Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1183
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...
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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 George, who is standing at the end of a beautiful pathway covered with violets. Captivated by the moment, George embraces Lucy. Their kiss is interrupted by Charlotte, who rushes Lucy away. Charlotte is afraid that George will talk about the kiss and tells Lucy that he is obviously accustomed to stealing kisses. Cutting their visit short, Charlotte and Lucy take the train to Rome.
Lucy returns home to Surrey and promises to marry Cecil Vyse, a decadent dilettante who revels in material possessions. Beebe visits Lucy and comments on how promising she seems to be. He notes that she plays Beethoven passionately and lives so quietly. Beebe suspects that one day music and life will mingle and that Lucy will be wonderful at both. Cecil startles Beebe with the announcement of his plans to marry Lucy. While traveling in Rome, Cecil meets the Emersons and convinces them to lease a villa in Surrey from Sir Harry Otway. The local residents had hoped that a certain class of residents would move into the villas, and Cecil encourages the Emersons to move in to disrupt the social order.
Beebe takes Freddy Honeychurch (Lucy’s brother) to meet the Emersons, and Freddy encourages George and Beebe to “go for a bath” at the pond. Lucy, Cecil, and her mother encounter the frolicking swimmers while walking through the grounds. Lucy is shocked to learn that the Emersons have taken the Otway villa. Cousin Charlotte comes to visit and is concerned that the Emersons are in Surrey. George, Freddy, Lucy, and a friend invite Cecil to play tennis with them, and he sneeringly declines. After the tennis game, Cecil reads “Under the Loggia” by Eleanor Lavish aloud to George and Lucy, who recognize the description of their kiss. On the way into the house, George kisses her again. Lucy scolds Charlotte for telling Miss Lavish about the kiss.
Lucy lies to George about her feelings for him. She implores him to leave and never return. George tells her that Cecil is incapable of loving her as a woman and can only love her as a possession; he tells Lucy that he loves her and that Cecil does not. George reluctantly leaves. Symbolically, George can be seen as a protagonist of life, Cecil of material possessions (art), and Charlotte of order and decorum (antilife). If Lucy marries Cecil (who thinks of her as a work of art, not as a woman), she would be denying her own happiness. At this point, however, she is ashamed of her passionate attraction for George. Denying her love for George, Lucy breaks her engagement to Cecil and makes plans to meet Teresa and Catherine Alan in Athens. Charlotte arranges a meeting between the elder Mr. Emerson and Lucy. Lucy lies to George, Cecil, Beebe, and Mr. Emerson about her feelings. She finally abandons her plans to go to Greece, marries George against the wishes of her mother, and returns to Italy with George to their room with a view.
In The Achievement of E. M. Forster (1962), J. B. Beer posits the notion of the importance and symbolism of the “view” in a conversation between Lucy and Cecil:“I had got an idea—I dare say wrongly—that you feel more at home with me in a room.” “A room?” she echoed, hopelessly bewildered. “Yes. Or at the most, in a garden, or on a road. Never in the real country like this.” . . . “I connect you with a view—a certain type of view. . . . When I think of you it’s always as in a room” . . . To her surprise, he seemed annoyed. “A drawing-room, pray? With no view?” “Yes, with no view, I fancy. Why not?”
Significantly, the novel begins and ends with the same view in the pension in Italy. The reticent Lucy is finally victorious over the repressive urgings of conformity and accepts her call of life. She is a different person now and has opted for life rather than antilife. The union of George and Lucy represents a comingling of intellect and heart.