Chapter Thirteen How Miss Bartlett's Boiler Was So Tiresome:
While having tea with Mrs. Butterworth, Mrs. Honeychurch, and Cecil, Lucy keeps thinking about her reunion with George; nothing went as she had planned. Although she had rehearsed the meeting many times, she was not prepared for a boisterous, cheerful, and naked man. She did not feel in control of the situation. Mrs. Butterworth is kindly, simple, and devoted to the unsophisticated world of affluent country people. Cecil cannot stand her, and it shows. When Cecil and the Honeychurch women go home, Mrs. Honeychurch talks to Lucy about Cecil's behavior. Although Lucy defends Cecil, his behavior angers Mrs. Honeychurch. Lucy tries to change the subject by bringing up the letter she received from Charlotte, but the conversation blows up into a heated discussion of Cecil's snobbery in general. Mrs. Honeychurch dislikes his treatment of their family and friends, and she can see no justification for it.
On the way to her room, Lucy runs into Freddy. He likes the Emersons, and he wants to invite them for Sunday tea. She advises against it, but he seems set on the idea. Mrs. Honeychurch asks about Charlotte's letter, and if she mentioned her boiler. Lucy says she cannot keep track of Charlotte's problems, especially now that Mrs. Honeychurch does not like Cecil. Mrs. Honeychurch does not get angry but instead instructs her daughter to give her a kiss. With this gesture, everything is good again between them.
During dinner, all goes well until Freddy asks about the Emersons. Lucy manages to change the subject. But Mrs. Honeychurch brings up the possibility of having Charlotte come to visit Windy Corner, because the boiler at her place is broken. Lucy protests, and Cecil seconds her. But Mrs. Honeychurch is adamant, and she expresses her disapproval of their unkindness. But Lucy cannot help it; she does not like Charlotte, and nothing has ever come of being kind to her. She thinks fearfully of the upcoming Sunday: George, Charlotte, and Cecil will all be at Windy Corner.
Forster continues to play with the idea of Italy as a part of George, a way of looking at life, and a symbol for the heroic and the free. In the last chapter, he compared George to a statue. But although Cecil was compared to a Gothic statue, George is called "Michaelengelesque." His body is of the Renaissance and the classical world. Lucy did not expect to see him this way. As she cannot help but think, she extended her greeting "to gods, to heroes": Forster connects George to Italy, the world of classical myth and the Renaissance.
The capacity for kindness is one of the novel's themes. Although Lucy grows in refinement and sophistication throughout the novel, it is important not to take this growth as a reason to feel superior to others. Cecil is undoubtedly more educated than Mrs. Butterworth, Mr. Emerson, or Sir Harry Otway. In some circles, he would be considered more clever. But his snobbery is its own form of urban provinciality; it comes from a failure to see that different places have different priorities and values. Although there is much that is silly about the provincial life at Windy Corner, there is much that is silly about the life in London. Lucy's dinner with the grandchildren of the famous was just as inane as the conversation with simple Mrs. Butterworth. Mrs. Butterworth's name is another name-as-symbol. It reflects her simplicity: butter, a simple substance, basic in a British diet, solid and dependable. The woman's worth lies in her simplicity, her devotion to the Honeychurches, and the little concerns of provincial living. Mrs. Honeychurch mentions the old woman's kindness when Lucy, as a child, was struck with typhoid fever. Cecil's great fault, which Mrs. Honeychurch can no longer abide, is that he cannot see the worth of this world.
Events are coming to a head. Charlotte's presence will only exacerbate the situation of having George in the house. Besides the Italian carriage driver, Charlotte was the only witness to Lucy's kiss with George. Charlotte will probably meddle, and Lucy does not know if she can keep control of the situation. Lucy is becoming increasingly isolated. She has had to continue lying to hide the event with George: Forster speaks of these lies as a world of ghosts, surrounding Lucy and multiplying in number. She has to lie about the letter from Charlotte; she lies by omission when she says nothing about her former association with George. She has no one with whom she can speak truthfully, not even Freddy or her mother. With George she shared some of her greatest moments of honesty, but now she has to cover them up. We return to the theme of the muddle: significantly, when Freddy tells Lucy that he wants to invite George for tennis, Lucy describes the current situation as "a muddle." She is afraid to take a risk and give in to passion, and as yet her feelings are unclear even to her.
Chapter Fourteen How Lucy Faced the External Situation Bravely:
Lucy prepares for the external situation of Sunday, but she avoids self-examination. She met George at the rectory soon after the incident at the lake; the sound of his voice had a strong affect on her, and she longed to be near him. But Lucy has convinced herself that these feelings all come from stress and confusion.
