Chapter Five Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing:
Lucy tells Charlotte an abridged version of her adventure with George. The difficulty then becomes that Lucy has no one with whom she can speak about what happened. Mr. Beebe has a plan to take the Emersons and some of the ladies for a walk up to Torre del Gallo. Charlotte declines, and Lucy insists on sticking with Charlotte. The two cousins run errands instead. Their wanderings take them into the Piazzo Signoria, and Lucy is disturbed by her memories of the murder the day before. They run into Miss Lavish, who is trying to weave the murder into her new book. She has changed the dispute of the two men into a fight over a woman, Leonora. (Miss Lavish's name is Eleanor.) Miss Lavish runs off, and Charlotte praises her. Mr. Eager, the clergyman who led the tour in Santa Croce, approaches Charlotte and Lucy and invites them to come on a drive some day this week in the hills near Florence. Lucy warms up to the idea when she hears Mr. Beebe is coming.
Mr. Eager is the chaplain for a group of British nationals who live in Florence. These Brits have access that the pension guests can only envy, and to receive an invitation from Mr. Eager is a great honor. Mr. Eager talks about yesterday's murder in the square; when he hears that Lucy was there, he begins to ask questions about why she was unescorted. This uncomfortable line of questioning is cut off by a pesky photograph vendor. After an altercation with the vendor, the trio moves on and buys numerous hideous souvenirs. Mr. Eager begins to gossip about the Emersons; apparently, Mr. Emerson was in his London parish. Eager tells the women that Mr. Emerson began as the son of a laborer. He worked as a mechanic in his youth and then worked as a journalist in the Socialist press. He works no longer, Mr. Eager says, because he made an advantageous marriage. Mr. Eager insinuates that there are dark secrets in Mr. Emerson's past, but refuses initially to disclose them. Lucy, defensively, presses the issue until Mr. Eager tells them that Mr. Emerson murdered his wife. A moment later, he adds that Emerson murdered his wife "in the sight of God." The subject is promptly dropped.
After Mr. Eager leaves, Lucy expresses exasperation at the thought of the drive. They discuss the problems of the drive; for one, Miss Lavish has been invited by Mr. Beebe, and Mr. Eager does not like Miss Lavish. So Charlotte resolves that the two men will go with Lucy in the first carriage while Miss Lavish and Charlotte follow in the second carriage. They pick up their mail at the bureau; Lucy has letters from home. Mrs. Vyse, a friend of the family, is in Rome with her son. Lucy suggests going to Rome the next day, but Charlotte reminds Lucy of the country drive, and the two women laugh at Lucy's suggestions.
Lucy's experience has clearly changed her, but she is quite anxious about how. She feels alone because she now has to keep secrets; she is becoming more independent, when before she never had to do anything on her own. The new independence brings some freedom, but it also brings loneliness. These new feelings frighten her.
Forster is deeply critical of Charlotte, and Charlotte's praise of Miss Lavish therefore becomes condemnation. Miss Lavish's novel has a hackneyed and melodramatic plot, which trivializes the death that Lucy witnessed. It also fails to touch the important experience Lucy shared with George; though Miss Lavish talks grandly about telling a story about humble folk, she shares the same class snobbery as everyone else. The Italians are easy to romanticize because they are more distant. Class anxiety, or snobbery, is a central theme of A Room with a View. Even the "unconventional" Miss Lavish suffers from it, as does the clergyman Mr. Eager.
Mr. Eager comes off badly, and Lucy's defense of the Emersons is a sign of her growing strength. She refuses to play the game of proper conversation by refusing to hear Eager's slanderous insinuations. She demands that he come out with it; she is not in the least bit delicate, and her confidence seems to take away some of Eager's composure. Eager's attacks are snobbish and carry the ring of half-truth. But Lucy can only push the issue so far; at the mention of murder "in the sight of god," the subject is dropped. Though Lucy is eager to avoid George's company because she is not sure what to do about their adventure together, she seems to have some loyalty to the Emersons.
