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A Room with a View

E.M. Forster

Study Questions

Chapters 18-20

Bibliography

Discuss the role of nature in the book and its relevance to the struggles of characters to make decisions about their lives.

During the swimming scene, Mr. Emerson points out that man must return to nature. When riding in the carriage into the countryside, he also expresses the idea that mankind should not detest the impulses found in nature, such as the impulse for love, when they occur in people. The book's structure shows that nature and man are linked. The love between Lucy and George is fostered in spring and reaches its consummation in spring again, whereas the coming of autumn sets Lucy's soul reeling into a metap hysical darkness. Dark storm clouds settle over her town on the day that she announces her plans to go to Greece. According to Mr. Emerson's view and the view that the book most sympathetically presents, the best way to live one's life is to be true to one's nature, and to follow it in spite of all societal pressures. Only through following nature will people find love, and only through love will they be able to understand each other and the world. All that is necessary is the courage to listen to nat ure.

Do you think that Lucy has a strong character? Is she an example of a strong woman?

Given the times she lives in, Lucy's behavior does seem courageous. Her society has taught her that being a woman means accepting a status inferior to men. Charlotte has told her that women should help men to achieve, but should not achieve anyt hing themselves, and her mother has scoffed at the idea of women writing novels rather than tending to their homes and children. Both these women come from an older time, so their views represent the conservative norm of the day. The Emersons, who repre sent the new ideas of a more liberal generation, encourage Lucy's unconventionality. She would probably not receive the impetus she needs without these two men, so in a way, she is dependent upon them for her successes. However, as George tells her when he explains why she should not marry Cecil, he does not want to tell her what to do in order to attain mastery over her; rather, he wants to set her free for her own sake, so that she may daringly make her own decisions. /ANSWER

What is Forster's view of art in this book? Are there right and wrong ways to apprehend and appreciate artwork? Some characters seem to manipulate art in ways that seem inappropriate. Which characters do this and what makes their actions wrong?

Like most of Forster's views, the importance of art centers around the individual. Lucy finds in Santa Croce church that her own perceptions of art are as valid as those of any lecturer or guidebook. Art brings beauty and majesty to life, though, as in Schumann, it can also express sorrow and tragedy. It is meant to be an expression of true human feeling. Cecil, however, sees art only in the sense that it is useful to his pretentious discussions. He may refer to famous artists or writers, but his purpose is only to impress others, not to connect with the artwork on his own level, or connect to others by discussing it. Miss Lavish is a writer, but her books are not only poorly written, but are executed as the expense of real life. She does not r eally value the people she writes about.

Who are the villains in the book? What is it about their faults that makes them so abhorrent? Which ones are the worst, and why?

Charlotte and Mr. Beebe both act "out of character" near the end of the book. How can these behaviors be accounted for, given what is known about them so far? Do you think that Forster gives satisfactory preparation for their actions? If not, what purp ose does the ambiguity serve?

Discuss the importance of Italy in the book. What does Italy represent for Lucy? How does it change her? How does life in England compare to life in Italy?

What do you think about the way the British travelers in Italy conceive of Italians? How might their attitudes reflect the elitist mindset that Forster seems to criticize throughout the book? What, if any, relevance do you think this may have upon Briti sh imperialist ideas?

Mr. Emerson sees a day when men and women will be equal and proclaims that this time will be like a paradise. What are the traditional ideas of womanhood that Lucy has brought from her youth? Which characters seem to perpetuate these ideas?

Mr. Beebe praises Lucy's musical skills, and believes that musicians have minds more complex and more mysterious than other artists. Yet Lucy twice comments that music seems silly when compared to other things, such as playing tennis. What do you think makes her say that music seems "the employment of a child?"

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