A Room with a View
by E.M. Forster
A Room with a View Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
- On her scandalous journey alone, Lucy does in fact feel impassioned and emboldened by the Beethoven. The piano always makes her feel like she wants something more than witty or gossipy conversation, so she takes off. What she really wants to do is go on the electric tram (how very daring!), but she knows it’s too unladylike.
- This frustrates Lucy to no end. She can’t understand why some things are unladylike – women who do daring or unexpected things are not respected, and there are many informative poems that demonstrate this fact. The idea of the “mediaeval lady” comes up here – this is important, so remember it later. A "mediaeval lady" is the ideal Victorian woman, who does her duties and stays at home, despite her longings to travel. While men are allowed to go off and have a fine time and be truly alive, women are expected to uphold a certain idealized standard, even if they want to drop the image and just go off on their own.
- This just pisses Lucy off, though she has difficulty coming to terms with her discontentment. To feel more under control, she stages a personal rebellion – no, she doesn’t run off with a hot Latin lover, nor does she run away from the Bertolini and join the circus. She doesn’t even go on the coveted ride on the electric tram. Instead, Lucy rebels by going to a shop and purchasing some postcards. These aren’t just any postcards, though. One of them is of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” a card that Charlotte had convinced her not to buy earlier, since Venus is a “pity” (Charlotte’s hilarious euphemism for a nude). Lucy also buys a variety of other well known pictures, since she has quite a wide-ranging appreciation for well-known artists (yes, we’re being sarcastic, but so is Forster, so it’s okay).
- After her giddy shopping spree, Lucy is still unsatisfied. She wanders around, wondering why nothing exciting happens in her life. Surrounded by somewhat eerie and beautiful statues, the narrator implies that something is happening, though Lucy (being young and expectant) wants more. Fortunately, more is about to happen.
- The beauty of the buildings and the sky at twilight astound Lucy. She prepares to walk home.
- Suddenly the “more” we just promised you would happen comes to pass. Lucy witnesses two Italian men fighting briefly over a small debt; all of a sudden, one of them stabs the other. The victim looks at Lucy as though he has something to say to her, but instead, he opens his mouth and blood pours out. A crowd appears suddenly and hides the men from her view.
- George Emerson, who apparently has been slinking around in the shadows, appears. Lucy feels profoundly guilty for the man’s death – after all, she wished that something would happen, then, tragically, something did.
- All of a sudden, George Emerson is holding Lucy in his arms (scandal alert!). She’d fainted after the crime, and now George attempts to help her home. Lucy, however, is aware of the potential for scandal. In a surprisingly crafty move, she asks George to fetch the photographs she purchased, which she dropped in the square. When he goes to do it, she tries to run away, fairly ridiculously.
- George discovers her making off like a bandit, and stops her. He orders her to stop and rest until he gets back, which she actually does this time. While he’s gone, Lucy realizes that she, like the stabbed man, has undergone some kind of spiritual change.
- George returns, and Lucy talks about the murder. She’s strangely excited and confused by the events.
- George throws something into the river; Lucy realizes that it’s her packet of photographs. She’s angry, and he admits that he just threw them in because they were covered in blood and he didn’t know what to do with them – he thinks perhaps they frightened him. For a moment, he’s boyish and embarrassed, not stiff and awkward. He opens up to Lucy, and she knows something more scandalous is about to happen unless she stops it.
- The pair is almost at the hotel. To avert disaster, Lucy attempts to make George bend to the rules of polite society (i.e., not mention her behavior and their shocking embrace to anyone). George agrees, but Lucy has the sense that, though he’s trustworthy and kind, he’s not “chivalrous.” He remembers everything that happens, even if he won’t say anything about it, and they both feel like something has changed – the narrator tells us that it’s "Childhood" shifting into "Youth."
- Lucy tries to act like things are back to normal. George refuses to believe this. She asks him why, and he mysteriously just says that he wants to live. She wonders what he means as she looks out over the river, whose sound reminds her of music. We also end the chapter wondering exactly what he meant.
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