E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View

“She beheld the horrible fate that overtook three Papists – two he-babies and a she-baby who began their career by sousing each other with the Holy Water, and then proceeded to the Machiavelli memorial, dripping but hallowed” (21).

E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View is the coming of age story of Lucy Honeychurch. She’s in the company of her cousin and chaperon, Charlotte Bartlett, along with several others. Many period bildungsroman novels used the European tour as a thematic element to highlight the maturity and development of the protagonist. This particular novel focuses on Lucy’s stay in Florence, Italy.

“It was unladylike. Why? Why were most big things unladylike?” (39).

Lucy wanted a view when she arrived at her hotel, and she managed to get it. Forster follows her wanderings and musings; he manages to capture how she’s blooming socially. It’s a very feminist text in that sudden friendships between women, especially those that seem at odds with one another, are of great interest to the author. Nevertheless, the antifeminist themes are still utilized with an almost frank brutality. Charlotte says at some point, “It was not that ladies were inferior to me; it was that they were different. Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves” (39). Reading that made my hackles rise!

“We literary hacks are shameless creatures. I believe there’s no secret of the human heart into which we wouldn’t pry” (48).

One of the characters is an author, and I find that she seems to be one step ahead of Lucy when it comes to these big worldly things and these secrets of the human heart. It’s as if the novel tells you that the challenge is to cover those unladylike things with the finesse of words. How French. And speaking of, there has be a love interest, no? Lucy is somehow charmed by George Emerson, but follows English convention and engages herself to Cecil Vyse. It’s a common human conundrum; choose security or passion. Forster even says, “Passion should believe itself irresistible” (48). It will only get you so far in life, we’re better off with practicality. Circumventing this little social knot is something that will keep anyone in love up all night. Oh, and Helena Bonham Carter plays Lucy in this film adaptation; I don’t think most people these days highlight her period work though some of us junkies absolutely love them.

“But they have yielded to the only enemy that matters – the enemy within. They have sinned against passion and truth, and vain will be their strife after virtue. As the years pass, they are censured. Their pleasantry and their piety show cracks, their wit becomes cynicism, their unselfishness hypocrisy; they feel and produce discomfort wherever they go. They have sinned against Eros and against Pallas Athene, and not by any heavenly intervention, but by the ordinary course of nature, those allied deities will be avenged” (175).

Works Cited

Forster, E. M., and Mona Simpson. A Room with a View. Toronto New York: Bantam Books, 1988. Print.

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