A Room With a View

A Room With a View Summary and Analysis of Chapters 17-20

Chapter Seventeen Lying to Cecil:


Cecil is horribly hurt, and he wants explanations. Lucy eludes him as long as she can, but finally she tells him many of the things that George has helped her to realize. Cecil is selfish, condescending, and cruel to other human beings. He is barbaric to women, and will not respect Lucy enough to let her decide how to think and act. None of the art or books he has studied has helped him to be better to other people. Cecil is floored; he concedes that she is right. He is more in love with her than ever. When he says that she speaks with a new voice, he means that she seems more herself than he has ever seen; she mistakes his meaning and thinks he is accusing her of being in love with someone else. She becomes very defensive, but he assures her that he intended no such meaning.

They part, Cecil full of new respect for Lucy. Lucy resolves never to marry. She will become a lone woman; she must forget that George ever loved her. She has lied to both Cecil and George, and she must now stick with the lie. She will stay with her choice. The narrator condemns her choice, calling it a sin against passion and truth. Forster writes, "The night received her, as it had received Miss Bartlett thirty years before" (170).


Even though she has accepted that she can never be with Cecil, Lucy still lacks the courage to go to George. She has learned so much from him; although she repeats much of what he said about Cecil, it is because he has articulated what she knew already but was afraid to admit. His power comes in part from his unconventional upbringing. He simply does not have the same fears as Lucy, and he is therefore free to confront his own feelings.

Lucy has made the right choice by ridding herself of Cecil, but Forster disapproves of the decision to become a spinster. Lucy is sinning "against Eros and against Pallas Athene" (170), the gods of love and truth. He promises that such sins always lead to great suffering. The gods need not intervene; the suffering comes by the dictates of nature.

There are now parallels between Lucy and Charlotte. Charlotte becomes an ominous warning; she is a potential future version of Lucy. In A Room with a View, a life of companionship and passion is depicted as infinitely superior to a life of solitude and self-denial. Virtue becomes an impossible pursuit for the spinster, because a person cannot grow in isolation. Charlotte represents a woman who never realized her potential, who gave up marriage but embraced all the stifling rules of propriety. The result is passive aggressiveness, loneliness, and undirected resentment.

Chapter Eighteen Lying to Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch, Freddy, and the Servants:


Mr. Beebe rides his bicycle to Windy Corner, bringing amusing news. Since the Miss Alans lost Cissie Villa, they have decided to go to Greece instead. He sees Freddy and Cecil first; he does not know that the engagement has been broken off. He speaks to them glowingly of the Miss Alans and their proposed trip. Cecil is unresponsive, and he gets on the victoria to go. With Cecil in the carriage, Freddy discreetly tells Mr. Beebe that Lucy broke off the engagement. Then the boy rushes off to escort Cecil on his way. Mr. Beebe is delighted by the news.

It is a windy day, and Mrs. Honeychurch is busy trying to save the plants in the garden. Mr. Beebe goes in to find Lucy tinkering on the piano. After some polite conversation, Mr. Beebe tells her that he knows she broke off the engagement. Lucy thinks that Mrs. Honeychurch, Charlotte, and Freddy don't really approve of the decision. He changes the subject, and tells her about the Miss Alans going to Greece. Lucy's interest is piqued. The idea seizes her that she should accompany the Miss Alans. She speaks of a longing to see Constantinople, so near to Greece, and maybe even beyond; she becomes more attached to the idea with each passing second.

A moment later, Mr. Beebe has a word alone with Miss Bartlett. Miss Bartlett seems surprised that Freddy told Mr. Beebe what happened. She advises Mr. Beebe to keep quiet about the incident. He and Miss Bartlett take Minnie out for food. He wonders why Lucy needs so desperately to go to Greece. Charlotte agrees that Lucy should go; she says elusively that Lucy has good reason. She will try to persuade Mrs. Honeychurch to let her go, but she asks that Mr. Beebe help. Intrigued and perhaps worried by Miss Bartlett's obtuseness, he agrees to help.

Forster lets us in on Mr. Beebe's thoughts: he is delighted by the idea of Lucy remaining celibate. Celibate himself, he imagines the same sort of life for Lucy. He returns to Windy Corner and meets Mrs. Honeychurch and Freddy outside. He asks them how they feel about the end of the engagement, and they both admit that they are relieved. He goes inside with Mrs. Honeychurch, while Freddy goes to join Lucy, who is playing the piano. He persuades Mrs. Honeychurch that Greece is necessary. They go in to give the good news to Lucy, who is singing to Freddy. She receives the news happily, but not overwhelmingly so. She continues to sing, and Mr. Beebe goes along his way. As he leaves, he hears the end of the song. The song is about living quietly and forsaking passion, but Lucy finishes with a tone that seems to condemn the lyrics.


Once again, nature reflects the characters' states of mind. Lucy is confused and upset, and the wind outside is as dramatic and violent as her emotions are. These parallels between emotion and weather continue with the theme of connection between man and nature.

