Forster investigates ideas about gender by showing how the body exists as a site of societal contest. A body that has been claimed by society as, for example, female due to its reproductive abilities will have definite strictures placed upon it. Likewise, a male body has certain freedoms which he can sacrifice in order to show himself more civilized. Beebe, as usual, unconscious of having put his finger on it, nicely cuts to the point himself with a rich summary. "Can you picture a lady who has been introduced to another lady by a third lady opening civilities with 'How do you do? Come and have a bathe'? And yet you will tell me that the sexes are equal." Men have certain privileges denied to women and the continuation of this paradox depends on Lucy becoming a woman like Charlotte.
Women like Charlotte exhibit absurd prudishness about male flesh while using the body to censure young women. They hold up the "medieval lady," who loathed all physical elements, especially her own flesh, as the ideal. Charlotte displays this stance early through her shock over George's admittance that his father bathes. She also betrays her ideas when she refers to naked Venus as "a pity." Charlotte desires a world of chivalry where men donned armor to amuse welldressed ladies. The distance between men and women is, thus, well maintained. Charlotte uses her body against Lucy constantly. For example, she wins their fight at Fiesole by sitting on the wet...
(The entire section is 1305 words.)
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