Reverend Arthur Beebe
You have to wonder what’s really going on with Mr. Beebe. He’s certainly an intriguing and likeable character; we enjoy hanging out with him, but we never feel like we know him. Maybe nobody does. The thing is, we desperately want to get to know Mr. Beebe better, and perhaps figure out what the secret to his success is. He’s the only character who is able to move between all of the different social situations in the book without difficulty – the only person he doesn’t get along with is Cecil (big loss), who doesn’t agree with the parson’s open-minded affability.
However, though Mr. Beebe can level easily with anyone, nobody can really level with him. We know what his interests are – he cultivates a lot of them – but we don’t know what his desires or motivations are. One possible explanation for this that is often cited is his potential homosexuality. We know that he’s a dedicated celibate, and he certainly never betrays any desires towards anyone, male or female, but several comments on the narrator’s part indicate that his interest in women is almost scientific – he’s fascinated by them and by their psychology, but he is certainly not “enthralled” by them the way other men might be. Forster himself was gay, and homosexuality often emerges as a theme in his other novels. It’s understandable why any references to same-sex attraction are thickly veiled here; after all, Forster wrote and lived most of his life in a period in which homosexuality was actually illegal.
Mr. Beebe remains a fascinating and powerfully influential character. Though he is firmly on the side of youth, love, and happiness for most of the novel, his character takes an interesting turn at the end; in Chapter Eighteen, he actually joins forces with Charlotte to sent Lucy to Greece. His real motivation is to prevent her from marrying anyone – he has a somewhat mysterious compulsion to “place her out of danger” until she’s certain that marriage isn’t a possibility anymore. Though he doesn’t express this feeling to anyone, it’s what motivates his actions for the rest of the book. He is a little confused himself about his choice to help send Lucy into a life of spinsterhood. In the end, when he finds out that Lucy actually loves George, he tells her to marry him, but does so without enthusiasm; Mr. Beebe hates most of all to see people go against his plans once he’s figured them out, and when Lucy crosses back over to the side of marital bliss, he simply loses interest in her.