A Room with a View
by E.M. Forster
Medieval vs. Renaissance Art
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
All of the stodgy British tourists in the Pension Bertolini are in Florence to soak up the city’s famous aura of art and culture. The art references start here and continue through the rest of the novel. Forster uses the contrast between the Medieval and Renaissance periods to divide his characters into two teams. Cecil is the obvious captain of Team Medieval – he is described as a Gothic statue, lean and austere. George and Lucy, on the other hand, are decidedly Renaissance. George is most often compared to a figure from Michelangelo and to the classical images of gods and heroes that inspired Renaissance artists. Lucy is aligned with the women of Leonardo da Vinci. These Renaissance and Classical images imply “fruition” and vibrant new life (after all, “renaissance” means "rebirth" in French), while the austere nature of the Medieval/Gothic aesthetic as seen by Forster suggests a joyless, celibate existence.
Forster also takes this opposition of Medieval versus Renaissance out of the context of art and into the broader world of social systems. He classifies the stratified society that Lucy lives in as Medieval; Cecil in particular sums up a system of gender relations that’s “feudal” in nature. The author also plays upon the image of the medieval period as the Dark Ages; he frequently notes that a mysterious “darkness” threatens to overtake Windy Corner, Lucy, and George as Lucy’s happy ending seems less and less likely. However, light and rebirth win out in the end: Chapter Twenty’s title, “The End of the Middle Ages,” suggests that Lucy and George have finally broken through to the Renaissance by leaving the restrictive social world of England behind them.