited in Rome. When Mr. Beebe comes to the house for tea, he is...
(The entire section is 1252 words.)