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Old 02-24-2011, 10:32 AM   #16
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My most favorite character is Mr. Emerson. His son seems bland by comparison.
I think the funniest character is Charlotte Bartlett. She provides a good deal of the comedy and who doesn't know a Charlotte?
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Old 02-24-2011, 12:22 PM   #17
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On the whole, I found the book truly slow paced and the writing didn't appeal to me... at least, at first. I'm sorry it took me so long to get into it, my mind kept wandering and I'm sure I missed a lot of important things - I just finished watching the movie (by the way, and not going into any kind of comparison, it was great!) and I realized just that.

As far as characters go, I found Charlotte and Cecil to be the most enjoyable. I think Charlotte gets such a bad rep partly due to Lucy's own immature behavior. And jumping ahead of the whole is Cecil gay debate, I don't think he is; he just looks like the kind of person who is so sure of his refinement that he doesn't realize how plain he is.
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Old 02-24-2011, 01:39 PM   #18
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What is currently driving me a little crazy is her wishy-washy-ness, and fierce determination to do the "wrong thing", instead of listening to her instincts. This why I'm happy to hear that she changes.
My least favorite character, so far, is Charlotte. What a miserable woman. She comes across as the queen of passive-aggressive behaviour.
I felt like shaking her as well, sometimes . However, I am not sure if women at that time were allowed to listen to their instincts, let alone live according to them. I was very surprised in the end that her mother just accepted her not wanting to marry Cecil anymore, without being overly concerned what other people might think about it.
And yes, if I had to spend time with Charlotte, I would be arguing with her from morning till night.
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Old 02-24-2011, 05:00 PM   #19
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I felt like shaking her as well, sometimes . However, I am not sure if women at that time were allowed to listen to their instincts, let alone live according to them. I was very surprised in the end that her mother just accepted her not wanting to marry Cecil anymore, without being overly concerned what other people might think about it.
And yes, if I had to spend time with Charlotte, I would be arguing with her from morning till night.
You make a very good point!

As for Lucy's mother, my guess is that she really didn't have anyone to answer to, per se. The neighbors had already accepted her and her family the way they were, so there was less pressure as far as the "need to please".
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Old 02-24-2011, 05:11 PM   #20
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The strongest impression after reading the book, is how actual is E.M. Forster, in language and in positions, about individual dignity and freedom.

" Italy had quickened Cecil, not to tolerance, but to irritation. He saw that the local society was narrow, but, instead of saying, "Does that very much matter?" he rebelled, and tried to substitute for it the society he called broad. He did not realize that Lucy had consecrated her environment by the thousand little civilities that create a tenderness in time, and that though her eyes saw its defects, her heart refused to despise it entirely. Nor did he realize a more important point—that if she was too great for this society, she was too great for all society, and had reached the stage where personal intercourse would alone satisfy her. A rebel she was, but not of the kind he understood—a rebel who desired, not a wider dwelling-room, but equality beside the man she loved. For Italy was offering her the most priceless of all possessions—her own soul." This is very high.

Actual but a little too high for our times. The film is easier to understand because details that are critical to the story are anticipated, while in the book they appear only in the final chapter. George behavior in Florence, in the book is less than whispered and left for our fantasy and sensitivity (imagination?), thus giving much joy to the curious reader. The movie is indeed an excellent translation through the 100 years gap in the sensibility of the audience.

I got the impression that Forster started to write the novel without having a plan. Between Florence and England there is a clear change. Not of language, as the images that are evoked in my mind have the same photographic quality, but of theatrical quality. The characters are now described explicitly more than being represented by their acting. It looks like there is a set of notes that he wrote for himself and that make him free to proceed on a different tack, with the important characters in play, modified, made more real and with more depth, with their stories, as it fitted his purposes.

The characters and how they play and interplay.

By far the more entertaining are Cecil and Charlotte. So rich of mannerisms, so easy to be laughed at, so effective in causing devastating effects on the story.

