A Room with a View
Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone. She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him (1.6).
Right off the bat, Charlotte starts classifying people by their actions, words, and appearances. This ritual of identifying who is safe to associate with and who isn’t is ridiculous – we know it, Forster knows it, Lucy suspects it, but society still goes about doing it.
She hastened after her cousin, who had already disappeared through the curtains—curtains which smote one in the face, and seemed heavy with more than cloth. Beyond them stood the unreliable Signora, bowing good-evening to her guests, and supported by 'Enery, her little boy, and Victorier, her daughter. It made a curious little scene, this attempt of the Cockney to convey the grace and geniality of the South. And even more curious was the drawing-room, which attempted to rival the solid comfort of a Bloomsbury boarding-house. Was this really Italy? (1.20).
How disappointing. Hoping to escape from England and its oppressive culture of social class and limitation, Lucy has landed in a kind of parody of Italy, as acted out by her own countrymen and women. We get the sense that Britishness, as conceived of by Forster, is inescapable, and with it comes the heavy weight of class and social expectation.
There was a haze of disapproval in the air, but whether the disapproval was of herself, or of Mr. Beebe, or of the fashionable world at Windy Corner, or of the narrow world at Tunbridge Wells, she could not determine. She tried to locate it, but as usual she blundered (1.27).
Charlotte generally disapproves of pretty much everything. Society as a whole is almost as dismissive. Lucy, however, isn’t completely tuned in to the rules and regulations of the polite adult world yet – and neither are we! As readers, we’re just as confused as our heroine by this stratified system of seemingly arbitrary approval and disapproval.