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Themes

Forster uses images of famous Italian art of the Medieval and Renaissance periods to illustrate (not literally) the feelings, opinions, and personalities of his characters. The author clearly compares the austere art of the Middle Ages to the austere and implicitly unenlightened culture of bourgeois Edwardian England, the world in which our story takes place. References to Renaissance art, on the other hand, let us know which characters are able to transcend their dull and commonplace roles in society. For Forster, certain types of art and music are capable of expressing real, productive human feeling – just as certain characters are capable of surpassing the expectations of society and creating their own identities.

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. Cecil sees Lucy as a Leonardo painting, but can’t understand that he himself is thoroughly medieval in nature. Why is he capable of seeing depth in others, but not achieving it himself?
  2. Do the medieval and renaissance categories apply to characters other than Lucy, George, and Cecil?
  3. How does Lucy’s approach to music change as she develops?
  4. The “Art and Culture” referenced here are not English – rather, we most frequently see allusions to Italian art and German music. How does this contribute to Forster’s depiction of English culture?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In the novel, art and music ultimately don’t provide sufficient substitutes for human experience.

Characters who allow high culture to mediate their lives entirely, such as Cecil and this mother, are essentially separate from any real appreciation of beauty.

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