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The Reader's Den: "A Room with a View" (Week 3) Discussion Questions

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[Women Gathered Around A Piano, England, 1890s.], Digital ID 815958, New York Public Library A Room with a View begins its second part at the Honeychurch home in Surrey, a county in the south of England. Much has happened since we last saw Lucy: after she and Charlotte left Florence in a mad haste, they traveled to Rome, where they met fellow countrymen Cecil Vyse and his mother. As this section opens, Cecil is proposing to Lucy (for the third time) in the garden, as her mother peeks anxiously out the drawing room window. Once Lucy has accepted his proposal, we begin to see that Cecil is at best pretentious, and at worst positively insufferable.

When the Emersons coincidentally turn up in Lucy's very own town of Summer Street, things promise to get a little bit awkward. Of course, Lucy and George do arrive at a happy ending, though not necessarily in the way you might expect.

  • Do you think Lucy ever really intended to marry Cecil? If not, what was her motivation for accepting his proposal?
  • Lucy and George fall in love without seeming to have much interaction at all. (The 1985 film version gives them a lot more face time, seemingly to make the love story come together.) Does this ring false for you, or do you buy in to the idea of a deep connection that doesn't necessarily require much interaction?
  • Why does Mr. Beebe react the way he does when he hears that Lucy loves George? Hasn't he been hoping for her to "live as she plays" throughout the book?
  • How does Forster use music to communicate things about Lucy's state of mind? For example:
     
    • What does it say about Lucy that she plays piano so passionately, but lives so meekly, in the words of Mr. Beebe?
    • Why does Lucy refuse to play Beethoven, but stick to Schubert when in Mrs. Vyse's "well appointed flat"?
    • Why, after she breaks up with Cecil, does Lucy sing the poem "Lucy Ashton's Song" by Sir Walter Scott?
  • Why does Charlotte have a change of heart, deciding to help Lucy and George? Is this a complete surprise, or can you see moments of foreshadowing earlier in the book?

Please come back next week for closing thoughts, recommended reading, further speculations, and a discussion of "A View without a Room: Old friends fifty years later," a postscript which Forster published in 1958 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the novel. There is a bound copy in the Rare Book Division of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (make sure to register in advance). This short essay is also available at all NYPL locations though the library's searchable New York Times database.

Comments

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I think Lucy intended to

I think Lucy intended to marry Cecil, even though he was completely wrong for her. She was too inexperienced to realize that all of the excuses she had to make for his behavior and the ways she had to justify molding her thoughts to match his probably meant "I shouldn't marry him" not "I love him." I think there could have been a bit more interaction between George and Lucy, but I think their love story rang true, at least for a first love. They're young, they meet in Italy, a place foreign and exotic to both of them. He "rescues" her after she witnesses the murder, and isn't appalled at the risque postcards she was going to hide from Ms. Bartlett. George's mindset and behavior seems to resonate with that hidden Lucy that only reveals herself in front of a piano, which is essentially the true Lucy.

Thank you for commenting! I

Thank you for commenting! I can identify with Lucy as she finds herself "in a muddle," denying herself what she really wants, and trying to convince herself she wants something else. George never seems to believe she doesn't feel something for him, until their last conversation in the drawing room with Charlotte. Until then he has faith that they will be together, despite her engagement to Cecil. George and his father are the two characters that I think are really steady throughout the novel, while other main characters act surprisingly towards the end of the book, including Lucy. I agree that Lucy and George could have had more interaction, but also that it seems somehow right just the way that it is written. I just finished reading "Maurice" which I also loved, and I found the structure to be pretty similar: Maurice and Alec only come to be together at the very end of the book after a long period of "muddle." :)

Yes, I think you nailed it

Yes, I think you nailed it pretty well when you said it "somehow just seems right." There are plenty of books that really try to show the reader WHY two characters should be together by adding unnecessary scenes, and they fail miserably. I definitely related to Lucy's muddle; I'm sure most people a Cecil in the past. I liked that Mr. Emerson understood Lucy's muddle and Mr. Beebe, who had been Lucy's champion throughout the book, didn't. They're both older men with years of experience, but Mr. Beebe can't understand connecting to another person outside of the categories of "interesting" and "not interesting."

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