A room with a view Term 2 Lecture 3

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A room with a view

  • Term 2 Lecture 3

Forster: Aspects of the Novel

  • Stress on Pattern & Rhythm of a novel

  • Novel as interconnected seamless whole

  •  Building layers of gradual discovery and understanding by reader

Forster: Aspects of the Novel

  • Pattern

    • relates to plot
    • “once we have finished the novel, the plot departs but the pattern remains in our memory”
    • Pattern = symmetry in plot
    • Eg characters changing places: Lucy + Cecil vs Lucy + George as love interest
    • Eg Novel as a whole:
      • movement from Italy – to England – to Italy
    • Pictorially – ‘geometric oval of a stylized eye’
    • Central theme – captures the opening and maturing of Lucy as she widens her visual and mental horizons to learn the truth.

  • In return to Italy, the same window is opened.

  • Foster makes use of a simple and traditional framework of beginning and ending a story in the same setting with the same symbol and with the same underlying thought.

  • That the lovers will grow as a couple – just as Lucy grew as an individual.

Forster: Aspects of the Novel

  • Pattern

    • Eg binaries in characterisation (representing opposing values / worlds: freedom, truth, love, desire vs restraint, repression, falseness; characters associated with symbolically different views
    • Cecil, Charlotte with viewless drawing rooms; George with open nature/sky
    • Eg series of chapters on lying (Lying to George; Lying to Cecil; Lying to…)

Rhythm of the novel

  • From music; relates to structure of novel

  • “Repetition plus variation” of aspects / events / symbols

    • Eg Chapters / events repeat, yet with variation
    • Eg. alternating indoor vs outdoor chapters

  • F (Foster) plays with 3 types of rhythm: easy, difficult and linking.

  • Rhythm in the ‘easy’ sense => consists of either fixed or expanding symbols.

  • Created by the use of repeated sequences of notes / symbols.

  • This repetition does not mean mere duplication.

  • All symbols are used to enhance the rhythmic patterns – but they do so in different ways.

  • F makes extensive use of the repeated simple fixed symbol - the symbolic object that do not grow or diminish in meaning.

  • He also uses the expanding symbol.

  • This is a more complex emblem that grows as the reader learns more of it and applies to the new knowledge the memory of what has passed.

  • The most pervasive simple fixed symbol is the view and its variations eg the window and seeing.

  • The repetition of this symbol constantly woven into the story gives order to the novel

  • From title, we know its impt.

  • From the beginning it is good.

  • This never changes and never grows. Only Mr Emerson has a transcendent knowledge – the one perfect view is ‘the view of the sky straight over our heads’ – all other views are but bungled versions of it.

  • For other characters, seeing the view is a metaphor for seeing life.

  • However, appearances and reality are not the same. From opening, the pension tries to look like an English boarding house but it is not, the floors of red tiles in Lucy’s room look clean but they are not (chpt 1 & 2).

  • Lucy’s challenge (and that of the others) is to perceive what is real and what is pretended.

  • Eg her final break with Cecil, she says ‘I must see clearly. I must speak’ – she rejects the unreality that he represents for her.

  • We are always reminded of the impt of ‘seeing things honestly’.

  • At the very beginning all characters are defined by their desire to see or not to see. Eg closing windows – Miss Alans – tell L & CB of the necessity of closing windows in Italy (chpt 1)

  • Marks the diff btw Lucy and Charlotte.

  • At end of novel, George strolls over to open the window. When lying to Cecil, Lusy tells him ‘don’t open the window’ and ‘you’d better draw the curtains too’.

  • The variations of this simple fixed symbol are due to the forms it takes such as views, windows, and seeing. And the 2 levels it is found on – the interior or psychological and the exterior.

  • In chpt 5, we see how Lucy’s perception of people begin to change – as a result of the effect of Chpt 4

  • P49 ‘she doubted that Miss Lavish was a great artist… they were tried by some new test and they were found wanting’

  • Another example of an unvarying symbol is the Baedeker => A symbol related to viewing, [ NB:Used also in the other Italian novel – where angels fear to tread. – a linking symbol.]

  • It symbolizes the conventional => those who read of life rather than live it. Those who peruse words and sentences rather than people and actions.

  • Users of the Baedeker remove themselves from participation in a view. To show how undeveloped and unsophisticated Lucy is, she is seen memorizing the Baedeker in chpt 1.

  • At the end when she decides to go to Greece => her reversion back to conventionality is shown in her purchasing a Beadeker with her mother for Greece.

  • Like the symbol of a view, the Baedeker’s meaning does not grow not diminish with repeated use.

  • Through its recurrent appearances, it provides an internal harmony of rhythm in the easy manner that a repeated musical phrase does.

  • Other leit-motifs which are just as rhythmically effective and fixed:

  • Charlotte’s consistent tone of false selflessness and the insistent use of the adjective ‘clever’ in conjunction with Miss Lavish.

  • Eg when CB 1st complains she says ‘any nook will do….but it is hard that you shouldn’t have a view.’

  • In chpt 6. ‘it is you they really want. I am added for appearances.’