While Charlotte is the deus ex machina (George describes her dealings and her actions in the last chapter, she is Fate in person), Cecil is called to interpret many parts. As comic of course, member of a fringe London society, for the social efforts of the mother (we would call her a cultural operator), totally frigid and self centered. Disastrous as amoroso, and as everything else. Unsinkable though.
As counterpart to his rival George. While George is instinctive, one with nature, Fate, emotions, love, equality principles, political correctness, nice complexion, brilliant tennis, and more and more, Cecil is to be seen inside (see the scene in the wood), is just intellectual, rational (but maybe cretin), ineffective, fake and vane. Who will win?

But George of course. He speaks the language of Nature, of Destiny, of Love, of Instinct. The old battle between Dionysus and Apollo that interests so much the Cambridge and Oxford Dons, is won by Dionysus, in a pond, in a field of violets and in a room with a view. George is never explained much, of course he is the mysterious nature, we must imagine him as we please. BTW George is the character that since the start I like the most, and with whom I identify a bit.

Yes it is a romance, no doubt. There are some elements of bildung, but they are not the key. The one that I appreciate most is in the last chapter.

"He was a boy after all. When it came to the point, it was she who remembered the past, she into whose soul the iron had entered, she who knew whose room this had been last year. It endeared him to her strangely that he should be sometimes wrong."

Forster knew. Some of us know or have experienced this. That strangely is a gem. A test to propose to a woman in love. There are several instances where Lucy observes her own reactions and is surprised or moved.

More than romance and a bit of bildung the scope of the novel is the criticism of a middle class that was bound by conventions, and unaware of its inadequacy.

"It was at one of those entertainments where the upper classes entertain the lower. ..."
The words are straight. The tone is neutral. Irony roars in the ears like Niagara falls...

"The seats were filled with a respectful audience, and the ladies and gentlemen of the parish, under the auspices of their vicar, sang, or recited, or imitated the drawing of a champagne cork." There.

He hates his countrymen, openly and without reserve.
" ... their anxiety to keep together being only equaled by their desire to go different directions."

The substance is the fabric of wonderful wit and wisdom. The continuous play of hide and seek with the reader, the smiles, the winks. It is a very lovely novel. It is holding well the passing of time. It is certainly a great classic.

It applies to us, also.
" here was a very foolish old man, as well as a very irreligious one." I know a few of the MR members that might fit.

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Old 02-24-2011, 05:14 PM   #21
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to accompany the discussion I would like to invite the kind members to listen to this little piece of music of the time

It has been described as "furniture music". It is a bit incorporeal as Forster writings, but not less gentle or, in its delicate way, deep. What a contrast with the innovative movements of the time. Futurism and cubism among them. Of which in A Room With a View there is almost no trace, except maybe in the Emersons. But of which the Cambridge graduate and man of his times Forster could not be and was not unaware.
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:48 AM   #22
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Just a comment: Forster - and the age of the society the story takes place in - isn't victorian, but edwardian. We're right before WW1 and the social climate had changed somewhat by then since the victorian time.

I think Lucy can't be more than 20 at most, but still she is rather immature in general. I don't think it's so much that Forster didn't like women - which he did, there's no reason to believe otherwise - but his father died shortly after he was born, and a great part of his early life was dominated by the women in his home and family and he had a very close relationship with his mother. My interpretation is that he is simply using what has observed and know. The society he describes, from Mr. Emerson Senior to Cecil Vyse, reflects his own background after all.

Thank you, EA, even though I've read him before I was not familiar with E.M. Forrester's life. It makes sense. One of the things I like about him is the way he evokes a sense of intimacy through the small details of daily life.
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Old 02-26-2011, 09:04 AM   #23
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Firstly, I liked this book. However, I had trouble really coming to grips with what Forster was trying tell me as the reader.

For me, Lucy was a focus - the pivotal character. Will she or won't she? She starts the book accompanied by the very person who will pin her down into a staid, repressed life of "society" - the travelling English cocoon that encases her protectively wherever she might be (pensions and Baedekers).

However, it doesn't take long before she stumbles into what I like to think of as "the real Florence". She clings to her Baedeker for as long as she can and feels lost without it: "There was no one even to tell her which, of all the sepulchral slabs that paved the nave and transepts, was the one that was really beautiful".

