A Room with a View | Study Guide

E.M. Forster

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A Room with a View | Part 2, Chapter 19 : Lying to Mr. Emerson | Summary



As Part 2, Chapter 19 opens, Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch visit the Miss Alans in London in preparation for the trip to Greece. The spinsters inquire after Cecil Vyse, and Lucy leaves them with the impression that nothing has changed. Mrs. Honeychurch disagrees with the approach: "I cannot see why you didn't tell your friends about Cecil and be done with it." Lucy's excuse is that she has promised Cecil not to announce the split until after she's left the country. Her mother presses the issue, but Lucy withdraws into herself rather than confessing the whole ordeal: "She disliked confidences, for they might lead to self-knowledge." Mrs. Honeychurch senses the distance between them, and laments that Lucy must be tired of Windy Corner. Lucy disputes this, but also tells her mother that she wants more independence and may even live in London for a while. When Lucy backtracks from her declaration in the face of her mother's objections, Mrs. Honeychurch turns on her with a statement that rattles Lucy to the bones: "How you do remind me of Charlotte Bartlett!" Lucy denies the comparison hotly, but her mother lists several damning proofs, including "the same eternal worrying, the same taking back of words."

On their way home, they notice that Cissie Villa has been closed up. They stop at the rectory, where Lucy decides to wait while her mother goes to church with Charlotte. There, she encounters Mr. Emerson, who launches into apologies for George Emerson's behavior and concludes sadly that George has lost his will to live. They will move to London, where his father can keep an eye on him and try to keep his spirits up. Lucy entreats him not to go. Because she is going to Greece, there is no need for them to leave on her behalf. She admits that Cecil is not going, and Mr. Emerson figures out the truth. "You love George!" he exclaims. She begins to cry, and he implores her to marry his son. Lucy sobs that she cannot; it would break her family's trust. His harsh reply is, "You are not worthy of their trust." His attitude softens then, and he gently reminds Lucy that "we fight for more than Love or Pleasure; there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth does count." The emotional dam breaks inside of Lucy. Strengthened by Mr. Emerson's insight and support, she resolves to come clean with her family.


Lucy Honeychurch's web of lies has gotten so big, even her mother is now embroiled in it. Mrs. Honeychurch resents having to tiptoe around the truth, and makes Lucy squirm with her cross-examination. Lucy's true motivation at hiding the truth is so that the Emersons do not discover it, but she declines to confide in the woman she had once shared everything with. Her reluctance to do so springs from two sources. First, she has hidden the situation with George Emerson from the beginning, and to confess now would be humiliating. Second, she might be forced to confront her feelings about George, and that, she does not want to do. As the narrator says, "She disliked confidences, for they might lead to self-knowledge." A large part of Lucy wants to fit into the neat societal picture she has painted for her future through Cecil Vyse: respectable wife of a well-to-do gentleman. It is what she has been raised to become. A deeper part of Lucy, though, wants to go against her upbringing and abandon herself to loving George without restriction. It is this part of herself that she continues to deny and does not want to face.

Mrs. Honeychurch's comparison of Lucy to Charlotte Bartlett strikes a deep nerve. Lucy has said plainly that she doesn't like Charlotte in Part 2, Chapter 13, when she asks her mother not to invite her to visit. Charlotte is uptight, annoying, and most ominously, an old maid. The last thing Lucy wants is to end up like Charlotte, and yet, she is paving that road with every action: breaking up with Cecil, refusing to consider George's suit, and resolving that she will never marry. Being compared to Charlotte may be just the shock Lucy needed to wake up to the reality of where her choices may lead: to a loveless, embittered, proper life, just like Charlotte's.

Lucy's encounter with Mr. Emerson is the tipping point. Her emotions have gotten too confused and her deceptions have grown too large for her to manage. She feels trapped in the web she has created, and believes she has no choice but to continue living the lie. Otherwise, her family will detest her for deceiving them. Mr. Emerson chides Lucy that she is not worthy of their trust; he implies that the only way she can truly have their trust is by telling and living the truth, starting now. "Truth counts," he proclaims. His passionate, heartfelt plea for George is what finally gets through to Lucy. She cannot lie to this large-hearted, feeble old man who speaks so earnestly of love. At last, she understands that living truthfully in love, despite any difficulties this may present, is better than living dishonestly in a loveless status quo.

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