Lucy's new urge to travel is different from the positive power of travel seen earlier in the novel. This travel would not be the transforming experience of Florence; a trip to Greece would be a way for Lucy to run away. Lucy, resolved to remain unmarried, would travel to the corners of Europe with two confirmed spinsters. She would travel all the way to Greece because she is afraid of remaining at Windy Corner with George living so close.

Mr. Beebe is another male character with plans for Lucy. He is far wiser and kinder than Cecil, but he cannot help imagining (mistakenly) that Lucy would be happiest making the same choices that he himself has made. But as Forster's world shows, celibacy is not the best choice, at least not for Lucy. Companionship is better by far, and Mr. Beebe's vision of Lucy's future is sterile compared to life with George. In keeping with the themes about women and their independence, Lucy should choose for herself. Her treatment of the song hints at her state of mind. Although Lucy tries to do justice to the song on its own terms, her voice seems to mock the solitude and asceticism praised in the lyrics. That kind of life is simply not suitable for her needs.

Chapter Nineteen Lying to Mr. Emerson:


Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch meet with the Miss Alans at their hotel near Bloomsbury. They discuss making the final preparations for their trip to Greece. Lucy has still told no one of the end of the engagement; this leads to the Honeychurches being forced to tell a few uncomfortable lies. After they leave the Miss Alans, Mrs. Honeychurch gets after Lucy about keeping the end of the engagement a secret. She cannot understand the reasoning behind it. Lucy cannot bring herself to tell the truth: she is afraid that if George hears about the end of the engagement, he will confront her again. Mrs. Honeychurch is hurt. She thinks Lucy is leaving again simply because she is tired of Windy Corner. Lucy reminds Mrs. Honeychurch that next year the girl will come into her money. The reminder brings tears to Mrs. Honeychurch's eyes. Lucy speaks of moving to London and taking a flat with some other girls. Mrs. Honeychurch is upset by the idea. They continue to argue, and Mrs. Honeychurch says that Lucy is reminding her of Charlotte. Lucy is horrified by the idea, but sure enough, Lucy is beginning to sound like Charlotte. There is the same fussiness, the same worry in her words.

They take the train home. On the carriage ride back from the station, Lucy sees that Cissie has been abandoned. George and Mr. Emerson have left. Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch stop to pick up Charlotte, who wants to go to church. While Mrs. Honeychurch and Charlotte go to services, Lucy decides to wait in Mr. Beebe's study. She goes in, and there sits Mr. Emerson, dozing quietly. They have moved out of Cissie, but Mr. Emerson has not yet left Surrey.

Mr. Emerson has heard about the confrontation with George; he now knows of all that has happened between George and Lucy. Lucy tries to be standoffish at first, refusing to talk about George. Mr. Emerson speaks about love, and the body, and George's honesty. The man's honesty and forwardness disarm Lucy. He tells her that George has "gone under," just as his mother did. Finally, we hear the story of how Mr. Emerson "murdered" his wife. Because of his stand against organized religion, Mr. Emerson and his wife did not have George baptized. When George was twelve, he contracted typhoid. Mrs. Emerson feared it was divine retribution. While Mr. Emerson was away, Mr. Eager came and spoke with Mrs. Emerson. The clergyman fueled the fears Mrs. Emerson was having. George was never baptized; Mr. Emerson stood firm. But even after George recovered, Mrs. Emerson was never the same. She died soon afterward. This story is the basis for Mr. Eager's outrageous slander that Mr. Emerson murdered his wife "in the sight of God."

George, Mr. Emerson says, will go on living. But he will not think life is worth the trouble. He is his mother's son. After Lucy left them in Florence, George became deeply depressed. It has happened again. Lucy is increasingly troubled, and Mr. Emerson tries to justify his son's actions while apologizing at the same time. She tries to convince him to stay at Cissie villa. She explains that she will be going to Greece; there is no need for them to move on her account. Greece leads to questions about Cecil: Mr. Emerson assumes that Cecil will accompany her. At first she tries to lie about it. Mr. Beebe enters suddenly, and talks with the two of them briefly. He mentions that Lucy is going to Greece with the Miss Alans, and then leaves. Now Lucy is caught in her lie, and she admits to Mr. Emerson that she is going without Cecil. She tries to explain herself, but Mr. Emerson quickly grasps the truth. He tells her that she is in a muddle, and speaks of the importance of getting through it. And then he tells her that she loves George. Lucy denies it at first, but Mr. Emerson continues to speak of George and love. George will be a comrade for her; he will be faithful and devoted. Mr. Emerson speaks of love and the beauty of passion, desire, and the body; Lucy is crying, terribly confused and frightened. She speaks of the ticket already bought, and the trust her family has in her, and the impossibility of backing out of Greece and all of her deceptions now. Mr. Emerson replies that Lucy no longer deserves their trust. She has deceived all of them. Mr. Beebe enters, hearing the last bit about trust. Mr. Beebe asks what they're talking about, and Mr. Emerson tells him that Lucy and George are in love. Mr. Beebe is disgusted. Lucy tries to talk with Mr. Beebe, pleading for advice, but the clergyman has become very angry. He tells her to marry George if she likes. Lucy now has a great battle before her: if she follows passion, she must tell her family about her hypocrisy. Mr. Emerson strengthens her with a final speech about the difficulties she will face. She will need to be strong. He finishes by telling her that she is fighting not only for Love and Pleasure, but also for Truth.

