A Room with a View | Study Guide

E.M. Forster

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A Room with a View | Part 2, Chapter 20 : The End of the Middle Ages | Summary



Part 2, Chapter 20 fast-forwards the action to the following spring. Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson, newly married, are at the Pension Bertolini in the same room with the view from the previous year. They kiss, and they kiss again. George wanders to the window, where a cabdriver below tries to solicit him for a drive the next day. He reflects on fate and his good fortune at finding himself in the state of happiness he now enjoys.

Lucy reads a touchy letter from Freddy Honeychurch, who writes of her "elopement," a term Lucy refutes. "He knew we should go off in the spring—he has known it for six months—that if mother wouldn't give her consent we should take the thing into our own hands." Her family has not yet gotten over Lucy's hypocrisy, and relations are still tense. Lucy regrets Mr. Beebe's influence over her family, too. Because Lucy's decision to marry, Mr. Beebe has washed his hands of the couple, no longer "interested" in them. Still, she has hope for reconciliation with her loved ones: "If we act the truth, the people who really love us are sure to come back to us in the long-run." George scoops Lucy up and takes her to the window to admire the view, and they kiss passionately.

Lucy thinks aloud of Charlotte Bartlett for a moment, pitying her for growing old alone. She speaks of how so many small acts have influenced their destiny as a couple. She recalls particularly her meeting with Mr. Emerson at the rectory, supposing that Charlotte would have stopped her from going in if she had known Mr. Emerson was there. George contradicts her. "But she did know," he says. "He was dozing by the study fire, and he opened his eyes, and there was Miss Bartlett." George concludes that Charlotte knew but did not prevent the meeting. He further suggests that Charlotte was working the whole time to try to get them together: "Look how she kept me alive in you all summer, how she gave you no peace." Lucy supposes that it is possible. The lovers become wrapped up in each other once more to the sound of the cabdriver singing of "passion requited, love attained."


The two lovers have created their own happy ending by running off together to be married. In this act, Lucy Honeychurch shows that she no longer feels compelled to follow the dictates of society or anyone—even her family. She is taking action for herself, rather than play-acting for everyone else. Mr. Beebe has proved a great disappointment to Lucy. She had once respected him greatly, but now sees his influence on her family as harmful. In fact, none of the people Lucy has counted on in the past for support have stood by her in her choice. Her family, Mr. Beebe, and Charlotte Bartlett all disapprove of the elopement. Though this weighs on Lucy, she does not allow it to spoil her happiness like she might have in the past. She is through with worrying about what others think of her, and is living her life in truth instead of living a lie.

Charlotte presents a mystery for both the characters and the reader. She may be more complex than anyone has given her credit for. She appears to be a bitter, uptight spinster who never has any fun, and who has stood in the way of Lucy's happiness time and time again. If she can't be happy, perhaps she doesn't want anyone else to be happy, either. Her actions at the rectory, though, cast Charlotte in a new light. Charlotte did not prevent Lucy from speaking with Mr. Emerson, but instead allowed the meeting to take place. She must have overcome her scruples about George's working-class background, or at least, decided that Lucy's happiness was more important. Perhaps George had even moved her stony heart during his last-ditch appeal to her in Part 2, Chapter 19. George's theory may be true—perhaps Charlotte did keep George alive in Lucy's mind by constantly reminding her of him. Whether she did this on purpose, though, may never be known.

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