A Room with a View | Study Guide

E.M. Forster

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A Room with a View | Part 2, Chapter 16 : Lying to George | Summary

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Summary

In Part 2, Chapter 16, Lucy Honeychurch steels herself to deal with George Emerson once and for all. She sends for Charlotte Bartlett and confronts her about the romantic scene in Miss Eleanor Lavish's novel. Charlotte admits having told Miss Lavish about the secret kiss, and Lucy is furious. She explains that Cecil Vyse read the passage aloud and that George has kissed her again. Lucy then demands to know whether Charlotte will speak to George, because she is the only person besides Lucy herself who knows the situation. Charlotte dithers and tries to avoid answering, but Lucy won't let her off the hook. Charlotte finally declines, saying, "It is the kind of thing that only a gentleman can settle."

Lucy resolves to speak to George herself in private, with Charlotte present as witness. She plainly tells him that his advances are not welcome. "Go out of this house, and never come into it again as long as I live," she commands. George's response is one of disbelief: "You don't mean that you are going to marry that man?" He lists the faults in Cecil's character: his poor relations with people, the mean tricks he plays, and the domineering way he tells Lucy what to think and how to act. George confesses his love—"I cannot live without you"—and begs Lucy to give their love a chance. Lucy still claims to love Cecil and says she plans to marry him. George turns to Charlotte to plead his case, but she remains mute. Vanquished, he leaves the house quietly.

The ladies congratulate themselves that the affair is over and done at last, and that George will bother them no more. Lucy ventures back outdoors after the encounter, emotional and confused. She informs Freddy Honeychurch that George has left, and Freddy asks if Cecil would play one last game of tennis with them. Cecil refuses, and "the scales fell from Lucy's eyes. How had she stood him for a moment?" She ends their engagement that very evening.

Analysis

Lucy Honeychurch has certainly changed since the beginning of the novel. In Florence, she had not had the courage to speak to George Emerson herself after the kiss, leaving the task to Charlotte Bartlett in her role as chaperone. Now, Lucy knows her own mind and her strengths better. She is fed up with both Charlotte and George, and she is finally ready to take action on her own behalf.

Still, she doesn't know her own mind in love. Even as George confesses his love for her, she denies her deep feelings for him. The name of the chapter is both humorous and telling: "Lying to George." It lets the reader in on the not-so-secret secret that Lucy does, in fact, love George, no matter what words might come out of her mouth. George rises to the occasion with courage, refusing to take her dismissal without a fight. It seems that he knows Lucy better than she knows herself, as he rattles off the faults that make Cecil Vyse truly an awful match for her. Lucy herself has noticed Cecil's meanness, his tricks, and his domineering attitude, and she doesn't deny any of these things or even defend Cecil. Instead, she stubbornly maintains that she loves Cecil—only by sticking to this line can she deny her feelings for George.

It is evident that George has gotten through to Lucy, though, at chapter's end. When Cecil refuses to play tennis with Freddy, she sees clearly what kind of person he is. As George had stated, "He is the sort who are all right so long as they keep to things—books, pictures—but kill when they come to people." Cecil can't show even a small kindness to Freddy; he turns him down with a smug satisfaction that Lucy simply cannot tolerate for one minute longer. Cecil has been awful to everyone she loves, and that is not the kind of man she wants to marry.

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