On the carriage ride home, Lucy tells them the truth. She no longer is afraid of convention. She sees the beauty of passion and desire. Mr. Emerson's words have strengthened her.


The chapter title, "Lying to Mr. Emerson," puts the reader in suspense. It continues the theme of the last three chapter titles, all of which are about Lucy's lies to the people around her. She deceives everyone, herself most of all, by refusing to admit that she loves George. But because the reader is hoping that Lucy will finally tell the truth here (the penultimate chapter), the title intensifies the suspense.

Mrs. Honeychurch sees the danger of Lucy turning into Charlotte. And in this chapter, we do see signs of Lucy behaving a little like her cousin. Charlotte's fussiness and passive aggressiveness, as Forster depicts them, are the results of repressing passion and living in solitude. Living alone is seen as inferior to companionship; even kindly, wise Mr. Beebe has limitations. He cannot understand passion, and when he learns the truth about Lucy's feelings, he reacts with disgust.

The conversation with Mr. Emerson ties together many of the novel's important themes. It is the climax of the novel; Lucy finally wins the battle against her own self-deception. Mr. Emerson gives Lucy the courage to work through her muddle. Part of his power is his ability to ignore convention. He exists completely outside the world of propriety and cultivated manners. Although Forster tells us that Mr. Emerson is a deeply religious man, he is against organized religion and his refusal to have George baptized made him the target of Mr. Eager's slander. Because he has no respect or sense of these conventions, he can help Lucy to overcome them. The theme of the body and passion is here: Emerson earnestly defends the beauty of the body and desire. He also recognizes Lucy's muddle, and helps her to overcome it. The importance of being honest with oneself, an important theme of the novel, is one of Emerson's last arguments. Lucy must remain loyal to truth, or she will be unworthy of her loved ones. Propriety and repression, enemies of truth and passion, are overcome. To return to an earlier theme, Mr. Emerson helps Lucy to see, once and for all, that the delicate is not always the beautiful. To get her happiness, Lucy will have to fly in the face of delicacy.

Chapter Twenty The End of the Middle Ages:


Forster tells us that the Miss Alans did go to Greece, and beyond. They ended up going around the whole world. But they went without Lucy. We are again in the Pension Bertolini, with Lucy and George. They are in Lucy's old room; George insists it was his, but Lucy remembers that she took old Mr. Emerson's room. She corrects him. His errors only endear her more to him. They play with each other as newlyweds do.

Lucy has a letter from Freddy; the people of Windy Corner, with the exception of Freddy, continue to be angry with her about her past hypocrisy. They do not approve of the match with George. Mr. Beebe and Mrs. Honeychurch are both quite angry. Lucy and George courted throughout the autumn and the winter. It is now spring, and, lacking Mrs. Honeychurch's consent, they have now eloped and gone off to Italy.

Lucy thinks about how many unlikely events have led to their happiness. If Charlotte had seen Mr. Emerson in the rectory that day, she would not have allowed Lucy to go in. Mr. Emerson and Lucy would never have talked, and Lucy would have gone off to Greece. But George insists that Charlotte did know. His father told him that when he was dozing by the fire, he woke and saw Miss Bartlett walking away. Lucy does not know what to make of it. George suggests that Charlotte wanted Lucy to meet with Mr. Emerson; somehow, deep down, she wanted George and Lucy to end up together. George has read the book by Miss Lavish, and details of it are taken straight from George and Lucy's time in Florence. Something about the affair touched her, and though she fought against it, in the end, at the last moment, she helped them. Lucy initially says it is impossible, but then, after reflection, believes that it might be true.


We return to Italy. The chapter is entitled "The End of the Middle Ages." We leave behind the Gothic, the sterile, the sexless, the severe. Historically, the end of the Middle Ages came with the beginning of the Renaissance, time of new knowledge, growth, and beauty. Italy was the heart of the Renaissance. Forster uses the well-known paradigm of European history as a model for his heroine's growth. From the muddle (note also the similarity between the words "Muddle" and "Middle") of England, she has arrived at new clarity. She is now with George, and before them they have many years of growth, love, and learning.

A Room with a View is social commentary, but even at his most critical Forster treasures human beings. It is characteristic of his vision that Charlotte, sternest opponent of the love between George and Lucy, in the end turns out to be the instrument of their reconciliation. She fought them on the surface but hoped for them deep down. The beauty of people can be seen in all of the important characters of the novel; Forster allows even Charlotte to have her moment of grace.