A Room with a View | Study Guide

E.M. Forster

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A Room with a View | Part 2, Chapter 9 : Lucy as a Work of Art | Summary



In Part 2, Chapter 9, Lucy Honeychurch, Cecil Vyse, and Mrs. Honeychurch attend a neighborhood garden party, which Cecil finds a complete bore. As they drive home from the event, they discuss various people they know, including Mr. Cuthbert Eager. Lucy declares that she hates him, and relates his accusation of murder against Mr. Emerson. However, she fibs about his name, saying Harris instead. They arrive at Summer Street, its beauty "ruined" by two ugly villas owned by Sir Harry Otway. The villas, called Cissie and Albert, are tacky and garish; they don't fit with the dignified feel of the neighborhood. Sir Harry greets the party as they pass and mentions that he is looking for a tenant for Cissie. He's afraid, though, that "it will attract the wrong kind of people." Cecil is most annoyed with Sir Harry's desire for "gentlefolk" tenants, and takes several sarcastic digs at him. Lucy "saw that he was laughing at their harmless neighbour, and roused herself to stop him." She proposes as tenants the Miss Alans, the two elderly spinsters from Italy. Both Mrs. Honeychurch and Cecil object, for different reasons.

Lucy and Cecil walk home through the woods. Cecil begins a strange conversation with Lucy, asking whether she thinks of him outdoors or inside a room when she pictures him. He explains further, "I connect you with a view—a certain type of view. Why shouldn't you connect me with a room?" Lucy, amused but not really understanding the point of the question, admits that she does indeed picture him in a room. Cecil is displeased, and the conversation dies out. They pass the "Sacred Lake," where Lucy and Freddy played as children. Lucy admits wistfully that she used to bathe there until she was caught. Alone with Lucy in a secluded spot, self-conscious Cecil awkwardly asks if he may kiss her. Her reply is, "Of course, you may, Cecil. You might before. I can't run at you, you know." The kiss is just as awkward as the conversation, and Cecil notices the lack of passion between them. Part 1, Chapter 9 ends with Lucy correcting her fib from earlier: "Emerson was the name, not Harris."


Cecil Vyse reveals himself as something of a hypocrite. He despises Sir Harry Otway's snobbishness, yet is himself a snob toward the people around him. He loathes the stodgy old ladies of the garden party and mocks Sir Harry both to his face and behind his back. Cecil hopes Sir Harry finds a truly "vulgar" tenant, implying that it would serve him right for being a snob. In truth, Cecil himself would not want to associate with such a tenant. While Cecil wants to think of himself as liberal-minded toward others, in reality, he doesn't view them as his equals. Lucy Honeychurch, on the other hand, finds good in almost everyone and often defends people. Cecil's mean-spirited remarks disturb her. She is beginning to see parts of his character that are less than wonderful. Their passionless kiss at the lake is disappointing compared to the kiss she experienced with George Emerson in Italy, which was like a beautiful fantasy come to life.

Readers see more evidence of the restricted roles of women in Edwardian society in this chapter. Lucy can no longer bathe at the "Sacred Lake" like she did in childhood. She must give up such innocent pleasures because she is a woman. Nor can she take the not-so-bold step of kissing her fiancé first. She is constrained by the rules of society to wait until he acts.

Lucy's last-minute remark that the so-called murderer's name was Emerson, not Harris, shows that she is trying to leave behind that lie. Whatever her faults, she does not want to lie to her family and her fiancé. The fact that she pictures Cecil in a room rather than outdoors is symbolic. Indoor rooms are safe, boring, and stuffy—just like Cecil—while the outdoors is a wild place where anything can happen. Cecil wants to be pictured outdoors, but it is free-thinking, free-spirited George who truly belongs there.

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