The names in A Room with a View are significant. Although they should not be over-read or imbued with heavy symbolism, they do serve to flesh out the characters. Eager, Lavish, Vyse: many of the names are adjectives. For Eleanor Lavish, we have a name that suggests wealth and opulence but also some degree of frivolousness. It is an adjective that, like the character, seems pleasing at first but soon becomes tiresome. Eager's name is ambiguous, but matched with his intent, which includes slandering the Emersons at every opportunity, his name fleshes out his gossipy and petty personality. The grandest names are reserved for our favorites: Emerson, a distinguished name that hearkens back to the philosopher (a fact pointed out by Lucy's mother later in the novel), and Honeychurch.
Chapter Six The Reverend Arthur Beebe, the Reverend Cuthbert Eager, Mr. Emerson, Mr. George Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish, Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy Honeychurch Drive Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them:
The Italian driver of the carriage reminds Mr. Beebe of Phaethon, the reckless son of the sun god who mishandled the chariot of the sun and perished. The driver picks up a beautiful girl on the way up, and the girl reminds Mr. Beebe of Persephone, goddess of spring. Mr. Eager objects to the girl riding with the driver, but the ladies intercede on her behalf and the girl climbs aboard. This is the carriage that contains Mr. Eager, Lucy, Mr. Emerson, and Miss Lavish. Mr. Beebe, without consulting Eager, invited more people for the ride, and all of Charlotte's careful plans about seating arrangement were lost with the arrival of so many unexpected guests. The driver and his girl dally with each other up in the driver's seat; Mr. Eager's rides with his back to them, so he does not see them.
Lucy looks on the ride as the workings of perverse Fate; she has tried unsuccessfully to avoid George Emerson. She likes him, but he frightens her. The heart of their adventure was not the murder, but their intimate talk afterward, and Lucy is not sure what to make of it all.
Mr. Eager dominates the conversation with talk of Italian artists and the villas that they pass on the way up. Mr. Emerson is fast asleep. Lucy watches the driver and the young girl with envy as they dally with each other in the front seat. The ride is quite bumpy. After a particularly violent lurch, Mr. Eager turns just in time to see the driver kiss the girl. He becomes furious. Mr. Emerson wakes, and argues on behalf of the driver. Mr. Eager becomes increasingly furious, until the poor girl gets down. Mr. Emerson is upset by what has happened; they have parted two happy people, which no man, he says, has the right to do.
Finally, the carriage stops; it is time for a walk in the hills. Before long the party splits: the Emersons try to make conversation with the drivers, the three women stay together, and Mr. Eager and Mr. Beebe go off in another direction. Charlotte and Miss Lavish are speaking in audible whispers about the Emersons. They are mocking them because Charlotte asked George about his profession, and he said, "the railway." Lucy pipes up at one point, and then Charlotte and Miss Lavish demand that she go. Lucy is stubborn, "only at ease amongst those to whom she felt indifferent," but they eventually force her away.
Lucy goes to join the clergymen, but they are nowhere to be seen; she tries to ask the carriage drivers where Mr. Eager and Mr. Beebe are, but her Italian is very poor. All she can manage is "Dove buoni uomini?" ("Where are the good men?") The carriage driver lights up and escorts her to them. The hills are beautiful, and there are many violets. Lucy and her guide move through a wooded area for a while, but soon the Italian proudly announces that the good man has been found, and the woods give way.
Lucy is standing on a little earth terrace, and the hillside is covered with violets. The view is splendid, and the terrace on which Lucy stands seems to be the source of the flowers. They run up and down the steep hillside like rivers of flowers. Lucy has found her "good man," but it is not a clergyman. It is George Emerson. He kisses her. Suddenly, they are interrupted by cries of "Lucy!" It is Charlotte; she has caught them.
Chapter Six is an extremely important chapter, and merits close examination. It is an excellent chapter to examine closely for papers on a wide range of topics.
The allusions to Phaethon and Persephone help to establish Italy as a world separate from England. Here, the gods of the ancients still move among the hills. Mr. Beebe re-imagines the driver as Phaethon, still living, unchanged by the Age of Faith or the Age of Doubt. Neither Christianity nor the age of science and discovery that followed have removed Phaethon; Mr. Beebe's conception of the driver is a metaphor for the soul of Italy and its relationship with history. Some part of the Greek and Roman world has survived in Italy.
