Skip over navigation

A Room with a View

E.M. Forster

Chapters 5-7

Chapters 1-4

Chapters 8-10

Summary

Lucy decides to accompany Charlotte for the day rather than go on an outing with Mr. Beebe and the Emersons, as she feels confused by the odd situation with George. In the Piazza Signoria (where the murder took place the day before), they find Miss Lavish, who as usual is exulting in her idea of the real Italy and making snide remarks about English tourists.

Lucy and Charlotte then come across the tiresome and snooty chaplain, Mr. Eager, who has connections with the expatriate English community in Florence. He invites Lucy and Charlotte to come out for a trip into the country of Fiesole the following day. Lucy finds she has lost her respect for both Miss Lavish and Mr. Eager. Mr. Eager discusses his distaste for Mr. Emerson, explaining that he once wrote for a Socialist paper, and revealing that he believes Mr. Emerson to have murdered his own wife, though he provides no substantiating evidence.

Charlotte accepts the invitation for a drive into the country, but realizes after Mr. Eager departs that they have also planned to drive with Mr. Beebe and Miss Lavish, who displeases Mr. Eager with her audacity. While Charlotte is planning who will sit with whom in the carriages, Lucy admits "I don't know what I think, or what I want." She has gotten a letter from her mother which informs her that some friends, the Vyses, are staying in Rome. Charlotte wants to do anything that will please her cousin, and Lucy expresses her desire to join these friends in Rome.

The outing to Fiesole takes place the next day, but to everyone's surprise, the group consists not only of Lucy, Charlotte, Miss Lavish, Mr. Beebe, and Mr. Eager, but also the Emersons, who were invited by Mr. Beebe. They are driven by a young Italian man who all the while courts his sweetheart (also Italian) at the front of the car. Lucy is envious of them, realizing that they are the only ones enjoying the trip at all, while the others deride the lower classes and admire the homes of wealthy ex-pats. Finally the Italians kiss, at which point Mr. Eager commands the girl to leave for such lack of decency. Mr. Emerson argues with this cold-hearted decision, declaring that the influences of "spring" are as admirable in man as in the nature they have come to appreciate.

Everyone roams around in the hills, admiring the somewhat hazy view. Lucy accompanies Charlotte and Miss Lavish, who are aghast that George's profession is "the railway." They ask Lucy to leave them alone to their criticisms, and she tries to discover the whereabouts of Mr. Beebe and Mr. Eager by communicating with the Italian driver in very rudimentary Italian. The driver leads her instead to a beautiful terrace covered with blue violets, where she encounters George. The driver cries out, "Courage! Courage and love!" George is standing at the terrace's brink, "like a swimmer who prepares." He turns around when she arrives, and, in an instant, overcome by the radiant beauty of the flowers and Lucy among them, kisses her. Suddenly Charlotte appears, calling for Lucy.

The party returns to Florence in the carriages, but a lightning storm soon begins. George walks home. They nearly drive into an exploded tram wire which had been hit by a lightning bolt. Everyone feels worried and then relieved, while Lucy tries to explain to Charlotte that she is blameless for the incident in the violets, remarking, "I want to be truthful...It is so hard to be absolutely truthful." Charlotte comforts her with the prospect of talking it over that night at bedtime. However, that night, the soul-bearing session of self-understanding that Lucy hoped for never occurs. Charlotte instead simply demands to know how Lucy intends to "silence" George, making insinuations against his character. Lucy wants to talk to George to settle the matter; Charlotte disapproves. Charlotte asks what would have happened if she had not appeared in the violet terrace, but Lucy cannot provide an answer. Charlotte announces that they will catch the morning train at eight for Rome. They begin to pack. Lucy tries to show warmth for Charlotte, who makes Lucy feel obligated toward her, until Lucy finally promises not to tell her mother about what has happened with George. George appears outside the window and rings the doorbell, but Lucy blows her lamp before he can see her. Charlotte appears in the hall and asks George to have a word in private. Lucy cries out, "It isn't true. It can't all be true." Charlotte silences her and they leave for Rome the next morning.

Commentary

Now that Lucy has to keep a secret about fainting and being carried by George, she has to confront the fact of her aloneness for the first time--she has never had to keep anything secret before, and finds the solitude "oppressive." The independence to think on her own scares her. She is also afraid that George understands the things that confuse her: this would suggest that the values she has known all her life are insufficient.

In her new state of mind, Lucy finds herself repulsed by Miss Lavish's pretentiousness and Mr. Eager's prying curiosity; she notes "the ghoulish fashion in which respectable people will nibble after blood. George Emerson had kept the subject strangely pure." This theme of the inhumanity of "respectable" people continues on the drive into the country, where Mr. Eager will not tolerate the kissing Italians, and forces them to separate. Mr. Beebe, on the other hand, privately dubs the young Italian man "Phaethon," who drove the chariot of the sun in Greek myth, and the woman "Persephone," who was abducted to the underworld and visits earth only in spring and summer. He seems to see something godly and divine in these lower-class Italians. The disparity between the views of these two representatives of the Church shows Forster's willingness to allow the Church's role to be fairly ambiguous--though Mr. Eager enforces a moral code influenced as much by society as by religion, Mr. Beebe is as willing to see divinity in the poor as in the rich. Meanwhile, Mr. Emerson protests the decision to separate the lovers on more human terms, calling it "a defeat" because it "parted two people who were happy." His comment about spring existing in both nature and man points out that the separation of civilization from nature may only cause unhappiness and confinement.

The Italian driver leads Lucy to George, although she has tried to ask him, using a few Italian words, where to find Mr. Beebe. Thus, despite her attempts to find her way back to society, Italy itself, embodied in the carefree driver, has other ideas for her. The terrace is described as "the primal source whence beauty gushed out to water the earth," which marks George's kiss as a part of this essential, uncivilized, raw beauty, which--like Lucy's music--can transcend social barriers. George seems to have been about to jump from the terrace; the driver's cry may have been a signal to Lucy to give up her fear of trespassing upon society's regulations in the name of love, and for George to reconsider the meaning of love and in order to find the courage to live. This entire scene is, however, highly ambiguous, and Forster's deliberate refusal to clarify lends it an authentic feeling of abrupt confusion mixed with the clear force of active passion.

When Charlotte calls for Lucy, she interrupts "the silence of life," which suggests that the most important aspects of life (beauty, music, love) are those that are felt on a non-verbal level. George, for example, is entirely silent through this chapter and the next, and Charlotte's voice takes over the text as much as Charlotte has taken charge of Lucy. Mr. Eager twice tells Lucy to have "Courage... courage and faith," during the lightning storm, echoing the Italian driver at the terrace. However, Mr. Eager urges her to believe that they will remain safe (based on scientific evidences) from the harmful, wild forces of nature, whereas the driver urged Lucy and George to have courage and embrace those forces that run against civilization.

Lucy longs to understand herself, but Charlotte is concerned mainly with keeping up appearances, leaving Lucy feeling cold and helpless. Charlotte wants Lucy to really love her, but knows that Lucy's affection for her is not love, but rather a longing for sympathy. The end of the first book finds Charlotte maneuvering and controlling everything, while George and Lucy remain separated. George passes outside the window with the view that began the book, and Lucy sits inside the room: she has been returned into the society and the traditions to which she has always belonged--but now she has a secret which will inevitably cause change. She is still confused, and says that she wants "to grow older quickly," in order to understand and resolve the conflicting tensions that were introduced to her life while in Florence.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us