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A Room with a View | Discussion Questions 1 - 10

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Why are Mr. Emerson and George Emerson snubbed by the other guests at the Pension Bertolini in Part 1, Chapter 1 of A Room with a View?

Most of the guests at the Pension Bertolini are from England's upper class. They follow specific social conventions that dictate how one should think, speak, and act. Mr. Emerson, however, comes from a lower social class originally; he has risen in the world through his fortunate marriage. The Emersons have money enough, but they do not possess the inherent manners that the other guests require from "genteel" company. Mr. Emerson either does not understand the unwritten rules of polite society, or he simply does not care to abide by them. In Part 1, Chapter 1, he makes several faux pas while trying to interact with the other guests. At first, he interrupts Lucy Honeychurch and Charlotte Bartlett's private conversation about their lack of a view. Then he offers to change rooms with the ladies. It is a kind gesture on his part, but he fails to understand the viewpoint of the two upper-class women on this matter: it would be unseemly for single ladies to be placed under obligation to two unknown men. Mr. Emerson's intentions, though, are not what matter to the others. They consider his behavior to be unacceptable, and therefore, he (and his son, by association) are considered unfit to socialize with.

What is the meaning of the note of interrogation that George Emerson pins to the wall in Part 1, Chapter 1 of A Room with a View?

George Emerson is looking for meaning in life and questioning everything trying to find it. In Part 1, Chapter 1, the note of interrogation (or question mark) is a symbol to him of this quest. Mr. Emerson tries to explain his son to Lucy Honeychurch in Part 1, Chapter 2, saying that "things won't fit." His meaning is that George wants to understand how humans came to be and why. He continues, "All life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice." Mr. Emerson has tried to make George understand that life can be just as simple as that, but George must discover this for himself. It is a small dramatic irony that Charlotte Bartlett, who avoids questioning any of the received wisdom of her class, carefully saves the note for George in case he comes to claim it.

What is the significance of the Baedeker guidebook in Part 1, Chapter 2 of A Room with a View?

Miss Eleanor Lavish decides to "emancipate" Lucy Honeychurch from her guidebook, which she says "does but touch the surface of things." To Lucy, the book represents the security of knowing the "right" way to think. By giving up the book, however unwillingly, Lucy agrees to open her mind to greater possibilities. The ladies will "simply drift," open to adventure. It is a type of freedom young Lucy is unaccustomed to, and it allows her to have authentic experiences beyond the narrow recommendations of the book. Lucy is tested when she finds herself alone in Santa Croce. She regrets the loss of the book as "she walked about disdainfully, unwilling to be enthusiastic over monuments of uncertain authorship or date." She wants to know what others consider to be good art, rather than deciding for herself what moves her. This is a form of pretense—pretending to admire something simply because other people do. Miss Lavish states, "The true Italy is only to be found by patient observation," rather than taking cues from a guidebook. The same is true of Lucy; she will only come to know her true self by patient self-observation, rather than by listening to the opinions or advice of others.

How does Part 1, Chapter 3 of A Room with a View reflect the theme of women's roles?

Lucy Honeychurch characterizes Miss Eleanor Lavish as "so original," a description which is both admiring and dubious—to be original at that time was not necessarily a good thing for a woman. Miss Catherine Alan is more damning in her evaluation, implying that Miss Lavish is misusing her talents by writing trashy novels. She calls Miss Lavish "unwomanly" because the novelist approves of "plain speaking, and meeting different grades of thought." Miss Lavish further horrifies Miss Alan by joining the men in the smoking room after dinner, something ladies of the time did not do. Miss Lavish was, it seems, dismissed by the men minutes later, a clear statement that she has transgressed a social boundary. At the end of Part 1, Chapter 3, Lucy decides to venture out alone. Mr. Beebe and Miss Alan try to persuade her not to go, and scowl in disapproval when she goes anyway. Mr. Beebe makes her promise to stick to a short walk on touristed streets only. Mr. Beebe opines that "she oughtn't really to go at all." Going anywhere unescorted was frowned upon for women of the time. That Lucy decides to do so shows her desire for independence from the restricted roles of women.

What themes and symbols are reflected when Charlotte Bartlett commands Lucy Honeychurch to "come away from the window" in Part 1, Chapter 7 of A Room with a View?

In Part 1, Chapter 7, Lucy Honeychurch anxiously watches at the window for George Emerson to return. George represents the kind of freedom Lucy longs for; having a view through the window also symbolizes this desire. Charlotte Bartlett wants to pull Lucy back into the safety of the room, rather than admiring the view. The lack of a view is another symbol here. The room represents the proper behavior expected of women at the time, such as maintaining modesty. Lucy feels restricted in her current societal role and wishes for more freedom to explore her own ideas and discover her true self. These desires were not encouraged for upper-class ladies of the time.

