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A Room with a View | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


How does Minnie Beebe reflect the theme of women's roles in A Room with a View?

Although a minor character, Minnie Beebe adds depth to the theme of women's roles. Through Minnie, readers see a broader spectrum of female characters in the novel. The elderly Miss Alans represent one end of the spectrum, with their old-fashioned, prim and proper ways, while 13-year-old Minnie represents the next generation of women who will change society in their own way. Even at her young age, Minnie already questions women's roles and defies convention where she can. She romps and plays like one of the boys, and apparently is permitted to do so. Minnie tries to get out of going to church in Part 2, Chapter 15—because the men do not have to go, why should she? Minnie is not afraid to put herself forward, either. When a fourth is needed for tennis, "Minnie, rushing in where Cecil feared to tread, announced that she would play." Nothing seems to daunt Minnie, which bodes well for the future of women in her world. Readers may also compare Minnie to Lucy Honeychurch. As a child, Lucy enjoyed greater freedom, but she has largely given up those freedoms to fulfill the traditional role of Eternal Woman and dutiful wife.

How does Lucy Honeychurch's view of Cecil Vyse change over the course of A Room with a View?

Lucy Honeychurch is never very enthusiastic about Cecil Vyse. She turns down his proposal of marriage twice, and even when she accepts the third time, she does so without much emotion. She simply states "that she loved him and would do her best to make him happy." Cecil represents an excellent marriage opportunity for Lucy, because he is handsome, rich, and well connected. She has finally persuaded herself that she loves him in order to accept his attractive offer—it is exactly what a girl of her class and in her position should do. However, as Cecil begins to spend time with Lucy around the people she loves, she begins to see his inherent snobbery. He is repeatedly rude to her family and friends, and does not hesitate to mock them or deceive them, as he does with Sir Harry Otway in the case of Cissie Villa in Part 2, Chapter 10. Lucy also notices how Cecil does not really listen to her when she talks, and how he is always telling her what to do and what to think because she is a woman. In the end, she cannot abide his treatment of herself and her loved ones; in fact, she does not like him at all.

What is Mr. Beebe's theory about Lucy Honeychurch's piano playing in Part 1, Chapter 3 of A Room with a View, and how does it come true?

In Part 1, Chapter 3, Mr. Beebe remarks that "If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting—both for us and for her." Mr. Beebe observes the passion with which Lucy Honeychurch plays, but also notes how it is absent from the rest of her life. He theorizes that when she applies this passion to living, her life will be "wonderful." His theory comes true, but not in the way anyone expects. Lucy finds her passion in George Emerson, and marries him. This is both exciting for her and George in a positive way, and exciting for her family and friends in a negative way. Lucy's broken engagement to Cecil Vyse and marriage to George soon thereafter certainly caused a stir.

In A Room with a View, what are Mr. Emerson's views on love, and why are they important?

Mr. Emerson views love as natural and right, not something to be ashamed of or to hide from others. In Part 1, Chapter 6, he advocates for the carriage driver and his girlfriend when the Reverend Cuthbert Eager wants to separate them. "To be driven by lovers— A king might envy us, and if we part them it's more like sacrilege than anything I know," he pleads. In Part 2, Chapter 19, he states his views directly, saying that he taught George Emerson "to trust in love. I said: 'When love comes, that is reality.' I said: 'Passion does not blind.' No. Passion is sanity, and the woman you love, she is the only person you will ever really understand." Mr. Emerson's views are important for the effect they have on others. His ideas have molded George into the caring, passionate young man that he is. Mr. Emerson's teachings also provide a guiding light for Lucy Honeychurch: something to reach for as she tries to understand life, love, and the truth of both.

How do Parts 1 and 2 of A Room with a View differ in setting, and what is the significance of each country for the character of Lucy Honeychurch?

Part 1 is set in Italy, while Part 2 is set in England. England is Lucy Honeychurch's home, and the place where she has formed her ideas about how to behave and what is important. Her role is well defined there; she always knows just how she should think, speak, and act. Like many upper-class youths of the time, Lucy is sent to Italy by her family for a bit of polish. It is her first real taste of freedom, and it opens up new worlds. Attitudes in Italy are more liberal, and the people express themselves more freely than the too-restrained British. Miss Eleanor Lavish sums Italy up wisely when she says, "One doesn't come to Italy for niceness, one comes for life." Passion enters Lucy's life there, too, through George Emerson. She begins to feel a stirring of love that makes her examine her emotions far more closely than she ever has. She no longer knows how to think, speak, and act. When Lucy returns home, England is like a suit of clothes that no longer fits. It is the same as ever, but she has started to outgrow her old beliefs. Her world will never be the same.

In A Room with a View, how does the passage about the Eternal Woman in Part 1, Chapter 4 reflect Lucy Honeychurch's character?

