Discussion Post: A Room with a View
Hey, Challengers! It’s time for our first Spring 2011 Classics Challenge Discussion Post! You can participate here or at your own blog (just remember to use the above badge if you do so!). Wherever you choose to discuss, all participants will be entered to win a completely beautiful Penguin Clothbound Classic. So definitely go for it!
Next week, we’ll be looking at Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, which I thought would pair nicely with A Room with a View. As ever, the questions below are just starters, so if there is something you wanted to discuss related to Forster’s book but that I didn’t bring up, definitely comment below! Here we go:
How much “real” Italy to the British travelers really want or expect? How much of Britain intrudes upon their Italy experience? Upon arriving in Italy, Lucy and Charlotte are hugely annoyed that their pension is just like being in London. But later, when they go out for a drive and their Italian driver gets a bit handsy with his lady-friend, the Brits oust the girl for being improper and go off to have, basically, an English country picnic. Do they seem to desire authenticity or just the facade of it?
I think, like most English tourists of the time, they are tickled by perceived authenticity and delighted by “Italianness” as long as both remain in a safe sphere of either separateness or stereotype. When the British tourists see something they believe to be quintessentially Italian, they like it because it fits in with their perceptions of what Italy should be. When they see something which makes them uncomfortable (be in the canoodling Italians or the murder in the Piazza), it is immediately sent away or blocked off as something extraordinary rather than stereotypical. British tourists longed to experience “real” Italy, but only as long as the place remained as they were told it was and did not stretch or change their beliefs.
So, in short, I think they desired a really believable facade of authenticity rather than the actual thing. As long as they could firmly believe that what they were seeing was “real” Italy, they were pleased as punch.
What is the role of class throughout the book? Mrs. Honeychurch notes that, for all modern “progressive” sentiment, there “is a right sort and a wrong sort, and it’s affectation to pretend there isn’t” (106), but does class really make a difference in the book? Or just within the perceptions of the characters?
I think class mattered more to the characters themselves than to the plot. While numerous characters seemed concerned about others being of “the right sort,” it didn’t seem to change the plot very much if they were or were not. The Emersons persisted throughout the story even if it was generally agreed that they were working class and thus not the right sort, while Cecil is ejected despite being very firmly in the right sort column.
What can we make of Lucy and her gentlemen callers? She claims to break things off with Cecil because he won’t let her be her own woman, but her break-up speech is practically verbatim from George Emerson. Is she really capable and/or desirous of independence or does she just like it in theory?
The more I think about it, the more of a ninny I perceive Lucy to be! She is set up as this ladylike girl who is capable of great depth of feeling (as evidenced by her Beethoven), but I never really felt like she moved much beyond that. Yes, she admitted her love of George and sent Cecil packing, but does that really mean she freed herself from being merely ladylike? Even if George liked her for having her own thoughts, I can’t say I noticed many occasions when she had them or acted on them if she did. Mostly, she just seemed petulant without knowing why or gay without understanding whence her mood came. And, at her most empowered moment when she breaks her engagement with Cecil, she was simply parroting George Emerson. Forgive me, but that hardly seems like a moment Gloria Steinem would crow over.
Favorite Part: I enjoyed Mr. Emerson (senior) immensely! I liked his sincerity and black-and-white view of things (i.e. we have a view, we don’t value the view, you do value the view, we should switch! It’ll be great!).
Least Favorite Part: After George kisses Lucy in Italy and the narrator goes off about some theoretical game that has been won or lost. It may just be I’m not a deep person, but I was completely lost and didn’t know what he was talking about for some pages. Can anyone make this make sense to me?
Share your thoughts below!