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275 FORSTER'S WOMEN: A ROOM WITH A VIEW By Bonnie Blumenthal Finkelstein (Montgomery County Community College) to protect Lucy from Cecil, "who always felt that he must lead women, though he knew not whither, and protect them, though he knew not against what." A Room with a View, a problem novel, deals with two problems: Tl) the acceptance of sexuality and the life of the body, and (2) sexual equality and the role of women in society. As with all "problem" novels, it is somewhat dated, but the extent to which it is not dated is rather remarkable, rather depressing, and indeed rather recenti A- Room with a View was more dated six years ago than it is today. In I967 Professor Herbert Howarth, lecturing to a graduate literature class at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested that the main problem with Forster 's novels was that most of his probems had already been solved.1 He cited specifically the problem of the emancipation of women in A Room with a_ View and Howards End) at the time the assertion seemed accurate. sTx years later, in 1973. the problem of the role of women in society seems at least as controversial as it did in I908 and considerably more so than it did in I967. The theme of the acceptance of sexuality is integrally connected with the structure of A Room with a View, which hinges on three kisses. The first kiss is spontaneous, natural, and beautiful: George Emerson, taken by surprise, kisses an equally startled Lucy Honeychurch among a field of violets. The aftermath of this kiss defines what seems to be the role of Lucy's cousin and chaperone, Charlotte, "who stood brown against the view."2 George's first kiss is contrasted to Cecil's kiss, which is a failure) Cecil, Lucy's fiance, is a prude and asks permission for what Forster asserts should be spontaneous and natural : Passion should believe itself irresistible. It should forget civility and consideration and all the other curses of a refined nature. Above all, it should never ask for leave where there is a right of way. (R-, p. 124) The last of the three kisses is again George's and is again spontaneous and natural, for George "loved passionately" (R_, p. I87), unlike Cecil. It is obvious all along to the reader that George is Lucy's proper mate, a fact it takes her the entire length of the novel to realize. Lucy is not a person of extraordinary insight and has been taught to suppress passion) the development of her ability to trust her own feelings and intuitions rather than "propriety" provides the central action of A- Room with a View. Lucy does learn to accept the life of the body. Her first act of rebellion is to buy a picture of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," 276 although Charlotte attempts to dissuade her from buying it because "Venus, being a pity, spoilt the picture, otherwise so charming,. . . (A pity in art of course signified the nude.)" (R-, p. 47). Later, the sight of George's naked body helps Lucy in her development. His body is beautiful, and Forster presents the sight of a naked human body as a force against muddle, a force which convention attempts to stifle.3 Lucy, influenced by Charlotte and the forces of propriety, has attempted to avoid George after their first kiss and is surprised by her second meeting with him. He has been bathing in the "Sacred Lake" with her brother, Freddy, and Mr. Beebe, the clergyman, and is only half-dressed. By appearing before her naked, George exposes Lucy to an important aspect of life and of freedom that is ordinarily denied her as a woman. The freedom of men to bathe naked, which Forster contrasts with the lack of freedom for women to do the same thing (R_, p. 123). points out the second central theme of A Room with a View, the question of the position and freedom of women in society. A little thing like bathing is considered unladylike, and Forster shows the demands of being "ladylike" to be extremely and pointlessly constricting. Quite early in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 275-287
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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