A Room with a View | Study Guide

E.M. Forster

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A Room with a View | Part 2, Chapter 12 : Twelfth Chapter | Summary



In Part 2, Chapter 12, Mr. Beebe and Freddy Honeychurch visit Cissie Villa to meet the new residents, who are moving into the home. On impulse, Freddy greets George Emerson with an invitation to "come and have a bathe." George accepts readily, and off the three go. Conversation is awkward along the way, and Mr. Beebe fills the silence with chatter. The men discuss coincidences, and the fact that the residents of Pension Bertolini have come together again at Summer Street. George decrees that fate has brought him there, to which Mr. Beebe objects. He suggests that all of them share an interest in things Italian, which is what brought them together. George's mind is not changed at all. "It is Fate that I am here," he says persistently, "but you can call it Italy if it makes you less unhappy."

They arrive at the pond and strip down to bathe. The awkwardness of the trek transforms into childlike joy as the men begin to play, splashing each other, having footraces in the nude, and stealing one another's clothes. Mr. Beebe is the first to spot others approaching and cries out a warning. Lucy Honeychurch, Cecil Vyse, and Mrs. Honeychurch take the party by surprise, and the men scatter into the bushes to cover themselves. Cecil takes command and leads the ladies away, but not before Lucy catches sight of George, "Barefoot, barechested, radiant and personable against the shadowy woods." He greets her enthusiastically, "Hullo, Miss Honeychurch! Hullo!" She responds only with a silent bow of acknowledgment.


As with Part 1, Chapter 4, this chapter is titled only by its number. It is as if the contents are so embarrassing for the characters, the author hesitates to enumerate them. The entire chapter is packed with social awkwardness that shines light on the personalities of the characters. Freddy Honeychurch, still more a boy than a man, has no social polish whatsoever, as shown by his youthful invitation to a stranger to go skinny-dipping at the local mud hole. George Emerson finds no awkwardness in this at all, however. It is his way to say what is on his mind without pretense, so he doesn't find such behavior shocking coming from Freddy. It's a promising start to a friendship, but they're not quite there yet. Mr. Beebe tries to provide social lubricant through his chatter, hoping to strike on a topic that will inspire the others to talk. This effort mostly fails, but does bring out the unexpected tidbit from George regarding fate. George believes he is at Summer Street by no accident, but for a specific reason or purpose. The reader immediately assumes that his purpose is to win Lucy Honeychurch's love.

The three men demonstrate a freeness of spirit and the joy of childlike play, which contrast with the stuffy, proper behavior of Lucy, Cecil, and Mrs. Honeychurch. The intruders hurry along the path to avoid seeing anything untoward. Cecil, in particular, tries to herd the ladies away from the scene. The narrator writes that Cecil "always felt that he must lead women, though he knew not whither, and protect them, though he knew not against what." In this regard, Cecil represents the Edwardian roles of men and women, with men as the strong leaders and women as the meek followers. Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch obey him, though not before George takes the opportunity to salute Lucy, forcing her to acknowledge his presence for the first time since the kiss they shared in Florence. The description of George as "barefoot, barechested, radiant, and personable" is attractive—magnetic, even. Here is Man in his natural state: unencumbered by restrictions and joyously alive. Readers may call to mind the scene from Part 1, Chapter 4 when, after the murder of the stranger in the square, George decides, "I shall probably want to live." He is now embracing that desire, becoming a man who shines from within. George not only doesn't care who sees his true nature, but calls out to Lucy to see and acknowledge it, too.

Even though she won't admit it to herself, George is exactly the kind of person Lucy wants to be like, and exactly the kind of man she wants to be with. Surrounding him are all the qualities she most values or secretly longs for: personal freedom, joy in self-expression, social equality, a deep connection with nature, and the pure, natural love that can exist between two people. That long-buried, free-spirited Lucy, who once took great pleasure in bathing in this same pond, has been stuffed into the social box of a "proper young woman" who would never do such a thing. Confronted with a half-naked, gloriously happy George, however, Lucy must be rethinking her position. Perhaps she may even be able to recapture this kind of joy in her own life, if she can find the courage to break away from her limited social world.

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