The sensuality of Greek myths is quite different from English attitudes about the body. Mr. Eager's fury at the innocent kiss between the driver and the girl reveals a rift between English attitudes about sex and romance and the Italian view. The irony is that Mr. Eager lives in Florence as a resident, and yet he seems as English and intolerant as ever. His world is still quite isolated from Italy; he has never allowed it to get under his skin. The theme of the experience of Italy and travel plays itself out in the reverse in closed-minded Brits like Eager. Mr. Emerson's argument with Mr. Eager drives this point home. Emerson speaks of a line from an Italian poet, which he quotes as "Don't go fighting against the spring." Unable to resist showing his education and knowledge of Italian, Mr. Eager corrects him. The Italian is "Non fate guerra al maggio," and a more accurate translation would be "Don't war against May." Although Mr. Eager knows the Italian and the correct translation, Mr. Emerson is the one who understands the meaning of the poem. Eager speaks Italian, but he misses the point. By forcing the driver and the girl to part, Mr. Eager has warred against May; he has fought, without good cause, against the happiness of another. Mr. Emerson appreciates the beauty of being driven by two young and beautiful lovers; he talks about the irony of the British travelers riding up into the hills to see the Spring, while they reject Spring in human beings. Mr. Emerson firmly believes that shame about the human body is a source of great evil. One of the themes of the novel is the clash between propriety and passion. Passion and love are inhibited by the various anxieties the British have about sex and the human body, their regulation of behavior between the two genders, and their strict regulation of emotion.
There are parallels between the driver and the Italian girl and George and Lucy. Like the driver and the Italian girl, George and Lucy will be separated by British stuffiness. Forster reinforces the parallel by having the girl make a special plea with Lucy. Lucy wonders why the girl would make appeals to her, of all people; the function here is symbolic. The girl looks pleadingly into Lucy's eyes, and the experience is unsettling for Lucy. The scene connects the two women; Lucy will soon know what it is to be separated from the one you love.
The theme of class snobbery comes up when Charlotte and Miss Lavish gossip about the Emersons. Miss Lavish reveals the full extent of her hypocrisy when she laughs at George Emerson's occupation with the railway. Although earlier she spoke of the nobility of humble people when she described the plot of her novel, she mocks George because he works for a living.
Lucy's misunderstanding with the carriage driver plays on the idea of "good men." Lucy does not know the word for clergyman, so she tries to approximate the term by saying "good men." But from the perspective of the drivers, "good man" would be the last term that applied to Mr. Eager. He heartlessly parted the driver from the young girl, over an innocent kiss. For the drivers, the good men would be the only members of the entire traveling party that have treated the drivers with real respect: the Emersons. Closely connected to the theme of beauty is the theme of goodness: Lucy will have to arrive at new definitions for both of these qualities before the end of the novel.
Once again, the landscape mirrors Lucy's state. There is a connection between the land/nature and man. The beautiful violets climb up and down the hillside, making the land seem like the soul of spring. Mr. Emerson's earlier comments about spring in the land and spring in humanity have already connected the two: here, Lucy stands on a terrace that looks like the fountainhead of all the violets. Forster calls it the "primal source where beauty gushed out to water the earth" (66). Earlier, Forster made spring a symbol for young love by calling the young Italian girl Persephone; here, the violets and the incredible terrace provide the scenery for Lucy's first kiss with George Emerson. Lucy and George seem a part of this land during their kiss: spring around them, spring in their young feelings for each other. It is spontaneous and beautiful, but it is quickly cut short by someone who clearly does not belong in this setting. Forster uses color as a metaphor for Charlotte's separation from this world: she "stood brown against the view." The image is striking: Charlotte's dowdy brown dress stands in sharp contrast to the brilliance of the violets. The word choice is important. "Against" suggests conflict between Charlotte and this world of spring and young love, and Charlotte will prove a very difficult obstacle for George and Lucy's relationship.
In this last scene of the chapter, Forster is playing again with the metaphor of the view. A view gives a perspective of another place; it suggests openness to the world and the acquisition of new perspective and knowledge. Significantly, Charlotte comes as an interloper into the view; the word choice is very specific. Charlotte consistently seeks to shelter Lucy from the experience of Italy. She restricts her freedom to go out and she tries to choose Lucy's company. She is an obstacle to the transforming aspect of travel, and she therefore stands in the way of Lucy's growth.