How does Charlotte Bartlett uphold outdated notions of gender in Part 1, Chapter 7 of A Room with a View when she declares, "Oh, for a real man!"?

In Part 1, Chapter 7, Charlotte Bartlett is wishing for a man who can resolve the situation with George Emerson. "We are only two women," she says, implying that it is a man's duty to defend women. She is quite alarmed when Lucy Honeychurch proposes to speak with George herself, stating that "you cannot realize what men can be—how they can take a brutal pleasure in insulting a woman." In this statement, Charlotte lumps all men together as a danger to women. Yet she also believes that "chivalry is not dead yet." None of these ideas allow men or women to be individuals; they stereotype both genders into traditional roles. In a case of verbal irony, Charlotte gives thanks that "there are still left some men who can reverence a woman." She considers George a brute for his behavior, but in truth, he is one of the only men in the book who truly does reverence Lucy—not as a woman, but as a person in her own right. He bypasses notions of gender or chivalry altogether, acting instead on heartfelt intentions rather than conforming to gender roles.

How is Freddy Honeychurch treated for giving his honest opinion of Cecil Vyse in Part 2, Chapter 8 of A Room with a View, and why?

Freddy Honeychurch admits that he does not like Cecil Vyse, and has betrayed this feeling when Cecil asks for his permission to marry Lucy Honeychurch. Mrs. Honeychurch reprimands him strongly, calling him a "ridiculous child" for telling the truth. In her opinion, Freddy should have shown better manners to a man she considers to be his social superior. "Do you suppose," she storms, "that a man like Cecil would take the slightest notice of anything you say?" She is concerned that Cecil will slip out of Lucy's grasp, that she will lose her chance at securing his favorable social connections and high status through marriage. Freddy cannot abide by such pretense, though, and speaks the truth even though he knows he should not: "I had to say no when I couldn't say yes."

What does the drawing room of Windy Corner symbolize in Part 2, Chapter 8 of A Room with a View?

In Part 2, Chapter 8 the curtains, drawn against the bright sunlight, are compared to "sluice-gates, lowered against the intolerable tides of heaven." Outside is a "sea of radiance," while the "subdued" light that slips through into the room is "tempered to the capacities of man." Here, the outdoors represent freedom of action, while the room symbolizes a watered-down, "civilized" mode of existence. Nature has been tamed to the will of man. Freddy Honeychurch and Mrs. Honeychurch wait impatiently in the drawing room for Cecil Vyse to propose to Lucy Honeychurch. They purposefully close themselves off from the beautiful view outside. Muting the light in this way symbolizes how people of the time stifled their own inner radiance in order to fit into dull, safe society.

What reasoning in Part 2, Chapter 9 of A Room with a View does Cecil Vyse use to explain his dislike of Sir Harry Otway?

In Part 2, Chapter 9, Cecil Vyse thinks Sir Harry Otway is a snob and calls him a "hopeless vulgarian." He complains that Sir Harry "stands for all that is bad in country life. In London he would keep his place. He would belong to a brainless club, and his wife would give brainless dinner parties. But down here he acts the little god with his gentility, and his patronage, and his sham aesthetics, and every one—even your mother—is taken in." Cecil's dislike is based on social class; he considers Sir Harry (and indeed, all of the residents of Summer Street) to be beneath him. Cecil does not recognize his own hypocrisy, for he, too, is a snob.

How is the theme of truth versus pretense demonstrated by both Lucy Honeychurch and Cecil Vyse in Part 2, Chapter 10 of A Room with a View?

In Part 2, Chapter 10, when the Emersons move into the neighborhood, the residents share gossip about them. Mr. Beebe brings up Mr. Cuthbert Eager's accusation of murder against Mr. Emerson, which reminds Lucy Honeychurch "that she had told a lie and had never put it right." She fears exposure, and resolves that for the future, she must be "absolutely truthful? Well, at all events, she must not tell lies." Cecil Vyse, on the other hand, has deceived Sir Harry Otway in pretending to know the Emersons when he recommends them as tenants. He justifies his deception with lofty ideas that "the classes ought to mix" and with the belief that "anything is fair that punishes a snob." He even believes his actions are "in the interests of the Comic Muse and of Truth." This statement is pure pretense. Cecil does not really care about the truth; he only wants to take Sir Harry down a peg.

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