|A Room with a View|
First Edition cover
|Author||E. M. Forster|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by English writer E. M. Forster, about a young woman in the repressed culture of Edwardian England. Set in Italy and England, the story is both a romance and a critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation in 1985.
The first part of the novel is set in Florence, Italy, and describes a young English woman's confusion at the Pensione Bertolini over her feelings for an Englishman staying at the same hotel. Lucy Honeychurch is touring Italy with her overbearing older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, and the novel opens with their complaints about the hotel,"The Pension Bertolini." Their primary concern is that although a "room with a view" has been promised to each of them, their rooms instead look over a courtyard. A Mr Emerson interrupts their "peevish wrangling", offering to swap rooms as he and his son, George Emerson, look over the Arno. This causes Miss Bartlett some consternation, this behaviour being seen as impolite. Without letting Lucy speak, Miss Bartlett refuses the offer, looking down on the Emersons because of their unconventional behaviour and thinking it would place her under an "unseemly obligation" towards them. However, another guest at the pension, an Anglican clergyman named Mr Beebe, persuades the pair to accept the offer, assuring Miss Bartlett that Mr Emerson only meant to be kind. The next day, Lucy embarks on a tour of Florence with another guest, Miss Eleanor Lavish, a novelist who shows Lucy the back streets of Florence, takes her Baedeker guidebook and subsequently loses her in Santa Croce, where Lucy meets the Emersons again. Although their manners are awkward and they are deemed socially unacceptable by the other guests, Lucy likes them and continues to run into them in Florence. One afternoon Lucy witnesses a murder in Florence. George Emerson happens to be nearby and catches her when she faints. As they make their way back to the hotel, they have an intimate conversation. After this, Lucy decides to avoid George, partly because she is confused by her feelings and partly to keep her cousin happy – Miss Bartlett is wary of the eccentric Emersons, particularly after a comment made by another clergyman, Mr Eager, that Mr Emerson "murdered his wife in the sight of God". However, when a party made up of Beebe, Eager, the Emersons, Miss Lavish, Miss Bartlett and Lucy Honeychurch drive to Fiesole, Lucy and George accidentally meet alone on a hillside. George is overcome by Lucy's beauty among the violets and kisses her, but they are interrupted by Lucy's cousin, who is outraged. Lucy promises Miss Bartlett that she will not tell her mother of the "insult" George has paid her because Miss Bartlett fears she will be blamed. The two women leave for Rome the next day before Lucy is able to say goodbye to George.
In Rome, Lucy spends time with Cecil Vyse, whom she knew in England. Cecil proposes to Lucy twice in Italy; she rejects him both times. As Part Two begins, Lucy has returned to Surrey, England to her family home, Windy Corner. Cecil proposes yet again at Windy Corner, and this time she accepts. Cecil is a sophisticated and "superior" Londoner who is desirable in terms of rank and class, even though he despises country society; he is also somewhat of a comic figure in the novel, as he gives himself airs and is quite pretentious.
The vicar, Mr. Beebe, announces that new tenants have leased a local cottage; the new arrivals turn out to be the Emersons, who have been told of the available cottage at a chance meeting with Cecil, who brings them to the village as a comeuppance to the cottage's landlord, whom Cecil thinks to be a snob. Fate takes an ironic turn as Lucy's brother Freddy, befriends George and invites him to play tennis one Sunday at Windy Corner. Although Lucy is initially mortified at the thought of facing both George and Cecil (who is also visiting Windy Corner that Sunday), she resolves to be gracious. Cecil annoys everyone by reading aloud from a light romance novel that contains a scene suspiciously reminiscent of when George kissed Lucy in Florence. George catches Lucy alone in the garden and kisses her again. Lucy realizes that the novel is by Miss Lavish (the writer-acquaintance from Florence) and that Charlotte must thus have told her about the kiss.
