Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

The book opens with two women, Lucy and Charlotte, openly complaining about the hotel they are staying in because they were told they would have a room with a view and instead they were given a room that just faces into the courtyard. The other patrons can obviously hear their conversation, but politely go about their own business. Except for two men. George and his father do the logical thing and offer the women to trade rooms, since they have a room with a view but they can make do with any old room. Of course, everyone is stunned that these men are so improper and undignified as to offer such a thing and Charlotte promptly snubs them.

So you can see from the beginning that the book is largely about social conventions and the class system.

Lucy is the younger of the two women - Charlotte is her cousin, her chaperone on the trip, and kind of an old maid. During their stay in the hotel, Lucy keeps running into these two men that everyone else has ostracized. She gets to know George and they kiss. When Lucy returns back home, she gets caught up in an engagement to a man named Cecil who she doesn't have any feelings for, but she goes along with it because her family approves of the match.

Through a random twist of fate, George also ends up in England near Lucy's home and they meet again. Lucy decides she must tell George to leave her alone, but instead something else happens.

My favorite character in the book was George's father, Mr. Emerson. He always cuts to the chase and he tells Lucy exactly what she has been trying to ignore - that she has two choices. She can keep everyone in her family happy and make her own self miserable by doing what they tell her to do or she can admit that she loves George and can find a lifetime of happiness in marriage to him.

There was also some neat references in the book back to "rooms" and "views" and I think if you dig deeper you will find something meaningful. Many times a character is mentioned in the context of a room or some characters are talking about the view. I think there was some kind of comparison to liberal, forward-thinkers versus conservative thinkers. There are probably all kinds of layers and themes in this book that you can find. I think if I read it again in the future I will try to pay attention to these things and see what I can find. This book is actually a very mild book without much to recommend it at first, but if you linger over some of the themes I suspect you will find more than meets the eye.

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