Study Guide

A Room with a View Identity

By E.M. Forster

Identity

Part 1, Chapter 1
Lucy Honeychurch

“[…] have you ever noticed that there are people who do things which are most indelicate, and yet at the same time—beautiful?"

"Beautiful?" said Miss Bartlett, puzzled at the word. "Are not beauty and delicacy the same?"

"So one would have thought," said [Lucy] helplessly. "But things are so difficult, I sometimes think" (1.99-101).

Here, Lucy shows us how different she is from the rest of the contented, conventional characters in the novel early on. Her subtle sense that there’s a difference between what’s polite (or “delicate”) and what’s actually right and good (or “beautiful”) is not one that jives with the social values and expectations of the day.

Part 1, Chapter 2
Mr. Emerson

“[…] let yourself go. You are inclined to get muddled, if I may judge from last night. Let yourself go. Pull out from the depths those thoughts that you do not understand, and spread them out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them” (2.43).

Though Mr. Emerson doesn’t know Lucy well at all, he’s able to see right through her. He understands that she’s constantly struggling to put aside the thoughts and feelings she doesn’t understand, in order to maintain the image of a proper and polite young lady, even if that’s not who she really is.

Part 1, Chapter 3

It so happened that Lucy, who found daily life rather chaotic, entered a more solid world when she opened the piano. She was then no longer either deferential or patronizing; no longer either a rebel or a slave. The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected. The commonplace person begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort, whilst we look up, marvelling how he has escaped us, and thinking how we could worship him and love him, would he but translate his visions into human words, and his experiences into human actions. Perhaps he cannot; certainly he does not, or does so very seldom. Lucy had done so never (3.1).

Music is seen as an outlet for Lucy’s feelings and perhaps for her true identity, which, up to this point, she hasn’t been able to express through action or words. As Mr. Beebe notes, Lucy’s playing is certainly more exciting than her life is – we wonder, as he does, if they’ll ever catch up to each other.

Part 1, Chapter 4
Lucy Honeychurch

[…] the gates of liberty seemed still unopened. [Lucy] was conscious of her discontent; it was new to her to be conscious of it. "The world," she thought, "is certainly full of beautiful things, if only I could come across them" (4.6).

Wandering through the city alone, Lucy begins to realize that she’s not happy with life as she knows it. However, she’s obviously not sure how to go about breaking away from that life.

Part 1, Chapter 5

This solitude oppressed her; she was accustomed to have her thoughts confirmed by others or, at all events, contradicted; it was too dreadful not to know whether she was thinking right or wrong (5.2).

At this point in her life, Lucy is used to being told what to think and do – something that will have to change if she’s going to become an independent person.

Part 2, Chapter 9
Cecil Vyse

"I don't know that you aren't. I connect you with a view—a certain type of view. Why shouldn't you connect me with a room?"

She reflected a moment, and then said, laughing:

"Do you know that you're right? I do. I must be a poetess after all. When I think of you it's always as in a room. How funny!"

To her surprise, he seemed annoyed.

"A drawing-room, pray? With no view?"

"Yes, with no view, I fancy. Why not?"

"I'd rather," he said reproachfully, "that you connected me with the open air" (9.126-132).

Cecil demonstrates a rather interesting and very brief moment of self-awareness here; his comment that Lucy connects him with a view-less room really hits the nail on the head. This is also a blaringly clear sign that Lucy and Cecil are really not meant to be – if he’s a boring room and she’s an exciting view, they can’t possibly belong to each other. After all, the novel isn’t called A Room AND A View

Part 2, Chapter 11

In spite of the season, Mrs. Vyse managed to scrape together a dinner-party consisting entirely of the grandchildren of famous people. The food was poor, but the talk had a witty weariness that impressed the girl. One was tired of everything, it seemed. One launched into enthusiasms only to collapse gracefully, and pick oneself up amid sympathetic laughter. In this atmosphere the Pension Bertolini and Windy Corner appeared equally crude, and Lucy saw that her London career would estrange her a little from all that she had loved in the past (11.9).

During her visit to the Vyse’s pretentious London home, Lucy feels the foundations of her identity shaken – Cecil, his mother, and their snotty friends all make her question the things she knows and loves.

Part 2, Chapter 15

George served, and surprised her by his anxiety to win. She remembered how he had sighed among the tombs at Santa Croce because things wouldn't fit; how after the death of that obscure Italian he had leant over the parapet by the Arno and said to her: "I shall want to live, I tell you." He wanted to live now, to win at tennis, to stand for all he was worth in the sun—the sun which had begun to decline and was shining in her eyes; and he did win (15.27).

George demonstrates his intense sense of self and passion for life here, through a simple game of tennis. What Lucy doesn’t know is that his renewed love for her is what brought him to this understanding of himself.

Part 2, Chapter 19

He had robbed the body of its taint, the world's taunts of their sting; he had shown her the holiness of direct desire. She "never exactly understood," she would say in after years, "how he managed to strengthen her. It was as if he had made her see the whole of everything at once" (19.53).

Mr. Emerson has managed to somehow make Lucy realize that there’s nothing wrong with her desire for George – finally, we see her emerge from her tense relationship with conventional society, and simply follow her own heart. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true… and it’s absolutely the right thing for her to do.

She could not understand him; the words were indeed remote. Yet as he spoke the darkness was withdrawn, veil after veil, and she saw to the bottom of her soul (19.44).

In her emotional conversation with Mr. Emerson, the old man’s words finally make Lucy confront her true feelings. Basically what he’s saying is “Cut it out, Lucy, and face up to yourself!” Of course, he says it in a nicer and much more complicated way than we just did, but that’s the general picture. Go Mr. Emerson!

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