Room for a New View

In The Art of Travel Spring 2017, 6. Book #1, Florence by DelaneyLeave a Comment

‘A Room with a View’ by E. M. Forster gives an enchanting yet romanticized view of Italy. The young Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson both find a passion for life and each other through Italia. In a time where rigid social rules govern them Italy acts as a catalyst for both to find new outlooks. Lucy, throughout a majority of the book, understands her station far better than she understands herself, always acting proper and aware of those around her.

Lucy’s family pays for her cousin Charlotte, an old maid, to travel with her as a chaperone. Charlotte acts as a voice of the often illogically Victorian ideals and tries to keep Lucy sheltered from the real world. Lucy and her cousin at times butt heads revealing Lucy’s spunk and questions about these governing forces in her life. There is a dynamic fire which burns within Lucy reflected in her zealous piano playing, which sadly has yet to seep into her everyday. George also in acknowledgement with his station, which is lower than Lucy’s, has a curious and existential apathy to the world and though rather quiet has random outbursts of the unusual in phrases or actions. George’s father seems to not care about the manners and niceties which control polite society addressing most situations with good intentions but rather overbearingly.

Florence begins to liberate the two who are confined by societal ideas of class and honor. The further they stray from England and even civilization, as they venture to the country side, the more distant these factors become. The third person omniscient narrator uses the setting of Italy and Italians themselves as antagonists driving Lucy and George away from the confines of oppressive ideals and toward love.

The best example of the antagonism of Italy on English ideals is when a group including Lucy and George take a short trip to the country side. The splendor of the Tuscan hills seems to strike a chord in many including the Italian driver of one of the carriages who is accompanied by his proclaimed “sister”, the two whom are actually lovers. When they finally kiss Mr. Eager, a clergyman who is leading the venture, demands they stop and tells the young Italian girl to get off the cart so the group can continue in peace. This is a distinct example of the separation of public and private displays in decent company even as viewed by a man who has not lived in England for many years.

Later on this excursion, Lucy searches for her older friend, a priest by the name of Mr.Beebe. She asks the same young Italian driver where she may find him. He leads her through the rugged landscape to a private veranda where George stands alone surrounded by blue violets in full bloom. It is in this moment that George is overcome with the beauty of the scene and the angelic Lucy kissing her passionately without a word. Charlotte then breaks the two up and whisks Lucy to Rome the next day.

After returning to England, Lucy is confused why her society is so ridged and judgmental compared to Italy. She buries her new logical ideas and feelings for George. Eventually the Emerson’s help to reveal the seeds Italy has planted within Lucy which allows them to bloom.

‘Room with a View’ though I initially thought it received it’s name from Lucy and Charlotte not having the view they were promised, overall the book keys into a larger idea giving a great account of how a clashing of cultures can expand your views. These concepts in the book are still applicable today as a different place can reorient your world. Though the Pensione Bertolini apartments where the characters stayed in the story is gone—even once Forster returned to Florence— the magic of Italy he captured is alive and well. The scenes of old cathedrals and rolling hills, passionate people of Italy and hoards of tourists, is a view which can easily be found in Italy today.

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