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Themes

Everyone lies sometimes. Forster’s text playfully acknowledges this very overtly, particularly in a series of chapter titles in which our protagonist lies to just about everyone else in the book (“Lying to George,” “Lying to Cecil,” et cetera). Her lies definitely aren’t malicious; rather, she always thinks she’s doing the right thing. In the end, though, it’s clear that the biggest lies are the ones she tells herself – Forster’s very aware of the fact that sometimes the hardest thing to do is admit that we’re deceiving ourselves. The main conflict of the novel is the protagonist’s struggle to face up to her feelings and simply come clean with everyone, including herself.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Is Lucy the only character that lies to herself and others in this novel, or is she simply the only one who realizes it?
  2. Mr. Emerson and George are brutally honest, both to themselves and others. Are there any other characters that are able to see themselves and their desires clearly?
  3. Mr. Emerson’s adherence to his principles (not getting George baptized) indirectly brought about the death of his wife. Lucy’s eventual embrace of her true feelings leads to alienation from her family and Mr. Beebe. Is honesty always this dangerous?

Chew on This

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

The Emersons’ dedication to honesty is what really sets them apart from society, rather than their class.

English society as depicted in the novel is essentially untruthful, in contrast to the Italian mode, which inspires directness and passion.

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