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A Room with a View. An Introduction to the novel . What is the novel about?. It is a novel of initiation and discovery A bildungsroman that traces the progress of its protagonist (Lucy) to ‘enlightenment’.

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A Room with a View

An Introduction to the novel

what is the novel about
What is the novel about?
  • It is a novel of initiation and discovery
  • A bildungsroman that traces the progress of its protagonist (Lucy) to ‘enlightenment’.
  • A novel of ideas – shifting in modes from realism to romance; at once celebratory and melancholic

Satire: the English in Italy

A social comedy of morals and manners (Jane Austen)

Class and cultural snobbery, art as a commodity for the elite, locals to be despised or romanticised

foster s ideas
Foster’s ideas
  • Foster saw through the shallowness of middle class culture, the rigidity of its constricting conventions, its neglect of the emotional and spiritual life.
  • Essentially to Foster, to lead a good life, a man must learn to establish personal relations and accept the equal claims of body and spirit, heart and mind.
  • He felt most Englishman can’t – hence, they cannot connect.
  • The phrase ‘only connect’ in ‘Howards End’, sums up his ideal harmony.
He stressed the need to combine head and heart;
  • he appreciated the wisdom of the body
  • the regenerative power of love’
  • he believed that the imagination had the power to seize on symbolic moments of truth.
place names
Place names
  • Italian place names – largely genuine
  • English place names – often fictitious (with genuine locations in mind – see explanatory notes p197)
    • e.g. “Summer Street”
    • “Windy Corner”
  • Note the views associated with each place or building.
  • Note that the description of Italy is fictionalised / romanticised rather than realistic. Local Italians are depicted as caricatures rather than realistic eg Phaeton and Persephone.
character what s in a name
Character – what’s in a name?
  • Throughout the novel, Forster uses names to indicate certain characteristics

Eg What is implied by the names “Honeychurch” or “Vyse” for example?

  • Differentiate between the flat and more complex (‘rounded’) characters.
  • Which characters are merely caricatures?
  • Which characters develop throughout the novel? Which characters remain static? Why?
binaries and polarities
Binaries and polarities
  • The novel is, from the start, full of opposing forces and concepts.
  • One of the earliest concepts introduced is the difference between BEAUTY and DELICACY
  • Note Charlotte’s statement:-
  • ‘Beautiful?’ said Miss Bartlett, puzzled at the word. ‘Are not beauty and delicacy the same?
restraint v passion
Restraint v passion

A Gothic statue implies celibacy, whereas a Greek statue implies fruition. Vyse is pedantic, selfish, a product of the aridity of the intellectual world insulated from genuine feeling.

passion is disturbing
Passion is disturbing

On the other hand, George is a catalysts to Lucy's spiritual transformation. Yet when she first meets George she treats him as a threat

early chpts
Early chpts

We are presented with 2 groups of people: the people who ‘do’ and the people who do not ‘do’.

The word ‘do’ represents membership in the group => suggest the existence of common values and prejudices among the English people of the middle class.

Membership is restricted and controlled by peer assessment. Within members there are differences too eg Mr Beebe; Women are more ‘sensitive’ than men to the nuances of delicacy.

