A Room with a View
by E.M. Forster
You may or may not remember, but a few years back, the cartoon website Homestar Runner was all the rage. Among its many quirky characters is the morose, Robert Smith-loving, falsetto-voiced Strong Sad. Strong Sad’s deal is that he’s infuriatingly down on himself all the time, and cultivates an incredibly powerful martyr complex. He’s the kind of character that’s funny, depressing, and infuriating all at the same time.
Well, remove the weird elephant feet, throw on a wig and a corset, and all of a sudden Strong Sad oddly resembles Charlotte Bartlett. Charlotte has the same artfully maintained martyr thing going on, and her passive aggression, like that of her toon equivalent, is practically beyond measure. She’s an embittered spinster who tries to pretend she’s not embittered, but can’t quite pull it off, and she seems to get a real perverse kick out of imposing the ridiculously strict and ridiculously arbitrary rules of the polite world on her young cousin. We don’t really know what Charlotte’s motives are – we do know that they’re certainly not as innocent as she tries to make Lucy believe they are. There’s really nothing going on in her lonely life, so she meddles unabashedly in the affairs of others (especially Lucy’s). It’s Charlotte who lets Lucy’s secret slip to Miss Lavish (for reasons unbeknownst to us – we just want to shake Charlotte and say, “Listen, if you’re going to tell a secret to anyone, don’t tell it to the nosiest lady in the world!”).
However, despite Charlotte’s many, many unpleasant characteristics, we have to wonder if there’s more to her than meets the eye – after all, George suggests that she may have actually helped the two young lovers reunite in the end, against all odds. It could very well be that a little part of Charlotte is still optimistic and genuinely gracious deep down inside.