Places: A Room with a View

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1908

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: Early twentieth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedWindy Corner

Windy Room with a View, ACorner. Home of Lucy Honeychurch and her mother and brother. Windy Corner is located near Summer Street, in the Surrey hills. The Honeychurches live in suburbia, as did E. M. Forster for much of his life, close to London but outside it. Surrey is famous as a recreation destination. As he indicates in the title, Forster considered rooms within houses to be symbolically important places: The rooms in the boxy Honeychurch house are protected from the outside by heavy curtains and filled with solid Victorian furniture. They do not have views. Views are to be had outside on the grounds, or, for those ready to look, within.

Pension Bertolini

Pension Bertolini (pan-see-OHN ber-TOH-lee-nee). Tourist lodge on the River Arno, in Florence, which caters to an English clientele. The Bertolini is based on a real pension in which Forster stayed with his mother on his first trip to Italy in 1901-1902. The pension is run by a Cockney woman, and, with its drawing room and pictures of Queen Victoria and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, on the walls, the hostel is calculated to make the English tourist feel at home. As in Forster’s other novels, it is abroad that members of various levels of English society, in particular the middle classes, seem to meet. The room to which Lucy is eventually assigned has a beautiful view of the river and the hills beyond. This view entices her out of the pension and into the dangers and possibilities of the city.

*Florence

*Florence. City in northern Italy that was historically a center of culture and political power. For many English writers, Italy figured prominently as a romantically idealized, open, earthy society in stark opposition to closed, ascetic Victorian England. This was true of Forster, who felt that Italy had an awakening effect on him. It was both the seat of the Renaissance and an erotic ideal. As in England, however, Italy has both city and country attractions. Florence’s busy Piazza Signoria is the scene of Lucy’s first sexual awakening, as she witnesses an altercation between two Italian men. That is followed by her journey out of the city to the hills at Fiesole, where the novel engages the spirit of the place. In a scene, reminiscent of an early Forster work, “The Story of a Panic,” Lucy and the Whitmanesque hero George Emerson are overcome by passion and share their first kiss.

*London

*London. Great Britain’s capital city, in which Cecil Vyse lives with his mother. London figures very briefly in the novel and is important in just two scenes. In the first, Lucy plays piano for a children’s party, in the chapter titled, “In Mrs. Vyse’s Well-Appointed Flat.” Lucy tires of everything in London, including her family and her suburban home. In the second scene, the cosmopolitan Cecil meets George and his father at the National Gallery. Cecil plays a joke on the suburban snobs in Summer Street by enticing the Emersons to take a lease on Cissy Villa. Contrasted to Surrey, London is dark, dank, and deserted. While it is the English center of sophistication, art, and culture, London lacks scenic views.

BibliographyDowling, David. Bloomsbury Aesthetics and the Novels of Forster and Woolf. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Demonstrates the iconographic significance of the paintings mentioned in the novel. Analyzes the change that Lucy Honeychurch undergoes through her meetings with the Emersons. Points out Cecil Vyse’s attempts to place her on a pedestal.Furbank, P. N. E. M. Forster: A Life. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. Definitive biography: detailed, well-written, and copiously illustrated. Demonstrates how a trip Forster made to Florence in late 1901 inspired him to attempt a novel about English tourists in Italy. Recounts his subsequent struggles in writing A Room with a View and summarizes the novel’s critical reception.Kelvin, Norman. E. M. Forster. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967. Praises the social comedy in A Room with a View but sees Mr. Emerson, a humanist like Forster himself, as the novel’s central character. Shows how Mr. Emerson controls the plot and other characters.Land, Stephen K. Challenge and Conventionality in the Fiction of E. M. Forster. New York: AMS Press, 1990. Explains how A Room with a View fits into a pattern established by Forster’s other novels by positioning Lucy as the heroine, Charlotte and Cecil as villains, George as a challenger, and Miss Lavish as a “rebel woman.” Argues that the novel’s conclusion is unsatisfying.Rosecrance, Barbara. Forster’s Narrative Vision. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982. Analyzes the quirky narrative voice in A Room with a View and concludes its effects on a reader are primarily comic; points out that the voice functions as a type of stage manager.
Categories: Places