The conflict between social convention and passion is a central theme of the novel. Lucy's match with George, by social standards, is completely unacceptable. But it is the only match that could make her happy. Her match with Cecil is far more conventional, but marriage to Cecil would destroy Lucy's spirit. The Emersons are truly unconventional people. They care almost nothing for propriety. Mr. Emerson, a Socialist, speaks with great feeling about the importance of passion and the beauty of the human body. The British characters of the novel have very strong ideas about the need to repress passion and control young girls. To achieve happiness, Lucy will have to fight these standards, many of which she has internalized, and learn to appreciate her own desires.
The beauty of human beings
A Room with a View is social commentary, but Forster's depictions of people are ultimately generous. He gently mocks the Honeychurches for their bourgeois habits, but he does not shy from depicting their strengths. They are loving and sincere, generous with guests and with each other. Cecil's greatest fault is that he is entirely too critical of people. He cannot appreciate the good in the simple country gentry with whom Lucy has grown up. Even Charlotte, the prim spinster who is a major obstacle to the love between Lucy George, is allowed to have a moment of grace. In the end, Forster appreciates his characters' goodness much more than he mocks their faults.
Travel and the idea of Italy
Travel is a powerful force in the novel, and at its best it can be a life-altering experience. The heart of travel is to allow a place to get under one's skin; staying at British pensions and scorning Italian peasants do not the constitute the best experience one can get out of Italy. Italy gives Lucy insights into her life back at Windy Corner. It changes her perspective of herself. Although her experiences there confuse her, in working through the confusion she becomes a self-assured and independent young woman.
The beautiful and the delicate
Lucy asks in the first chapter if beauty and delicacy are really synonyms. One of Lucy's important lessons is that beauty need not be refined; much is beautiful in the gesture of kindness that oversteps propriety, or the act of passion that ignores convention. Lucy has to learn to see beauty in things that her society scorns or condemns.
Woman's position and independence
The Emersons are fervent believers in the equality of men and women. Lucy is not a rebel at heart, but she is often frustrated by the limitation put on her sex. Her marriage to Cecil could never be one between equals. Cecil is not so much in love with Lucy as he is in love with some idea of what a woman is supposed to be. He constantly compares her to a work of art, which, although it may be flattering, also objectifies her and ignores that she is a living person. What Lucy needs, although she does not know it, is a relationship between equals. She has no desire to be protected or instructed.
Connection between nature and man
One of Mr. Emerson's convictions is that man and nature are inextricable from each other, and only the mistakes of civilization separate man from his natural state. Closely connected to the theme of passion and the body, this theme runs throughout the novel. Forster emphasizes it by having the weather often mirror the thoughts of his characters. He also connects George and Lucy to the land at key points.
Passion and the body
If nature and man are inextricable from each other, it follows that there should be no shame for the body or passion. Society's conventions try to hide both. The body must be hidden, a thing of which one should feel ashamed; passions must be controlled and regulated by rules tied to class and gender. Lucy has to overcome these conventions if she is to allow herself to love George.
The Medieval/the Renaissance/the Classical
Forster uses time periods to represent characters and their attitudes. Uptight Cecil is always associated with the medieval; George is associated with the myths of the classical world. Italy is the land of both the classical Roman world and the Renaissance, and Forster uses these eras as symbols of beauty and passion.
Lucy's relationship to her music is an important insight into her character. Her playing is an indication that she has untapped reserves of passion; Mr. Beebe remarks that one day Lucy will live as well as she plays. Lucy's music also articulates her feelings better than her words can, and after playing she is more certain of what she wants.
Forster constantly uses the word "muddle" to describe Lucy's state of mind. The muddle arises when everything that one has been taught suddenly is thrown into doubt. It is one of the marks of growing up. Lucy's muddle is frightening and confusing, but in working through it she will become a stronger and wiser person.
Class snobbery is a constant feature of A Room with a View. The Emersons, because they are not refined, are the most frequent victims of this snobbery. Country gentry look down on those who work hard for a living; Cecil looks down on the suburban ways of country gentry. Lucy has to overcome the class bigotry that she has been taught.
A Room With a View Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A Room With a View is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.