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A Room with a View

A Room with a View
First Edition cover
Author E. M. Forster
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Edward Arnold
Publication date
1908
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 321 pp
ISBN NA

A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by English writer E. M. Forster, about a young woman in the repressed culture of Edwardian era England. Set in Italy and England, the story is both a romance and a critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation in 1985.

The Modern Library ranked A Room with a View 79th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century (1998).

Contents

  • Plot summary 1
    • Part one 1.1
    • Part two 1.2
    • Appendix 1.3
  • Major themes 2
  • Allusions/references to other works 3
  • Stage, film, radio, and television adaptations 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Plot summary

Part one

The first part of the novel is set in Arno. This behaviour causes Miss Bartlett some consternation, as it appears impolite. Without letting Lucy speak, Miss Bartlett refuses the offer, looking down on the Emersons because of their unconventional behaviour and thinking it would place her under an "unseemly obligation" towards them. However, another guest at the pension, an Anglican clergyman named Mr. Beebe, persuades the pair to accept the offer, assuring Miss Bartlett that Mr. Emerson only meant to be kind.

The next day, Lucy embarks on a tour of Florence with another guest, Miss Eleanor Lavish, a novelist who shows Lucy the back streets of Florence, takes her

Part two

In Rome, Lucy spends time with Cecil Vyse, whom she knew in England. Cecil proposes to Lucy twice in Italy; she rejects him both times. As Part Two begins, Lucy has returned to Surrey, England to her family home, Windy Corner. Cecil proposes yet again at Windy Corner, and this time she accepts. Cecil is a sophisticated and "superior" Londoner who is desirable in terms of rank and class, even though he despises country society; he is also somewhat of a comic figure in the novel, as he gives himself airs and is quite pretentious.

The vicar, Mr. Beebe, announces that new tenants have leased a local cottage; the new arrivals turn out to be the Emersons, who have been told of the available cottage at a chance meeting with Cecil; the young man brought them to the village as a comeuppance to the cottage's landlord, whom Cecil thinks to be a snob. Fate takes an ironic turn as Lucy's brother, Freddy, meets George and invites him to bathe in a nearby pond. Freddy, George and Mr Beebe go to the pond, in the woods, take off their clothes and swim. They enjoy themselves so much they end up running around the pond and through the bushes, until Lucy, her mother, and Cecil arrive, having taken a short-cut through the woods. Freddy later invites George to play tennis at Windy Corner. Although Lucy is initially mortified at the thought of facing both George and Cecil (who is also visiting Windy Corner that Sunday), she resolves to be gracious. Cecil annoys everyone by reading aloud from a light romance novel that contains a scene suspiciously reminiscent of when George kissed Lucy in Florence. George catches Lucy alone in the garden and kisses her again. Lucy realises that the novel is by Miss Lavish (the writer-acquaintance from Florence) and that Charlotte must thus have told her about the kiss.

Furious with Charlotte for betraying her secret, Lucy forces her cousin to watch as she tells George to leave and never return. George argues with her, saying that Cecil only sees her as an "object for the shelf" and will never love her enough to grant her independence, while George loves her for who she is. Lucy is moved but remains firm. Later that evening, after Cecil again rudely declines to play tennis, Lucy sours on Cecil and immediately breaks off her engagement. She decides to flee to Greece with acquaintances from her trip to Florence, but shortly before her departure she accidentally encounters Mr. Emerson senior. He is not aware that Lucy has broken her engagement with Cecil, and Lucy cannot lie to the old man. Mr. Emerson forces Lucy to admit out loud that she has been in love with his son George all along.

The novel ends in Florence, in melodramatic fashion, where George and Lucy have eloped without her mother's consent. Although Lucy "had alienated Windy Corner, perhaps for ever," the story ends with the promise of lifelong love for both her and George.

Appendix

In some editions, an appendix to the novel is given entitled "A View without a Room," written by Forster in 1958 as to what occurred between Lucy and George after the events of the novel. It is Forster's afterthought of the novel, and he quite clearly states that "I cannot think where George and Lucy live." They were quite comfortable up until the end of conscientious objector, lost his government job but was given non-combatant duties to avoid prison, leaving Mrs Honeychurch deeply upset with her son-in-law. Mr Emerson died during the course of the war, shortly after having an argument with the police about Lucy continuing to play Beethoven during the war. Eventually they had three children, two girls and a boy, and moved to Carshalton from Highgate to find a home. Despite their wanting to move into Windy Corner after the death of Mrs Honeychurch, Freddy sold the house to support his family as he was "an unsuccessful but prolific doctor."

After the outbreak of

Major themes

The main themes of this novel include the empowerment of a young Edwardian girl, sensual awakening, the role of institutional religion, growing up and true love. It is written in the third person omniscient, though particular passages are often seen "through the eyes" of a specific character.

