A Room with a View | Study Guide

E.M. Forster

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A Room with a View | Part 2, Chapter 8 : Medieval | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 8 takes place in England in August, many months after the events of Part 1. The setting is Windy Corners, home of the Honeychurches, located in the small country parish (a town defined by having its own church) of Summer Street.

Mrs. Honeychurch and Freddy, Lucy's mother and brother, are in the parlor, nervously keeping busy. Just outside on the patio, Cecil Vyse, a well-to-do gentleman of leisure, is asking Lucy Honeychurch to marry him. It is Cecil's third attempt; Lucy has turned him down twice before. Freddy Honeychurch does not like Cecil, though his mother thinks him an excellent match for her daughter. Lucy accepts Cecil's proposal calmly, then takes her mother and brother out to the garden to share the details.

Cecil stays behind to write a letter to his mother. He reflects on how his relationship with Lucy began, and how it has grown over time. Initially, Lucy held little interest for him. As they spent time together in Rome, however, she began to intrigue him—like a mysterious painting by Leonardo da Vinci that one can't quite understand. Cecil sees great potential in his fiancée, and intends to "introduce her to more congenial circles as soon as possible." Windy Corners is too small a world for her, as he sees it. Mr. Beebe, the clergyman who has recently accepted the position of rector in Summer Street, arrives for tea. He shares his opinion of Lucy with Cecil: that she might one day live as wonderfully as she plays. Cecil announces their engagement to him, and Mr. Beebe wishes them well but can't keep his surprise and disappointment from his voice. The entire party sits down to a light-hearted tea party to celebrate the occasion.

Analysis

Cecil Vyse and the Honeychurches are two different kinds of people. The Honeychurches are of a high enough class for Cecil to socialize with, but they aren't as elevated as he is. Cecil judges them as unrefined country folk, unlike himself, a city man through and through. He sees possibilities for Lucy Honeychurch, however, to rise above this simple country mentality—through his help. He aims to take her away from her rustic home and introduce her to more a refined, "better" class of society.

The chapter title, Medieval, is the author's one-word summary of Cecil. He is described as a Gothic statue, dignified and almost saintly. Stiff and formal, he is a throwback to a bygone era in his attitudes and actions. In contrast, characters like Freddy and the Emersons are more modern in their thinking and behavior. They say what is on their mind openly, and generally do what they please. Cecil cares more about traditional values: associating with the right type of people, marrying well, and following the rules of polite society. Lucy is caught between these two points of view. Her mother, Charlotte, and Cecil represent the old-fashioned, society-approved values. Freddy, the Emersons, and Mr. Beebe indulge in more liberal ways of thinking. The reader begins to see how a conflict is bound to happen; Lucy will be forced to choose between the two sides.

Unlike in previous chapters, the author does not allow the reader a glimpse inside Lucy's mind. Readers can only guess how she is feeling based on her actions. Her calm, cool acceptance of Cecil's proposal seems to lack passion, the quality Mr. Beebe alludes to when he suggests that Lucy will one day live "wonderfully."

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