In Chapter Three of this book, coyly entitled “Music, Violets, and the Letter ‘S,’” the mysterious letter stands for a naughty word that is absolutely unutterable in the society Forster describes. What, you may ask, could this forbidden word possibly be? We begin to wonder what E.M. Forster’s really doing. Surely this sense of taboo indicates that this “Room” contains deep, dark, sexy depths? Surely this book can’t really be G-rated?
The word, in fact, is “stomach.”
Deep, dark, sexy depths? Not a chance. The fact that this innocent body part has to be reduced to a comically serious initial tells us a lot about the people Forster’s novel and the world they inhabit. If mention of a little tummy ache is risqué, then logic tells us that mention of S-E-X is absolutely out of the picture. In this scene and many others, the book manages to show us how ridiculous (and occasionally hilarious) the limitations of polite society really are, without ever breaking these limitations itself. So…G-rated it remains, albeit with an implicit understanding of the fact that some things in life are rated R – people just aren’t allowed to talk about them.