Strangely - and perhaps it is because of her youth, it takes very little time for her to relax and then run into the Emersons. Through this whole section I got to see a Lucy who wasn't yet "formed". She rather fluidly alters her outlook in the company of the Emersons even to what seemed a suggestion from Mr Emerson for Lucy to have a fling with his son.

And this was what ended up creating my tension in the book. Lucy could go either way for me. Whereas Charlotte was already fairly rigidly in control of herself there's evidence that Lucy was an unknown quantity.

I don't think she was ready in Florence however. Two particularly big events (for a young girl) occur in Florence. The stabbing death of a nameless Italian and the first impulsive kiss from George.

The setting of the death read as masculine, brutal and pagan - I almost felt like Forster was presenting a scene that was sexual in nature in the Piazza Signoria from the tower of the palace "some unattainable treasure throbbing in the tranquil sky" and the pagan statues, Neptune's "...fountain splashed dreamily to the men and satyrs who idled together on its marge", to the raw passion between two men resulting in a stabbing. And then she sees George...and faints.

Likewise in the scene of the first kiss, once she is dismissed by Charlotte to whom she is clinging to avoid the unsheltered reality of the Emersons, she falls prey to the spontaneous affection of George. The fact that tries so hard to avoid George seems to indicate she's not ready yet. Charlotte's interference in this event does prevent us from really seeing how Lucy would respond. But I read her readiness to be whisked away to Rome in the end to be the proof that she's not ready to break free of repression.

The rest of the book was me waiting to see whether she could break free of the same prison she seemed to long for at the start of the book.

When she finally broke with Cecil and chose George, I sighed with relief.

Having said all of that though, I was a bit confused by the characters in the book that did not seem to represent the repressed English society as I expected. Lucy's family did not seem overly proper to me. Her mother seemed reasonably strong if flighty and her brother had quite a bit of spunk and playfulness. Even the favoured parson did not seem as stiff as I was expecting. Charlotte seemed the odd one out in comparison.

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Old 03-01-2011, 07:22 PM   #24
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I enjoyed this book although I'm not sure I have anything profound to add to the discussion. I thought lucy's sense of frustration was well described. Once I finished it I watched the Helena Bonham Carter version of the movie which I thought was very well done. That definitely added to my appreciation of the book.
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:33 PM   #25
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I enjoyed this book although I'm not sure I have anything profound to add to the discussion. I thought lucy's sense of frustration was well described. Once I finished it I watched the Helena Bonham Carter version of the movie which I thought was very well done. That definitely added to my appreciation of the book.
when I saw her I was really surprised. I had imagined a linfatic sort of blond ectoplasm for Lucy, that got animated only when she could pound on an innocent piano the most heroic Beethoven, and than there was this incredible concentrate of feminine energy with the most beautiful mass of hair and an heart shaped face, not to talk of the mouth and of the eyes, sexy that more sexy it is impossible. Of course that the plot thickens. How she moved, like a cobra. Show business. I am sure that Forster would have loved that surprise. The man of the surprises.
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:43 PM   #26
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Overall, i think Forster might be too good in developing his themes and that made this book a little boring. All the characters seem to oppress themselves, seem afraid to be individuals or express themselves in any way that might disrupt their little insular communities. Even Cecil, who is very critical of Lucy's family, doesn't really think for himself. All of his ideas are based on notions of art or beauty and how things ought to be, and he is unable to accept any life as it is, making him a narrow and rigid person. What they all seem to search for is an equilibrium, a perpetually calm sea to swim in, so they are all afraid of any intellectual growth, any personal revelations, because that might change things, might stir things up. This self-restraint among all the characters, for me at least, made them bland until the end when Lucy's inner turmoil finally bubbles to the surface.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:42 PM   #27
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I loved this line near the end of chapter 19: "He gave her a sense of deities reconciled, a feeling that, in gaining the man she loved, she would gain something for the whole world." This especially jumped out at me considering how much Mr. Emerson seemed invested in Lucy's relationship with George, how Mr. Emerson seemed to be living vicariously through them, as if them getting together would right something or alleviate some regret in his own life. George and Lucy getting together is a victory for humanity, a breaking free of social conventions, a declaration that it is good and right for people to go after what they desire, for people to connect to each other as individuals and not as representatives of an institution, community, or ideal. By getting together they had transcended artificial barriers and had become gods themselves.