Chapter Seven They Return:
There is a sense of bewilderment in the group as they gather for the return voyage. Everyone lost track of everyone else, and the picnic was clearly a failure. George Emerson decides to walk back alone. Mr. Eager rides with Lucy and Charlotte, while the others ride in the second carriage. There is a lightning storm on the way down, and Mr. Emerson is sick with fear about George. At one point, Mr. Eager gets out of the carriage. Alone, Charlotte shares her concerns about people finding out about Lucy's kiss with George. She bribes the driver to keep silent. While the party is stopped, lightning strikes the overhead wires of the tramline at a spot farther up the road. A great support falls; if the party had not stopped, someone might have been hurt. Lucy is particularly unnerved by this experience. She clings to Charlotte, appreciating her cousin anew and trying to repent of her actions with George. But the thought that he might be hurt in the storm undermines her repentance; her concern for him makes it difficult to focus on feeling bad for what she has done. Lucy tries to explain that the violets and gods and heroes had something to do with it, but Charlotte does not seem to understand. After the near-accident, Lucy clings to the idea that she and Charlotte are close companions of the heart.
Lucy longs to tell Charlotte about all of the ideas and feelings she has been having since she has been in Italy; she waits eagerly for time alone with Charlotte back at the pension. But at the pension, Charlotte trades stories with Miss Alan for an interminably long time. Finally, Lucy and Charlotte retire to their rooms. But Charlotte is in no mood to talk about feelings: she demands to know what they shall do about George. Lucy is taken aback; that seemed the least important thing to talk about. She has no idea what to do or even what to think, but Charlotte dominates the conversation. They will pack up and leave for Rome in the morning. Charlotte makes Lucy promise not to tell anyone, even her mother, what happened. Lucy packs in a daze. In the hallway, George passes by; Lucy wants to say goodbye to him, but she is still in her room when George is intercepted in the hall by Charlotte. Charlotte takes him to the drawing room to speak with him; Lucy does not know what is said. She is "in a muddle," and hates the feeling. Charlotte returns, but does not tell her what she said to George. In the morning, the two women leave for Rome.
For some time, Lucy has not been sure what to think of her own feelings and thoughts. Italy and the Emersons have exposed her to a whole new world, one that in some ways stands in opposition to everything she has been taught. The confusion of growing up is referred to repeatedly throughout the novel as "a muddle." This "muddle," the disorientation that comes with becoming wiser and challenging everything that one has been taught, is one of the themes of the novel. George experienced it by the river. The murder put him into a muddle; his emotional response to the man's death forced him to re-evaluate his childish pessimism and unhappiness. Lucy is in a muddle now.
But she does not have the chance to sort through her feelings, because Charlotte takes control of the situation and tells her what she needs to feel and think. Lucy's isolation is evident here: she longs for an intimate talk with Charlotte, clinging to the belief that she and her cousin can really be soul mates. But Charlotte disappoints her terribly, and the hurt is going to have long-term effects. Forster writes, "Never again did she expose herself without due consideration and precaution against rebuff. And such a wrong may react disastrously upon the soul" (76). Because of this hurt, Lucy becomes even more isolated.
Chapter Eight Mediaeval:
We now move to Part 2 of the novel, the bulk of which is set in Surrey, England, in and around the Honeychurch home. Many months have passed since Lucy kissed George in Italy. We are at Windy Corner, the home of the Honeychurches. It is August, and the sun is bright outside; the Honeychurches always draw all the curtains to protect the furniture. Lucy's mother, Mrs. Honeychurch, is writing a letter. Lucy's nineteen-year-old brother, Freddy, is studying an anatomy book. They converse about what is going on outside: Cecil Vyse is proposing to Lucy, not for the first time. They discuss Cecil; he asked permission to propose both from Mrs. Honeychurch and Freddy. Cecil also asked Freddy if Lucy marrying Cecil would be a wonderful thing for Windy Corner. Freddy told him no. Mrs. Honeychurch likes Cecil well enough, but Freddy does not.
