To what extent do you agree with the view that Forster makes it obvious to the reader in chapters 1 – 4 of ‘A Room with a View’ that Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson will fall in love? ‘A Room with a View’ by E. M. Forster was first published in 1908, and heavily involves the literary genre of Bildungsroman: the psychological journey and maturity of a character. In the case of ‘A Room with a View’, this character is Lucy Honeychurch, a young woman bound by Edwardian society’s expectations of both her social class and her gender.
The omniscient narrator in ‘A Room with a View’ gives us an insight into the relationship between Lucy and George, and there are a variety of ways in which Forster suggests that they will fall in love, as well as ways in which he suggests that their relationship will not be able to develop. The feelings that Lucy expresses for George can be taken as an obvious sign of her romantic interest in him. She describes George as “rugged”, and is shown to be in awe of his looks throughout the chapters, signifying, at the very least, an infatuation with him – something that could easily develop into something more as the novel progresses.
In fact, it is George that stirs up intimate feelings and sexual urges in Lucy. She sees George “on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel”, likening him to the beautiful, “muscular”, naked man painted there. Lucy also admits later that she is “conscious of her discontent”, perhaps referring to the sexual frustration that have been stirred up as a result of meeting with George. Indeed, Lucy’s mind seems to be more directed towards intimate thoughts after meeting with George at the Chapel.
She thinks about the “pillar of roughened gold” which she describes as a “throbbing” treasure – use of phallic imagery that confirms the idea of her awakened sexual urges. These newly-discovered feelings that Lucy feels – feelings that she has never had before – shows just how great George’s “spell” is over her, and so strengthens the idea that he will be the one she falls in love with. Another important way in which Forster suggests that George and Lucy will fall in love is through the events of chapter 4. When Lucy faints after seeing a man stabbed, she awakens to find herself “held in [George’s] arms”.
This is likely the most intimate Lucy has ever been with a man, and the significance of this intimacy is strengthened by the fact that Lucy was vulnerable and helpless at the time. When she faints, the distance between George and herself (perhaps symbolically representing the social divide that also separates them) disappears, suggesting that Lucy may go against social barriers to be with George. However there are also aspects in the first four chapters of ‘A Room with a View’ that suggests that Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson will not fall in love, and the boundaries of both George and Lucy’s social class is a major one of them.
A Room with a View’ was published at a time when a strict class hierarchy permeated all aspects of life, and those of different social class did not tend to mix. From the beginning of the novel it is shown that the Emersons are below Lucy and the “better class of tourists” in this hierarchy. Indeed, Lucy herself considers them to be “ill-bred” and tactless. This suggests that the differing social classes of Lucy and George will act as a barrier to their love, either because of Lucy’s own prejudices or because of the disapproval of others who hold great respect for this social hierarchy.
Lucy’s inability to form and follow her own opinions at this stage of the novel also lets Forster cast doubt onto whether the two characters will fall in love. Although Lucy is described as having a “rebellious spirit”, she is also a young girl who was raised in a society where women, especially those belonging to the upper classes, were not expected to develop their own opinions. Instead, Lucy relies heavily on the opinions of those she thinks of as her betters. She asks Mr Beebe if Mr Emerson is “nice or not nice”, likes art by “every well-known name”, and is content to let her cousin make her decisions for her.
This shows that Lucy follows the opinions and judgements of others rather than her own. As the majority of those around Lucy would disapprove of a relationship between her and George, Forster makes the reader question whether Lucy will break out of the pre-formed ideas that society has cast on her and follow her heart, or if she will stay as the “poor girl” who is controlled by social etiquette. With Lucy having “rejoined her cousin” at the end of chapter 2, and been shown to be content to “return to the old life” after the events of chapter 4, it appears as if the latter may win out after all.
In conclusion, Forster doesn’t make the eventual destination of George and Lucy’s relationship too clear in the first four chapters. Every time that Lucy begins to develop her own sense of self and explore her feelings for George, there seems to be a point at which she reverts back to society’s expectations for her. However, I think that by the end of the first four chapters Forster makes it obvious that George Emerson is going to be a key character who will surely affect Lucy in a variety of different ways throughout the novel.