A Room with a View
Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
All his life he had loved to study maiden ladies; they were his specialty, and his profession had provided him with ample opportunities for the work. Girls like Lucy were charming to look at, but Mr. Beebe was, from rather profound reasons, somewhat chilly in his attitude towards the other sex, and preferred to be interested rather than enthralled (3.8).
First of all, the phrase “maiden ladies” is so fantastic. Secondly, to digress very briefly, so is Mr. Beebe. There’s something quite intriguing in this quote – could it be that the “profound reasons” he has for his coldness to women are motivated potential (but certainly unmentioned!) homosexuality? It’s unsurprising to find this kind of knowing innuendo in Forster’s texts, many of which deal at least tangentially with male homosexuality. Anyway, Mr. Beebe’s “interest” allows him to look objectively at women and their internal lives, rather than being “enthralled” by their physical charms.
Conversation was tedious; she wanted something big, and she believed that it would have come to her on the wind-swept platform of an electric tram. This she might not attempt. It was unladylike. Why? Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why. It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different. Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much. But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first censured, then despised, and finally ignored. Poems had been written to illustrate this point (4.2).
Do the words “separate but equal” ring a bell? Sure, they usually are associated with racial injustice, but they fit just as well in this discussion of what makes women different from men from Charlotte’s hidebound perspective. Lucy’s childlike question, “Why were most big things unladylike?” demonstrates that she doesn’t exactly understand the dynamics of the social rules she adheres do… does anyone?
There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our midst. She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was Queen of much early Victorian song […] But alas! the creature grows degenerate. In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too is enamoured of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green expanses of the sea. She has marked the kingdom of this world, how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and war […] Before the show breaks up she would like to drop the august title of the Eternal Woman, and go there as her transitory self (4.3).
The medieval lady described here is exactly what we’re afraid Lucy will become: a distant, discontented, and overly idealized conventional woman. The “early Victorian” reference indicates that in Forster’s post-Victorian (otherwise known as Edwardian) age, this type of womanhood is losing its relevance, as the “medieval lady” becomes less and less happy with her lot in life.