Cecil comes in, somewhat agitated. The Honeychurch custom of closing the curtains to protect furniture annoys him. Forster describes him as medieval, like a Gothic statue, tall, resembling the angular and severe statues of saints that adorn cathedrals. He is very self-conscious, and something about him suggests celibacy. At Mrs. Honeychurch's prodding, he announces that Lucy has agreed to marry him. Lucy takes her brother and mother out into the garden to tell them about the proposal, while Cecil stays inside and thinks about the last few months.
Cecil and Lucy have known each other for years, but not well. They met again in Rome (the very day Lucy and Charlotte fled Florence). Cecil fell in love with her over the course of the following few months. In Rome, he hinted that they should be married and was rebuffed. In the Alps, three months after Rome, he proposed again; she refused again. Now, at last, he has her. He thinks about how he will improve the décor of Windy Corner; he also thinks of how he will "improve" Lucy, by introducing her into higher levels of society.
Mr. Beebe arrives to announce that Sir Harry Otway has bought Cissie and Albert, two homes, from Mr. Flack. The two men chat amiably about the Honeychurches and their servants. Mr. Beebe has not yet heard that Lucy and Cecil are engaged, and Mr. Beebe speaks freely about Lucy. He says that she plays music wonderfully and lives quietly, but this division cannot last. One day, he believes, she will live as she plays and become something truly heroic. Cecil slips in that he has proposed to Lucy and been accepted. In his response, Mr. Beebe cannot keep bitter disappointment out of his voice. The Honeychurches come back inside, and the group eventually settles down to a tea party. Cecil learns that "Fiasco" is the time-honored family slang for "fiancé." The family accepts him good-naturedly, treating him with humor and kindness.
Forster associates Cecil with the medieval; he uses the medieval as a symbol of the sexless, the severe, and the humorless. There is a paradigm of Western history that sees the medieval as a stifling and unenlightened period that followed the end of the classical world. In this paradigm, the end of the medieval comes with the rebirth of classical learning in the Renaissance. Italy is the land of both the Roman Empire and the Renaissance: Forster structures his novel in a way that mirrors this paradigm of history. We begin in Italy, but Part 2 is dominated by Lucy's relationship with Cecil and a return to England. The very last chapter of the novel has Lucy with George back in Italy, and so we finish the novel with Lucy's own private Renaissance. It is no accident that Lucy compares George to a figure from myth while Forster compares Cecil to a Gothic statue. Although Lucy met Cecil in Italy, Forster deliberately makes sure that we never see him there. He associates George with Italy, the mysterious, the individualistic, the imaginative, the living myth. Cecil is tied to England, the all-too-known and knowing, the snobbish, the indoctrinated, the statue. Lucy's development reenacts history: from Italy and George (the Classical) to Cecil and the Gothic (the Medieval) and then back to Italy and George again (the Renaissance).
Her family, though financially comfortable, is far from the refinement and high aristocracy to which Cecil is accustomed. Many of their habits are embarrassingly (and endearingly) bourgeois: we open with Freddy and Mrs. Honeychurch sitting in the dark so that the sunlight won't damage the furniture. But the Honeychurches are not pretentious social climbers. They are a loving and generous family, kind to each other and to their friends. Their frugality belies a past when the family was not so rich, and their treatment of friends and each other shows that their frugality does not curb their basic goodness and generosity.
But Cecil no sooner wins Lucy's acceptance than he starts thinking about how he can "improve" Windy Corner. He plots ways to refurnish the home, and he hopes to separate Lucy from the world she has known and introduce her to what he thinks is a better one. Woman's independence is an important theme of the novel. All her life, Lucy has had her decisions made for her. In Italy, she allowed Charlotte to make critical choices for her, although inwardly she protested. After her engagement to Cecil, the question becomes one of independence or submission. She is young and uncertain, but will she continue allowing others to tell her what she should think? Will she break away from Cecil and make her choices? Mr. Beebe has had high hopes for Lucy; he cannot keep the disappointment and bitterness from his voice after he hears of the engagement. He realizes young Lucy's potential before she herself does, and the reader must wait to see if and when Lucy will break free of others and go against convention.