Charlotte Bartlett has arrived, and she is already proving a nuisance with her fussiness. Mr. Floyd (a friend of Freddy's), Cecil, Freddy, Lucy, and Charlotte are all outside the house on a beautiful autumn day. Charlotte tries to pay for her cab ride, but since she has no small coins and no one is able to make change, an elaborate conversation starts up, with competing schemes for dispersing the money fairly. Finally fed up, Lucy intercedes and takes Charlotte's money, to go make change with one of the servants. Charlotte follows her into the house and, once they are alone, asks if anyone knows about "him" yet. Lucy responds crossly that no one knows. They argue back and forth: Charlotte now thinks that Lucy must fess up, lest Cecil should hear about the kiss from someone else. Lucy thinks it impossible that Cecil might hear of it, but Charlotte seems fixated on the possibility. Lucy finally argues that Cecil will laugh at it if he hears it, but deep down she knows that he won't. He demands that she be completely pure for him.
They talk about George, and Lucy insists that he does not mean to be a cad. She makes a speech trying to explain the kiss (143); it is an important moment in the novel, worth a look. She talks about how George was swept up in the moment: he saw Lucy surrounded by violets and lost his head. She defends his character. He is happier than before, and he works as a clerk (not a porter, as Miss Lavish and Charlotte joked in Florence). She insists, amiably, that Charlotte forget about the whole thing. But she makes a critical error: when talking about George losing his head and being swept away by the moment, she unknowingly uses the masculine pronoun instead of the feminine: "It makes such a difference when you see a person with beautiful things behind him unexpectedly" (143). Forster does not tell us if Charlotte detects the slip.
Charlotte's inordinate fear of Cecil finding out about George is a bit of foreshadowing; the worry is not that Lucy might have told someone untrustworthy, but that Charlotte has. Charlotte wants Lucy to confess because she has already endangered the integrity of the secret and does not want to be held accountable for it.
Things between the cousins have been very difficult, and a good part of it has to do with Charlotte's interference in Florence. Although Lucy is not self-aware enough to realize the origin of her anger, Forster hints throughout that Lucy feels a great deal of resentment towards Charlotte.
Charlotte represents a woman who never realized her potential. From here until the end of the novel, Forster begins to set up parallels between Charlotte and Lucy. Charlotte represents failed potential in different ways. Because this is a social comedy and, by the formula of the genre, the novel will end in marriage, spinsters are usually seen as somewhat pathetic figures. In A Room with a View, a life of companionship is seen as better than a life alone. Forster, newly involved with his first great love at the time this novel was written, depicts a world where life partnership can and should be part of growth. A woman need not be a spinster to be independent; in Charlotte's case, eternal maidenhood has not helped her to achieve any real independence of thought or action. She is unimaginative and passive aggressive, and her years alone have only exacerbated these qualities.
Lucy's slip is one of the nicest moments of the novel. Although she does not realize what she said, her words reveal explicitly to the reader that she lost her head amongst the violets just as much as George did.
Chapter Fifteen The Disaster Within:
Sunday is a beautiful day. Forster prominently mentions a red book lying on the path at Windy Corner; the people inside the house are busy with preparations for church. Only the women are going. The red book, as we will soon learn, is a library book of Cecil's. It is a bad novel called Under a Loggia, and it will soon become important. Lucy and Cecil have had a dismal conversation about church. The polite, half-secular religion of the upper bourgeoisie offends him; it must be fervent orthodoxy or nothing to Cecil. Lucy does not want to change. She likes her family's half-committed and social approach to religion, and sees nothing wrong with it.
After church, the women stop at Cissie to see the Emersons. Mr. Emerson is upset because he has learned that Cissie was originally going to belong to the Miss Alans. In the course of the conversation, Lucy realizes that George has not told his father about the kiss, even though he tells his father everything. The idea that he has kept it a secret, not treating it as a conquest, makes her incredibly happy. She returns home in high spirits. Cecil refers to the Emersons with condescension, calling them his "protégés." It seems not right to Lucy somehow, but Cecil ignores her. Forster writes, "For the only relationship which Cecil conceived was feudal: that of protector and protected. He had no glimpse of the comradeship after which the girl's soul yearned" (149). Lucy has some worries about the impending marriage and London, but the weather is so beautiful and her family so loving and familiar that she believes that somehow everything at Windy Corner will last forever. She plays piano after lunch, but George comes in and soon Lucy cannot concentrate. Freddy proposes tennis, but Cecil refuses to play. It is up to Lucy to make a fourth for doubles.
They play, and George is eager to win. Lucy plays on the opposite team. She is enjoying the beauty of the country around her house; in the beauty of the land, she is reminded of Florence. George, too, is beautiful. He is eager and athletic. Cecil reads aloud occasionally from his bad novel. The name of the protagonist is "Leonora," the name that Miss Lavish proposed for the protagonist of her novel. (Miss Lavish's first name is Eleanor.) Lucy realizes that it is Miss Lavish's novel, even though it has been published under a pen name. They continue at tennis, and George and Freddy win. They talk about views and people rather abstractly; Cecil is somewhat threatened by George. Cecil closes the book, but Lucy insists on hearing more from it. She takes the book and opens it, asking Cecil what part he might like to read. She opens it to the desired chapter, and after reading a few lines feels like she is going insane. Cecil takes the book and reads: it is clearly an account of Lucy's kiss with George.
On the way back into the house, Cecil realizes he has forgotten the book and goes back to get it. George and Lucy are alone in the shrubbery: he stumbles against her and then kisses her. He slips away and Cecil returns.
