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The conflict between social sentiments and private emotions is one that rages throughout this impressive text. The two extremes take bodily form in the Vyse family and then in the Emerson family respectively, with the Vyse family being all about keeping up appearances in society and the Emerson family praising the free expression of private emotions no matter how that brings them into conflict with social sentiments. However, the battleground for these two opposing forces is well and truly in the mind, body and soul of Lucy Honeychurch, a girl who is so obsessed with doing the right thing that she endlessly rehearses the kinds of things she should say and do to fit in and be accepted by the Vyse circle when she is engaged to Cecil. However, as her piano playing makes clear, there are private emotions within her, no matter how hard she tries to suppress them, and these eventually break out. Note how this is refered to when Mr. Beebe makes a very interesting comment about her piano playing and her life:
If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting--both for us and for her.
The way she plays and the way it hints at restless private energies and emotions clearly shows that her life and her spirit cannot be constrained in the aptly-named Vyse family. Her eventual marriage to George Emerson shows the triumph of private emotions as she finally seeks to live the way she plays the piano.
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