Study Guide

A Room with a View Part 1, Chapter 3

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Part 1, Chapter 3

  • Lucy, it turns out, is a devoted and uniquely talented pianist. We begin to suspect again that there’s more to her than meets the eye. Though she’s neither a flawless performer nor a dramatically passionate one, she is clearly a remarkable one. On a rainy day at the hotel, she settles in to play, and enters her own private musical world. For the first time, we see the real Lucy without the limitations of polite society.
  • Mr. Beebe, watching our heroine, is reminded of the first time he saw her play, when they met in Tunbridge Wells. He recalls his surprise at the extraordinary manner in which she banged out Beethoven’s Opus III; he was totally blown away by the victorious and unexpected tone of her playing. Upon meeting her, though, he was perhaps disappointed to find that she was (and is still) a conventional, very pretty, “undeveloped,” and polite young lady. He wishes she would start living the way she plays. In the present, he makes this very same comment to Lucy.
  • Lucy, back from the world of music, remembers that someone else once made the same comment about her to her mother, who doesn’t feel the same way about music that her daughter does.
  • After she emerges from her playing, the outside world seems particularly disorganized and dirty to Lucy. We learn that Charlotte and Miss Lavish are out having an adventure. Mr. Beebe attempts to tease out Lucy’s real thoughts about music, but she instead responds with some dull and polite comments about her cousin and Miss Lavish. The Lucy of the piano is already gone.
  • Miss Lavish, apparently, is a wannabe novelist (we can just imagine what kind of books she would write). She is in the midst of a novel about modern Italy, for which she is presumably doing research now.
  • Mr. Beebe is fascinated by the close relationship between Charlotte and Miss Lavish, who are complete opposites. Despite her annoyance at finding Lucy deserted and Baedeker-less in Santa Croce, Charlotte forgave the irresponsible novelist, and now they’re totally BFFs. He wonders if Italy has changed Charlotte – he loves observing ladies and their behavior, though he is, we learn, simply “interested,” not personally affected by women, if you catch our drift.
  • Miss Catherine Alan, one of the genteel spinster tourists staying at the hotel, appears and complains about the bad weather. Of course, she phrases it in a much more polite fashion, but you get the picture. She compliments Lucy on her playing. Mr. Beebe makes a sarcastic and sublimely British comment about the general badness of Italians. Miss Alan doesn’t quite get what he’s going for, but knows that she’s being amiably mocked. This reminds her that her sister, who she’s traveling with, is unsettled by Mr. Beebe’s sense of humor and all around niceness – after all, nobody expects a clergyman to be a regular person.
  • Miss Alan discovers Miss Lavish’s cigarette case, which she was searching for earlier. Some comments are made about Miss Lavish’s naughty smoking habit (just tobacco, friends, nothing to wonder about here). Miss Alan excuses it as a consequence of losing her first draft of her novel; after it was swept away on a beach, she was “tempted” into smoking in her period of depression. Interesting explanation…
  • We hear a little bit about Miss Lavish’s new novel, which is about contemporary Italy. Miss Alan, though she doesn’t approve of the novelist, is very charitable about her.
  • Miss Alan starts in on a somewhat less charitable story about the Emersons’ arrival at the hotel, and Miss Lavish’s reaction to them. Mr. Beebe, knowing that a sensitive topic is coming up, politely leaves the room.
  • Miss Alan’s story is a pretty hilarious one, though to her it’s very serious. It goes a little like this: on the first night of the Emersons’ stay, Mr. Emerson made a comment to some lady about how she should be careful about drinking too much lemonade, since it might upset her stomach. Horror of horrors! Shock of shocks! Mr. Emerson actually came right out and said “stomach!” And to a lady! Everyone was horrified. Ridiculous though it may seem to the modern reader (or to the readers of Forster’s time, even), “stomach” is apparently just not a word that one says in polite company. Miss Alan is so embarrassed by it that, throughout the rest of the story, she has to refer to it as “S.” (hence the title of the chapter). Miss Lavish, however, was not shocked by the use of “S.” at the dinner table – rather, she was fascinated by the old man’s plain-speaking. She then made the mistake of insulting Queen Victoria and the stuffy manner of the generation of “Early Victorians” (many of whom were present at the dinner table). After dinner, things just got worse – Miss Lavish actually followed the men into the smoking room to attempt to talk to Mr. Emerson, another thing that is just not done. She was mysteriously ejected from the lair of the men, and acted like nothing happened.
  • Back to the present – Lucy is fascinated. She again wants to know if Mr. Emerson is nice or not nice. Mr. Beebe thinks he’s fine, albeit occasionally silly (like the best people, in our opinion!). Miss Alan, though, is sure that the Emersons are definitely not nice, despite some incident with violets that the clergyman alludes to (that we don’t find out about).
  • We discover that, despite Mr. Beebe’s efforts to make the Emersons socially acceptable, the rest of the guests have flat out rejected them. Leading the way in the anti-Emerson faction are Miss Lavish, who represents intellectuals everywhere, and Miss Alan and her sister, representing the well-bred everywhere. Mr. Beebe suspects that Lucy is the only other person interested in the father and son, but he’s worried that they might interest her too much.
  • Miss Alan makes a snide comment about the Emersons being on another “level” (social? intellectual? moral? All of the above) – presumably a lower one. A much lower one.
  • Mr. Beebe thinks that the Emersons have been conquered by the other guests’ attitudes. He decides to try and come up with some kind of nice outing for the father-son dynamic duo, perhaps with Lucy and some other guests.
  • The weather improves as the evening wears on, and though Miss Alan declares that it’s too late to leave the hotel (something she’s actually relieved about), Lucy decides to go out alone. The two older people disapprove, even Mr. Beebe. Lucy agrees to stay on streets with lots of tourists, to make her companions happy. Mr. Beebe blames Beethoven’s influence for Lucy’s wild behavior.

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