  • Then about the mackintosh – ‘…without a moment’s doubt, Lucy, the ground will do for me. Really, I have not had rheumatism for years’ => we can hear the whine of the false martyr each time she speaks.

  • For Miss Lavish (Miss L), it is not what she speaks but what is said of her that gives us a constant and consistent note played at her entrance to a scene.

  • Narrator consistently introduces her as ‘the clever lady then said…’ ‘the clever lady broke in…’ ‘Miss Lavish was so original’.

  • Foster admits his leit-motifs are too obvious but becos they are presented with humour and they are incorporated in diff ways, eg in the tone of narrator and the words of other characters, they make interesting variations. They do not disrupt the rhythm but add to it.

  • Creating a simple rhythm we can tap into.

  • A more subtle rhythmic repetition is found in the recurrence of the same phrases, sometimes with variations and repeated by diff characters.

  • This serves to add to the inner harmony and order of the novel but also each recurrence thickens the meaning of the phrase and shows without comment by the narrator how one character is like the other.

  • Similarities are implied and subtle.

  • Eg. In the beginning Miss Alan is introduced as ‘a delicate pathos perfumed her disconnected remarks giving them an unexpected beauty, just as decaying autumn woods there sometimes rise odours reminiscent of spring’. P33 chpt 3

  • A similar version of these words are used when describing Lucy after she rejects G => ‘ she was aware of autumn, summer was ending and the evening brought her odours of decay, the more pathetic because they were reminiscent of spring.’

  • As readers, we are expected to remember the earlier echo of words => Lucy is in danger of being received into the night as Charlotte and the Miss Alans have been.

  • The aesthetic effect of these repetitions is based on the reader’s use of memory to discern that ‘which might have been shown by the novelist straight away only if he had shown it straight away, it would never have become beautiful’.

  • Same device is used in the depiction of Lucy and Cecil’s relationship.

  • ‘nature- the simplest of topics he thought- lay before them.’ P93 => shows the ignorance of his dry and arid passionless personality.

  • ‘nature – simplest of topics, she thought – was around them. => this is at odds with her passionate nature.

  • Lucy too makes the mistake of thinking of nature as a safe and uncomplicated subject.

  • This is Lucy trying to look at the world through Cecil’s eyes and speaks of it even to herself using his words.

Complex expanding symbols:

  • England and Italy seem at 1st like the fixed symbols.

  • Their connotations expand during the course of the novel but there is a basic consistency to them.

  • England is repression and convention. Italy is eternally in league with youth. Surrey is familiar and known, Italian country is full of dangerous ‘pernicious charm’. Chpt 2

  • BUT There is also the danger and possibility of human connection in both places.

  • In chpt 4 in Italy passion can led to violence and death, in Surrey, convention can be flouted in the bathing scene – the joys of unrestrained youth and even the appreciation of maleness can connect.

  • Violets: 1st used in chpt 3 – ‘business of the violets’. Connect them with the Emersons.

  • Takes on other layers of meaning – chpt 6 violets is associated with George and passion:

  • Also described as ‘the primal source’ of beauty.

  • Now associated with life and passion.

  • Phaeton who saw George kiss Lucy had a violet between his teeth.

  • It is a positive symbol

  • When used by Ms Lavish in her crude novel, the symbol is charge with negative quality for Lucy.

  • However, in reminding us of the symbol of the violets, We are also reminded of the positive melody of this repeated use of a symbol.


  • E. M. Forster in his Aspects of the Novel stated that "parody and adaptation have enormous advantages"

  • ‘an already existing book or literary tradition may inspire them - they may find high up in its cornices a pattern that will serve as a beginning, they may swing about in its rafters and gain strength."

  • One such "pattern" is provided by classical mythology.

  • the classical mythological characters of Phaethon and Persephone =>the names of an Italian carriage driver and his lover.

  • Their myths are also relevant to the plot of the novel to emphasize Lucy Honeychurch's and George Emerson's passionate awakenings.

  • By reading the novel for this mythic structure, the reader can better appreciate the personae of Lucy and George and their actions as they relate to their classical analogues.

  • Lucy Honeychurch, who breaks from the darkness of Victorian conventionality to experience the brightness of passion is like Persephone, who spends half of the year in the darkness of the underworld and half in the light of the surface.

  • George Emerson, who forever contemplates the "everlasting Why" until the experience of passion leads him to an encounter with the physical is like Phaethon, whose brashness causes him literally to fall from heaven to earth.

  • It is towards life that Lucy is being called, for she is shackled by Victorian conventionality, which deadens life by subverting passion beneath rationality.

  • She must break free of this conventionality if she is to live.

  • Like Persephone, she is trapped beneath the earth, beneath convention, and the driver and his lover turn to her to appeal to her trapped passions, to force her to release those passions and return to the earth's surface.

  • Forster presents Lucy’s society as "depersonalized by materialism, philistinism, some of the more inhibiting forms of Puritanism and, most of all perhaps, by a blinding complacency engendered by a confident sense of its own entrenchment.“

  • It is a society which lacks "any firm sanctions for the imaginative life," thereby allowing a "rational, sceptical spirit" to gain a firm grip on the society.

  • Lucy is trapped in this grasp, is trapped in its conventions and rational spirit.

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