A Room with a View
by E.M. Forster
A Room with a View Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary
- Next, we find ourselves at Windy Corner, Lucy’s home back in England. Some time has passed, but we’re not sure how much. We are introduced to Freddy (Lucy’s brother) and Mrs. Honeychurch, “two pleasant people.” Freddy, who is kind of an odd duck, is examining a bone and an anatomy book, while his mother is engaged in a more conventional pursuit – she’s writing a letter. Both are spying on events going on outside the house; the curtains are drawn (to save the new carpet from the sun), but Mrs. Honeychurch can’t help peeking out.
- We gather that the spectacle outside is provided by Lucy and someone named Cecil, who is apparently proposing marriage to her for the third time. Lucy has been busy since last we saw her.
- The much-refused Cecil is actually Cecil Vyse – as you may recall, the Vyses were the family Lucy and Charlotte went to visit in Rome after their disastrous departure from Florence.
- Mrs. Honeychurch’s letter is to Mrs. Vyse, on the topic of their children’s potential marriage. She and Freddy launch into a discussion of Cecil – do they or don’t they like him? Mrs. Honeychurch does (or at least she likes his qualifications… he’s clever, rich, and well-connected which, in those days, was good enough for anyone). Freddy admits that he’s basically told Cecil that he doesn’t like him. Freddy can’t explain just why, but he has a new mistrust of Cecil, partially based on a comment made by Mr. Beebe regarding Cecil’s “detached” nature.
- Freddy, by the way, is hilarious. He’s a total goofball, even when he’s trying to be serious. For example, when trying to think of the reasons for his dislike of Cecil, he comes up with things like “Cecil was the kind of fellow who would never wear another fellow’s cap.” Goofy though he may be, we get the feeling that Freddy’s judgments are quite apt.
- Mother and son discuss the letter to Mrs. Vyse some more, but are interrupted by Cecil himself. He’s described as mediaeval and “Gothic”-looking, i.e., lean and austere. He already doesn’t seem like a great match for Lucy, who refused to identify with the mediaeval woman in Chapter Four.
- Cecil pretentiously tells them (in Italian) that Lucy has agreed to marry him; when this is met with blank stares, he tells them in English as well.
- After the first burst of congratulations, the conversation flags. Mrs. Honeychurch starts to get sentimental, and stops herself – she hates soppiness. Again, we get the feeling that the Honeychurches as a unit are somewhat quirky but charming.
- Cecil starts giving orders, sending Lucy to tell her family about the engagement, and settling in to write his own letter to Mama Vyse.
- Left to his own devices, Cecil quickly makes us dislike him for the same ambiguous reasons Freddy doesn’t like him. He remembers his attraction to Lucy, which in turn we see through his mind’s eye. They’d known each other for some time, but he only began to see her as interesting when they met up in Rome – could it be that her experiences in Florence made her develop into something more interesting and unusual than the “commonplace” girl she was before? He now sees her as something artistic and reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings. Cecil’s feelings are theoretically romantic… however, he’s quickly distracted by looking at the room and evaluating its potential. He’s clearly judgmental of the Honeychurches and their unusual ways, and thinks about what he will do with the furnishings when he’s in charge of Windy Corner.
- Cecil writes a quick letter to his mother. The sight of Mrs. Honeychurch’s letter reminds him that he’s getting Lucy’s family along with Lucy; he’s not crazy about this idea, and resolves to introduce Lucy to a new social circle ASAP.
- Mr. Beebe stops in for a visit – remember, he recently moved to the parish of Summer Street. Nobody in this book ever really disappears; instead, characters pop up again and again.
- Cecil and Mr. Beebe have an awkward conversation about local happenings. Mr. Beebe brings up Cissie and Albert, which are not people, but cottages. Cecil is uninterested.
- When asked what his profession is, Cecil states that he has none – and that this is another example of his decadence. We think it’s just another example of his pretentiousness.
- Cecil then simultaneously compliments and puts Freddy down for his “healthiness.” He realizes that he’s being kind of lame, and attempts to change the conversation for the better.
- Both clergyman and fiancé perk up when they discuss Lucy. Cecil wants to know Mr. Beebe’s opinion of Lucy in Florence and at home; Mr. Beebe, creative as ever, shares the image of Lucy as a kite and Charlotte holding the string to keep her from drifting away. Cecil announces that the string has been broken – they are engaged. We have to wonder if the string is actually broken, or if it’s just been handed over to Cecil.
- Mr. Beebe is disappointed, for reasons not entirely known to us (or to him).
- The camaraderie the two men shared just a moment ago while discussing Lucy is gone. Cecil is reminded of the fact that he doesn’t like parsons; Mr. Beebe, on the other hand, clearly doesn’t like Cecil.
- Thankfully, the Honeychurches return before any further awkward conversation can take place. The mood lightens, more congratulations are dispensed, and the chapter ends with a somewhat self-consciously merry tea party.
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