How much of our identities are shaped by the circumstances in which we grow up? In Forster’s text, our heroine faces a real crisis of identity; she must choose between the conventional constraints and expectations she grew up with (those of stuffy Edwardian England) and the independent, questioning self that gradually emerges as she explores the world around her. The novel poses the development of personal identity as a kind of choice – we can either stay within the boundaries of how others think we should be, or we can deviate from these expectations and pursue ourselves as we know we should be.
Lucy’s crisis of identity is not entirely resolved by the end of the novel; she goes from espousing society’s ideas to those of the Emersons, but doesn’t come up with her own.
Individual identity is secondary in importance to social function in the conventional society shown in this novel.