Furious with Charlotte for betraying her secret, Lucy forces her cousin to watch as she tells George to leave and never return. George argues with her, saying that Cecil only sees her as an "object for the shelf" and will never love her enough to grant her independence, while George loves her for who she is. Lucy is moved but remains firm. Later that evening, after Cecil again rudely declines to play tennis, Lucy sours on Cecil and immediately breaks off her engagement. She decides to flee to Greece with acquaintances from her trip to Florence, but shortly before her departure she accidentally encounters Mr. Emerson. He is not aware that Lucy has broken her engagement with Cecil, and Lucy cannot lie to the old man. Mr. Emerson forces Lucy to admit out loud that she has been in love with his son George all along.
The novel ends in Florence, where George and Lucy have eloped without her mother's consent. Although Lucy "had alienated Windy Corner, perhaps for ever," the story ends with the promise of lifelong love for both her and George.
The main themes of this novel include repressed sexuality, freedom from institutional religion, growing up and true love. It is written in the third person omniscient, though particular passages are often seen "through the eyes" of a specific character.
A Room with a View is Forster's most romantic and optimistic book. He utilizes many of his trademark techniques, including contrasts between "dynamic" and "static" characters. "Dynamic" characters are those whose ideas and inner-self develop or change in the plot, whereas "static" characters remain constant.
Published in 1908, the novel touches upon many issues surrounding society and politics in early 20th century Edwardian culture. Forster differentiates between conservative and radical thinking, illustrated in part by his contrasts between Medieval (Mr. Beebe, Miss Bartlett, Cecil Vyse) and Renaissance characters (Lucy, the Emersons).
Lucy personifies the young and impressionable generation emerging during that era, during which women's suffrage would gain strong ground. Forster, manifesting his own hopes for society, ends the book with Lucy having chosen her own path — a free life with the man she loves. The novel could even be called a Bildungsroman, as it follows the development of the protagonist.
Binary opposites are played throughout the novel, and often there are mentions of "rooms" and "views". Characters and places associated with "rooms" are, more often than not, conservative and uncreative — Mrs Honeychurch is often pictured in a room, as is Cecil. Characters like Freddy and the Emersons, on the other hand, are often described as being "outside" — representing their open, forward-thinking and modern character types.
Forster also contrasts the symbolic differences between Italy and England. He idealized Italy as a place of freedom and sexual expression. Italy promised raw, natural passion that inspired many Britons at the time who wished to escape the constrictions of English society. While Lucy is in Italy her views of the world change dramatically, and scenes such as the murder in the piazza open her eyes to a world beyond her "protected life in Windy Corner".
The novel was first adapted for the theatre by Richard Cotterell with Lance Severling for the Prospect Theatre Company, and staged at the Albery Theatre on 27 November 1975 by directors Toby Robertson and Timothy West.
Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation in 1985 directed by James Ivory and starring Dame Maggie Smith as "Charlotte Bartlett", Helena Bonham Carter as "Lucy Honeychurch", Judi Dench as "Eleanor Lavish", Denholm Elliott as "Mr. Emerson", Julian Sands as "George Emerson," Daniel Day-Lewis as "Cecil Vyse"and Simon Callow as "The Reverend Mr. Beebe".
BBC Radio 4 produced a four-part radio adaptation written by David Wade and directed by Glyn Dearman (released commercially as part of the BBC Radio Collection in 1995) starring Sheila Hancock as "Charlotte Bartlett", Cathy Sara as "Lucy Honeychurch", John Moffat as "Mr. Emerson", and Gary Cady as "George Emerson" and Stephen Moore as "The Reverend Mr. Beebe". The production was rebroadcast on BBC7 in June 2007.
In 2006, Andrew Davies announced that he was to adapt A Room with a View for ITV. This was first shown on ITV1 on 4 November 2007. It starred father and son actors Timothy and Rafe Spall as Mr Emerson and George, together with Elaine Cassidy (Lucy Honeychurch), Sophie Thompson (Charlotte Bartlett), Laurence Fox (Cecil Vyse), Sinéad Cusack (Miss Lavish), Timothy West (Mr Eager) and Mark Williams (Reverend Beebe). This adaptation was broadcast in the US on many PBS stations on Sunday April 13, 2008.
A theatre adaptation was given by Snap Theatre Company in 1990 to good critical reviews. Adapted by Lawrence Kane and Andy Graham (Artistic Director of the company), it toured schools, colleges, and middle-scale theatre venues throughout England.
Room With a View
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).|