Study Guide

A Room with a View Love

By E.M. Forster

Love

Part 1, Chapter 2
Mr. Emerson

“We know that we come from the winds, and that we shall return to them; that all life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice” (2.45).

This unconventional and irreligious view, voiced by Mr. Emerson, poses a challenge to the stuffy Protestant ethic of the society Forster describes. In Mr. Emerson’s view of spirituality and the world, love between human beings is what matters more than anything else.

Part 1, Chapter 6
Mr. Emerson

"Leave them alone," Mr. Emerson begged the chaplain, of whom he stood in no awe. "Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there? To be driven by lovers—A king might envy us, and if we part them it's more like sacrilege than anything I know" (6.12).

Poor Mr. Emerson. He’s a real romantic in a crowd of cynics; he alone really believes wholeheartedly in the value of love and happiness above social propriety.

George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her (6.39).

This is an incredible moment of authentic and spontaneous human feeling – one of the few we actually see in the novel. In a world that is so heavily dependent on artificial social structures, it’s refreshing and shocking to see George act according to his heart, not his head.

Part 1, Chapter 7

[…] [Lucy] was seized with one of those emotional impulses to which she could never attribute a cause. She only felt that the candle would burn better, the packing go easier, the world be happier, if she could give and receive some human love. The impulse had come before to-day, but never so strongly. She knelt down by her cousin's side and took her in her arms (7.25).

Lucy, being a young, emotional, genuinely good person, feels the irresistibly human need for affection – unfortunately, the only outlet she has for it is Charlotte, who really doesn’t seem like the most huggable person. Lucy’s not sure what motivates her need for love, but we are – duh, it’s human nature!

Part 2, Chapter 9

At that supreme moment he was conscious of nothing but absurdities. Her reply was inadequate. She gave such a business-like lift to her veil. As he approached her he found time to wish that he could recoil. As he touched her, his gold pince-nez became dislodged and was flattened between them.

Such was the embrace. He considered, with truth, that it had been a failure. Passion should believe itself irresistible. It should forget civility and consideration and all the other curses of a refined nature. Above all, it should never ask for leave where there is a right of way (9.160-1).

Wow, what a disaster. After the swoony description of George and Lucy’s passionate kiss, Cecil’s attempt at romance really falls short. Horribly, laughably short. The hilarious detail that really kills us is the mention of how his pince-nez (a type of old-fashioned, somewhat dandyish glasses) fall between the two of them. Seriously, it gets us every time. At least Cecil has the presence of mind to realize that the kiss is a failure…we just wonder what poor Lucy thinks.

Part 2, Chapter 14

It is obvious enough for the reader to conclude, “She loves young Emerson.” A reader in Lucy's place would not find it obvious. Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome “nerves” or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire. She loved Cecil; George made her nervous; will the reader explain to her that the phrases should have been reversed? (14.3).

Forster’s right – it’s easy for us to see that Lucy should end up with George, not Cecil. However, he’s also right in noting that it’s a lot easier to see things from the outside; Lucy’s problem is that she can’t separate her feelings (love for George) from her social obligations (engagement to Cecil).

Part 2, Chapter 15
Lucy Honeychurch

She led the way up the garden, Cecil following her, George last. She thought a disaster was averted. But when they entered the shrubbery it came. The book, as if it had not worked mischief enough, had been forgotten, and Cecil must go back for it; and George, who loved passionately, must blunder against her in the narrow path.

“No—” she gasped, and, for the second time, was kissed by him (15.134-5).

Love is inexorable. Despite the fact that Lucy is engaged, and Cecil is, like, right there, George can’t contain his passion – and he has no interest in containing it. He believes, unlike the other characters at this point, in being honest… and being honest means kissing Lucy. Again.

Part 2, Chapter 16

Love felt and returned, love which our bodies exact and our hearts have transfigured, love which is the most real thing that we shall ever meet, reappeared now as the world's enemy, and she must stifle it (16.1).

After sending George away, Lucy is faced with an unnatural mission – to fight against love. The terms and force with which Forster describes the power (and righteousness) of true love emphasizes how wrong she is to “stifle” it.

Part 2, Chapter 19
Mr. Emerson

“It isn't possible to love and to part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal” (19.42).

Wise old Mr. Emerson speaks from experience here. Knowing what we do about his deceased wife, we can be sure that he still loves her, and always will. He’s imploring Lucy to admit to the fact that she loves George – because regardless of how much she denies it, she always will.

"I taught him," he quavered, "to trust in love. I said: 'When love comes, that is reality.' I said: 'Passion does not blind. No. Passion is sanity, and the woman you love, she is the only person you will ever really understand'" (19.27).

In this heartfelt declaration, Mr. Emerson totally overturns all of the social logic we’ve seen at work throughout the novel. His claim that “Passion is sanity” is the opposite of society’s stern opinion that social order is sanity. In Mr. E’s opinion (and in Forster’s… and in ours), love is more valuable and truthful than any barriers of class or expectation.