The beautiful autumn day reflects Lucy's state: she is happy to be here, with family. She is even happy to see George again; while with him, she finds herself half-entertaining unsuitable thoughts. Cecil is unbearable: we see him here as quite weak. He cannot engage George in conversation. George cannot easily be dismissed as stupid, but his ideas and ways of articulating himself are too different from Cecil's. Cecil feels threatened by him. Although he imagined George as his protégé, George is entirely too much for him.
For Cecil wants no equals. He cannot imagine equality; Forster describes his thinking as "feudal," continuing with the theme of the medieval. All relationships are hierarchical, especially the one with his fiancée. The theme of the position of women comes up here: Cecil has many ideas, rooted in some archaic idea of romance, about the roles of men and women. He imagines Lucy wants to be protected or instructed. He cannot understand that she wants to be with an equal.
George's kisses are a far cry from Cecil's. When Cecil kissed Lucy by the pond, it was awkward, clumsy, and forced. George kisses with passion and spontaneity, and though Lucy protests this time, she quickly becomes silent once the kiss is in progress. George is not afraid of passion or eagerness; while Cecil stuffily insists that he will not play tennis, George does not mind showing that he wants to win.
Once Miss Lavish's novel is read, Lucy loses her power over the "external situation." The titles of chapters fourteen and fifteen refer to the dichotomy between the external situation and Lucy's muddled feelings. Though Lucy tries to suppress the truth, coincidence or fate keeps moving her towards George. The odds are incredibly small that Cecil would have chosen this novel, of all novels, to read aloud today. The novel is set in Italy: once again, Italy continues to tear down barriers between George and Lucy.
Chapter Sixteen Lying to George:
Lucy tries to suppress her feelings. She thinks that she must at all costs rid herself of George and maintain her engagement to Cecil. She calls for Charlotte, and confronts her with the events of the novel. Lucy has correctly deduced that Charlotte must have told Miss Lavish about the kiss in Florence. Now, it becomes clear why Charlotte initially made Lucy promise not to tell anyone but later so adamantly insisted that Lucy should tell everyone. Charlotte told Miss Lavish and feared that the woman would prove indiscreet. Lucy hopes that Charlotte will step in and confront George, as she did in Florence, but Charlotte hems and haws until it becomes clear that it is up to Lucy. She asks Charlotte to be present while she does it.
She tells George, with Charlotte in the room, that he can never enter the house again. George argues passionately with her: he tells her that he would not have tried anything if Cecil were a different man. But Cecil is abominable, good for talk of books and painting but not much else. He is unkind and "should know no one intimately, least of all a woman" (161). George pegged him as awful from the first day they met. He is always telling Lucy how to think, and what to be shocked by. Lucy responds that George is now doing the same thing. George admits that all men have some level of brutishness in them, and he has difficulty suppressing certain instincts, but he promises that he loves her in a deeper and more respectful way than Cecil does. Men and women will have to fight these attitudes together. They continue to argue, with George's pleas becoming more desperate. When it becomes clear that Lucy will not be moved, he leaves in despair.
Charlotte commends Lucy for her courage. Lucy and Charlotte go back outside. She is suddenly aware that it is autumn, and she realizes that time is passing. She is seized by emotions she cannot articulate. Freddy wishes to play doubles again. With George gone, they need a fourth. Freddy asks Cecil, and Cecil refuses with pomp. Lucy's reaction is sudden: "The scales fell from Lucy's eyes. How had she stood Cecil for a moment? He was absolutely intolerable, and the same evening she broke off her engagement" (164).
The theme of convention versus passion is important here. For Lucy to refuse George, she must fight her own feelings. She calls on Charlotte to support her campaign; Charlotte embodies convention and adherence to stifling propriety. Forster makes her a spinster, and it has symbolic resonance. This world of primness and repressed emotion is sterile; its other symbol is Cecil, who is compared repeatedly to a celibate medieval statue. The world of convention does not have the same potential for growth and new life. But Lucy is not yet brave enough to follow passion.
George's comments do not seem to move Lucy, but she cannot help but agree with parts of what he says. He is right about Cecil; Vyse should know no one intimately. Though educated, he is in many ways a fool. His name, "Vyse," is another one of Forster's loaded names. "Vyse" is a corrupted form of "wise": Cecil's knowledge is a poor copy of true wisdom. He is attached to controlling and teaching Lucy; he is convinced that people have nothing to teach him. For these reasons, he cannot grow. He is sterile, as sexless and incapable of new growth and movement as a Gothic statue.
George speaks passionately about women. The way Lucy's two men treat women develops the important theme of woman's position and relations between the sexes. George wants Lucy to be independent, to have her own thoughts, to play teacher as well as student. Cecil wants to possess Lucy. He is in love with an idea of woman, and he will constantly be trying to reshape Lucy into that idea after they get married.
He is too uptight to do the small favor of providing a fourth for doubles. His participation would make a game possible, but he is too selfish and self-absorbed to bother with the fun of others. This final refusal is the last straw, and Lucy at last sees that Cecil is an unbearable man.