The pre-eminent ‘contest’ (pg 5) is between what Forster's narrator calls "the real and the pretended" (150).
  • It is a battle between the spontaneous response to life (the direct, open, sincere, and childlike) and the muddled response (the self-conscious, rehearsed, ostentatious, inhibited, and excluding).
  • Muddle is what results when people ignore their deepest promptings and respond dishonestly and indirectly to experience as they are expected or told to do.
Eg the ‘squabble’ between Charlotte and the Emersons over the rooms. =>muddled propriety interrupts sincere reciprocation.
  • NB: Charlotte’s hyper-sensitivity to Emerson’s innocent but direct offer of the rooms. Her every action is calculated & manipulative
  • She treats frank talk of ‘bath’ as indecent. She ‘represses’ Lucy and speaks with ‘more restraint’ vs the more spontaneous, natural responses of the Emersons. Lucy is unable to speak her true feelings or thoughts.
  • ‘He has the merit - if it is one- of saying exactly what he means. …I find it difficult – to understand people who speak the truth.’ Mr Beebe (pg8) Mr Beebe – although more understanding of the Emersons => still finds them ‘peculiar’.
Although Lucy is accepted by the group, she is not wholly part of it, she reacts with and against them – assessing them as they make judgments of her and the Emersons.
  • On departure she bows to them a ‘nervous bow’ P7=> minor rebellion against the judgment of the social group. The bow is formal enough to satisfy her class and springs from honest goodwill.
  • As she passes through the curtains, she feels that they ‘seemed heavy with more than cloth’ P7. Earlier these curtains were ‘stout but attractive’. Curtains now take on the added symbolic significance of the ‘shackles of convention’ – to Lucy conventions are a barrier and she passes with some difficulty thru’ them ‘they smote one in the face’ where Charlotte walks through easily.
The difficulty with which she moves through the curtains and the sadness she feels at the ostracism of the Emersons, foreshadows Lucy’s attempt to break thru barriers and obstacles society has put in her way to ‘protect’ her or ‘protect’ itself.
  • At this stage she can’t do it herself and needs help => possibly from the Emersons especially George – there is communication btw them and he smiles at her ‘ smiling across something’ referring to the artificial barriers of human communication raised by convention.
For charlotte, beauty is delicacy.
  • There is something wrong with the kind of "development" in a code of behavior which can mistake delicacy for beauty as Charlotte has done. This is not an "education" (from the Latin educere, "to lead out"); it is a form of imprisonment.
  • It is this duplicitous world view that shapes (and spiritually starves-P6) Lucy with the result that she longs to "give and receive some human love," to experience "love felt and returned" (71). Unfortunately for her, she turns for reciprocation first to Charlotte and then, even less suitably, to Cecil, while ignoring the genuine appeal of George
Miss Bartlett & the others like her want to "wrap up" unruly and vibrant real life under the cloaks and hoods of cultured and fitting behavior. => to obscure truth.
  • Eg Miss Lavish. Described as being ‘clever’ 3 times by narrator – too often to be sincere.
  • She is a hollow figure => she is tainted with the shallow sincerity of the habitual tourist who delights in a place becos it is ‘sweetly squalid’. This oxymoron has little objective meaning and reflects the predatoriness of the speaker’s perception. She cares little for the real Italy – she only wants local colour for her novels. ‘Real life’ that she sanitizes and fictionalizes into an artificial semblance of itself in lurid prose.
The conservatism of the group can also be seen in the physical description of the pension.
  • The pension is a little enclave of Englishness comparable to a ‘solid Bloomsbury boarding house’ P7 and is a suitable abode for English tourists who want to be ‘safe as in England’ p10– who are here affecting to see Italy but have difficulty coming to terms with even English people outside their own class.
  • This world is marked by the 3 decorations on the wall – late Queen, the late poet laureate and Cuthbert Eager’s notice of the English church=> 3 pillars of royalty, church and culture are fittingly enshrined there. P3
At the end of the chpt, Charlotte is confronted by a question mark pasted in the room. (representing the questioning of norms by Lucy and George)
  • Miss Bartlett, who respects both propriety and property, flattens George's menacing question mark "between two pieces of blotting-paper to keep it clean for him” => repressing her own desire to destroy the paper.
  • She cannot stop the questioning of convention or life that the young will ask BUT she will try to ‘squash’ it
  • Appropriately, the chpt ends with Charlotte’s deep sigh of complacent satisfaction and this symbolic act.
the opening chpt
The opening chpt
  • How effective was this as an opening to the novel?
  • Are major themes and characters introduced?
  • Is the main plot apparent from the opening?
  • How did the writer try to grab our interest? Excite the reader? Comment on his style and effects.