The next line I thought was also quite powerful: "He had robbed the body of its taint, the world's taunts of their sting; he had shown her the holiness of direct desire." It is fitting after this line that the next chapter would be called "The End of the Middle Ages." It seems to indicate something very important about Forster's concept of humanity, time, and history. Despite all the material advances of civilization, humanity still had not advanced. People were still oppressed, if not by poverty then by shame, social convention, and useless self-denial. The Middle Ages was an era where the individual was repressed, where the body was considered the source of all evil, the embodiment of depravity and fallenness. Technology had not changed this mindset; in fact, the wealthier people became, the more they had to lose. People had to marry for class, or status, for wealth, but not for love, but not who they really wanted to. They had to act according to etiquette or social propriety, talk certain ways, dress certain ways, belief certain things, do anything but what they themselves wanted to do. What mattered was the rules, the status quo. History thus is not a continual line upwards into the future. It is a condition of fallenness and redemption, but the fallenness is not sin and the redemption is not religion.

The Ancient Greeks, at least in the minds of the modern man, were a passionate people, a people who embraced the pleasures and desires of the flesh. The Middle Ages had been a great fall from this condition, and material advancement had failed to redeem the soul. The middle ages does not end with communities or states or families; the middle ends only in the hearts of individuals, individuals who decide to love other because, as Mr. Emerson says, "love is eternal." All else was a muddle as Mr. Emerson put it, or a waste, as Lucy put it, "Wasted plans, wasted money, wasted love." History, progress, is not a forward march; it is a return to the mythological past, a past not consisting of invention, but of passion and human feeling unencumbered by the baggage of time.
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Old 03-02-2011, 12:00 AM   #28
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Having said all of that though, I was a bit confused by the characters in the book that did not seem to represent the repressed English society as I expected. Lucy's family did not seem overly proper to me. Her mother seemed reasonably strong if flighty and her brother had quite a bit of spunk and playfulness. Even the favoured parson did not seem as stiff as I was expecting. Charlotte seemed the odd one out in comparison.

Regards
Caleb
Even though most of the characters had personality, I still think there was a willful insularity or ignorance among them. They didn't really want to think hard about anything or know anything in depth. Admittedly, I don't think I read the novel as closely as you did. I didn't find it invigorating until the last few chapters, so I think a second reading might do me a lot of good. Anyways, thanks for sharing your excellent analysis.
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Old 03-02-2011, 03:43 AM   #29
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Even though most of the characters had personality, I still think there was a willful insularity or ignorance among them. They didn't really want to think hard about anything or know anything in depth. Admittedly, I don't think I read the novel as closely as you did. I didn't find it invigorating until the last few chapters, so I think a second reading might do me a lot of good. Anyways, thanks for sharing your excellent analysis.
Forster, years later of writing A room with a view, explained in a famous lecture that he gave in Cambridge, how to build full characters that have three dimensions and flat characters, that are represented by just some action or some aspects of their personality, and that he uses for the narrative purposes. To me it was interesting, and one of the many keys in enjoying the reading, to distinguish among them. I think you sensed, or reasoned of course, a very similar effect. Good for you and compliments for the nice comments. Very enjoyable.

I still think that the value of the novel is the fabric of Forster considerations, directly as comments, or through some of the characters line. More than the plot itself. And the lightness of his touch.

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Old 03-02-2011, 08:14 AM   #30
Nyssa
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Posts: 5,455
Karma: 53577081
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Florida, USA
Device: Kindle 3 (Wifi Only), Kindle Paperwhite
I finished this yesterday, and left it feeling ....empty. I was happy to be done with it. I have nothing profound to say. It was okay - I like happy endings, but it was just a little too verbose for my tastes. My initial reaction was that he could have said more with less.
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