A Room with a View is Forster's most romantic and optimistic book. He utilises many of his trademark techniques, including contrasts between "dynamic" and "static" characters. "Dynamic" characters are those whose ideas and inner-self develop or change in the plot, whereas "static" characters remain constant.

Published in 1908, the novel touches upon many issues surrounding society and politics in early 20th century Edwardian culture. Forster differentiates between conservative and radical thinking, illustrated in part by his contrasts between Medieval (Mr. Beebe, Miss Bartlett, Cecil Vyse) and Renaissance characters (Lucy, the Emersons).

Lucy personifies the young and impressionable generation emerging during that era, during which women's suffrage would gain strong ground. Forster, manifesting his own hopes for society, ends the book with Lucy having chosen her own path—a free life with the man she loves. The novel could even be called a Bildungsroman, as it follows the development of the protagonist.

Binary opposites are played throughout the novel, and often there are mentions of "rooms" and "views". Characters and places associated with "rooms" are, more often than not, conservative and uncreative – Mrs Honeychurch is often pictured in a room, as is Cecil. Characters like Freddy and the Emersons, on the other hand, are often described as being "outside" — representing their open, forward-thinking and modern character types. There is also a constant theme of Light and Dark, where on many occasions, Cecil himself states how Lucy represents light, but Forster responds by stating how Cecil is the Dark as they bathe naked in the Honeychurches' pond, alluding to the fact that they can never be together, and that she really belongs with George. Interestingly, the name Lucy means "light", while the name Cecil means "blind", i.e. one who is "in the dark".

Forster also contrasts the symbolic differences between Italy and England. He idealised Italy as a place of freedom and sexual expression. Italy promised raw, natural passion that inspired many Britons at the time who wished to escape the constrictions of English society. While Lucy is in Italy her views of the world change dramatically, and scenes such as the murder in the piazza open her eyes to a world beyond her "protected life in Windy Corner".

Allusions/references to other works

  • Mr. Beebe recalls his first encounter with Lucy was hearing her play the first of the two movements of Beethoven's final piano sonata, Opus 111, at a talent show in Tunbridge Wells.
  • While visiting the Emersons Mr. Beebe contemplates the numerous books strewn around.
"I fancy they know how to read – a rare accomplishment. What have they got? Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and so we go on. Well, I suppose your generation knows its own business, Honeychurch." [2]
  • Towards the end of Part One, Cecil quotes a few unidentified stanzas ("Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height", etc.). They are from Tennyson's narrative poem "The Princess".
  • In the Emersons' home, the wardrobe has "Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes." (a quote from Henry David Thoreau's Walden) painted upon it.
  • In chapter five, after bemoaning the fact that people do not appreciate landscape paintings any more, Mr. Eager misquotes William Wordsworth's poem title,"The World Is Too Much With Us", saying "The world is too much for us."
  • Cecil announces his engagement to Lucy with the words: "I promessi sposi" ("the betrothed") – a reference either to the 1856 Ponchielli opera of that name or the Manzoni novel on which it is based.
  • When George is lying on the grass in Part Two, Lucy asks him about the view, and he replies, "My father says the only perfect view is the sky over our heads", prompting Cecil to make a throwaway comment about the works of Dante.

Stage, film, radio, and television adaptations

The novel was first adapted for the theatre by Richard Cottrell with Lance Severling for the Prospect Theatre Company, and staged at the Albery Theatre on 27 November 1975 by directors Toby Robertson and Timothy West.

Daniel Day-Lewis as "Cecil Vyse" and Simon Callow as "The Reverend Mr. Beebe".

Stephen Moore as "The Reverend Mr. Beebe". The production was rebroadcast on BBC7 in June 2007 and March 2010.

In 2006, Elaine Cassidy (Lucy Honeychurch), Sophie Thompson (Charlotte Bartlett), Laurence Fox (Cecil Vyse), Sinéad Cusack (Miss Lavish), Timothy West (Mr Eager) and Mark Williams (Reverend Beebe). This adaptation was broadcast in the US on many PBS stations on Sunday 13 April 2008.

A theatre adaptation was given by Snap Theatre Company in 1990 to good critical reviews. Adapted by Lawrence Kane and Andy Graham (Artistic Director of the company), it toured schools, colleges, and middle-scale theatre venues throughout England.

In popular culture

  • Noël Coward composed a song which was titled as "A Room with a View" in 1928.
  • In the episode "Branch Wars" of the U.S. television show "The Office," the Finer Things Club is seen reading and discussing the book.
  • The film adaptation is discussed by the main characters of the British romantic drama Weekend.

References

  1. ^ BBC News (2006): Davies to adapt Room with a View

External links

  • A Room with a View at Project Gutenberg
  • The text
  • Plot summary and links
  • The "Room with a View" where the famous movie was acted.
  • Map
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