Lucy Honeychurch, frustrated at being forbidden from riding the tram, asks the question, "Why were most big things unladylike?" Charlotte Bartlett's explanation that women were meant to inspire men to action rather than act themselves does not make Lucy feel any better. The narrator implies that the Eternal Woman belongs to a bygone age and should no longer exist: "The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our midst." As indicated in Part 1, Chapter 4, Lucy is still caught within this outdated role. It frustrates her that men move about freely, "having the most delightful meetings with other men, happy, not because they are masculine, but because they are alive." Lucy recognizes that she is equally alive, and should be equally able to move freely through life. Like the Eternal Woman, Lucy would like to drop the act and move through the world "as her transitory self."

How does E.M. Forster use art in Part 1, Chapter 2 to illuminate the characters in A Room with a View?

In Part 1, Chapter 2, the Emersons and Lucy Honeychurch seek out paintings by Giotto at Santa Croce. Mr. Cuthbert Eager is already there, lecturing a group about how the church was "built by faith." He lectures that the artist's feeling is more important than accurate anatomy or artistic perspective: "How little, we feel, avails knowledge and technical cleverness against a man who truly feels!" Mr. Eager and his flock operate by faith, and value that faith more highly than intellectualism. Mr. Emerson disagrees loudly, criticizing the idea that the church was built by faith. "That simply means the workers weren't paid properly," he interjects. Mr. Emerson views the frescoes literally rather than figuratively, pointing out that there is no way a fat man could fly up into the air. Mr. Emerson is practical and logical; he uses critical thinking and knowledge of history to draw conclusions for himself rather than give credence to emotion alone. He stands in contrast to Mr. Eager and his flock, with their traditional religious dogma.

What details support George Emerson's belief that "everything is Fate" in A Room with a View, especially in considering his relationship with Lucy Honeychurch?

George Emerson has determined that his meetings with Lucy Honeychurch are fate. In his opinion, there are too many so-called coincidences to be otherwise. Circumstances or coincidence work in Lucy and George's favor many times, including: staying at the Pension Bertolini together (Part 1, Chapter 1) meeting at Santa Croce (Part 1, Chapter 2) witnessing the murder in the square together (Part 1, Chapter 4) the Emersons being invited along on the carriage ride (Part 1, Chapter 6) Lucy being left unchaperoned on the hillside (Part 1, Chapter 6) Cecil Vyse arranging for the Emersons to move to Summer Street (Part 2, Chapter 10) Cecil reading aloud the romantic passage from the novel (Part 2, Chapter 15) Lucy encountering Mr. Emerson at the rectory (Part 2, Chapter 19) The meetings in Italy are particularly significant. They happen at a formative time for Lucy. She has not yet chosen her path in life when George arrives on the scene. George is quite firm in his belief in fate. When Mr. Beebe proposes in Part 2, Chapter 12 that the mutual love of Italy has brought their group together, George dismisses the idea. "It is Fate that I am here," he says, "but you can call it Italy if it makes you less unhappy."

How does Cecil Vyse's vision of Lucy Honeychurch as a work of art in A Room with a View contribute to the story?

Throughout the novel, Cecil Vyse views "Lucy as a Work of Art" (the title of Part 2, Chapter 9). He projects ideas of womanly perfection onto her, imagining her as a painting in Part 2, Chapter 8: "She was like a woman of Leonardo da Vinci's, whom we love not so much for herself as for the things that she will not tell us. The things are assuredly not of this life; no woman of Leonardo's could have anything so vulgar as a 'story'." Cecil even draws Lucy Honeychurch in the abstract, as a kite, with Charlotte Bartlett holding the string. He is blind to who Lucy actually is. As the narrator says in Part 2, Chapter 15, "as often happened, Cecil paid no great attention to her remarks." Lucy is to be his trophy wife, nothing more. Cecil sees his error in Part 2, Chapter 17, when Lucy ends their engagement. "I have never known you. I have just used you as a peg for my silly notions of what a woman should be." Cecil shows growth of character in this important realization: people are who they are, not who he wants them to be. This is one of many lessons of personal growth that E.M. Forster weaves into the narrative.

How did events in E.M. Forster's life influence the writing of A Room with a View?

E.M. Forster was raised by his mother and aunt, who served as role models for complex female characters such as Lucy Honeychurch. He grew up at the country estate of Rooksnest, which influenced his descriptions of Windy Corner as a happy, loving home. Forster's conservative mother, however, did not mix much in the community, so his childhood was somewhat isolated. During university at King's College, Forster was exposed to broader ideas, and developed a fascination with the Mediterranean culture. After his graduation from university, he traveled to Italy with his mother. There, they stayed in a pension in Florence, much like the Pension Bertolini that he writes of in A Room with a View. Forster's travel experiences opened his eyes to how the British interacted with others abroad, a topic that is explored in depth in the novel. His keen insights on social class were often a theme in his novels as well, as is the case with A Room with a View.

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