A Room With a View: Chapter 13-16
In Chapter 13, Lucy wonders over the extraordinary encounter with George. She had not been prepared at all for being greeted by a half-naked George at the pond, and it has destroyed all her plans for greeting him in a proper way. At tea with a neighbor, Cecil is snobbish to the point of being uncivil, and Mrs. Honeychurch notices. Lucy defends Cecil by saying that he has a high standard for people, and Mrs. Butterworth is tiresome. “Cecil has told you to think so,” her mother counters, pointing out that Lucy used to love Mrs. Butterworth, who cared for her when she had typhoid fever. Mrs. Honeychurch has also noticed Cecil’s annoyance with her and Freddy. Lucy is upset and embarrassed; she knows that Cecil meant to be supercilious, and has succeeded.
Freddy returns from swimming delighted with the Emersons, and plans to invite them for tennis on Sunday. Lucy discourages him, saying that there is too much of a “muddle” at the moment.
Lucy’s mother questions her about what was in Charlotte’s letter, but Lucy cannot tell her everything; she only distracts her mother by bringing up Miss Lavish, whom Charlotte had mentioned in her letter. Mrs. Honeychurch abhors the idea of women novelists, thinking that women should mind their homes and children rather than seek fame in print. Although Lucy tries to tell herself that the kiss George Emerson gave her was nothing, she is uneasy with all these ghosts from the past coming out—Charlotte and her knowledge being one of them. Now Lucy’s mother wants to invite Charlotte to stay at the house while plumbing work is being done at her place in Tunbridge Wells, and this makes Lucy nervous. Lucy and Cecil object, but Charlotte is to come anyway.
In Chapter 14, Lucy is left to face the situation bravely. She has seen George Emerson again. His voice moved her deeply and she wished to remain near him, but rather than recognize that she is in love with him, Lucy tells herself it is a trick of the nerves. The house is full: Charlotte has arrived and is quickly on everyone’s nerves; Minnie Beebe is staying with the family because of a diphteria epidemic; and Freddy has a friend, Mr. Floyd, staying there as well. Charlotte confronts Lucy, again urging her to tell about George, lest Cecil hear it from some other source. Lucy convinces Charlotte that George is all right and not in love with her. In her speech to Charlotte, however, she makes a slip that indicates it was she, not George, who lost her head when she saw him against a beautiful view.
The tension over George mounts in Chapter 15, as the day has arrived when George will come for tennis at Windy Corner. As the Honeychurches prepare for a church, a red book lies outside in the garden, left there by Cecil. The book, titled Under a Loggia, will soon prove important to the plot.
After church, Lucy sees the Emersons, who have been offended to learn that they displaced the Miss Alans and that Cecil misrepresented them to Sir Harry as “artistic.” Lucy inwardly blames Cecil for the mess, but says nothing against him. In the course of their conversation, George speaks beautifully and philosophically on the subject of kindness, and Mrs. Honeychurch is pleased by him. Lucy realizes that her mother and George will get along very well. She also observes how kindly and warmly George treats his father. Miss Bartlett arrives and George becomes flustered; Lucy again recognizes the weakness in him, as she saw when he threw her photographs into the river. The weakness makes him human to her; she realizes that men might be as clumsy as girls, and need help sometimes. Lucy also realizes during this conversation that George has not told his father about kissing Lucy, and she is inwardly ecstatic that it is still a secret.
Back at the house, Cecil asks about the Emersons, referring to them as his “protégés.” Lucy does not like the term. She sees that Cecil cannot conceive of an equal relationship with anyone; he must see himself as the protector or superior of others.
At lunch Lucy is buoyed by cheerfulness. Normally she is depressed at meals, thinking of how she will soon need to leave Windy Corner and go to London, but today she feels differently. She plays piano, but then realizes that George has entered the room, and grows flustered, and stops.
After lunch they all play tennis while Cecil reads aloud from a book, making fun of how badly written it is. Lucy is happy playing tennis, and the view of the Sussex Weald is particularly beautiful to her, like the mountains of Italy. George speaks about views, saying that according to his father, the only perfect view is that of the sky above our heads. His comments impress Lucy. George plays energetically, and wins the match.
Meanwhile, Cecil seems irritated not to be the center of Lucy’s attention. As he continues reading from his book, Lucy realizes that this is Miss Lavish’s book, and laughs about it, too—until suddenly Cecil reads a scene in which the heroine is kissed in a field of violets. There can be no mistake; Miss Lavish was writing about her and George. As they go in for tea, the passionate George seizes his chance to kiss Lucy again.
In Chapter 16, Lucy lies to George. She has become much better than before at repressing feelings in order to conform to what is proper and expected, and because she believes that her duty is to Cecil, she is able to tell herself that she never cared anything about George at all. The only thing to be done, she decides, it to turn him out. First, she calls in Charlotte Bartlett and confronts her about Miss Lavish’s novel. Charlotte admits that she was the one who told Miss Lavish the secret, and is genuinely upset that it was used in the novel.
Lucy now demands that George be punished, but Charlotte is afraid to speak to him, so Lucy confronts him herself. He surprises her by giving a speech about why Cecil is wrong for her. “You cannot live with Cecil Vyse,” he says. “He’s only for an acquaintance. He is for society and cultivated talk. He should know no one intimately, least of all a woman.” He exclaims that he loves Lucy, and unlike Cecil, he wants her to have her own thoughts. He pleads with Charlotte to understand him, but Lucy keeps calm and keeps firm, and George leaves.
Down in the garden, Lucy is overcome with emotion and feels that summer is ending. Freddy, learning that George has gone, calls to Cecil to play tennis with them, and Cecil refuses. “There are some chaps who are no good for anything but books,” he comments. Lucy suddenly realizes that George was right about Cecil. She breaks off the engagement that very evening.
Analysis of Chapters 13-16
Cecil becomes more and more unattractive to Lucy as she sees him distance himself from all that she knows and loves. Cecil wants to take Lucy away from what he sees as vulgar suburban life, but she fears this; knowing that like Cecil’s mother, she will be crushed in the vise of London high society. Cecil, who views the Emersons as his “protégés,” is incapable of having equal relationships with others. He cannot let a woman think for herself. This is something that George Emerson understands, and he helps Lucy to see it, too.
Cecil’s refusal to play tennis, although a seemingly minor incident, proves to be the final straw that pushes Lucy to break off their engagement. Cecil is selfish; he cannot see that by refusing to participate he is spoiling the fun of others. His rejection of physical exercise further characterizes Cecil as the Mediæval type, one who despises the body as vulgar. The message of the book, as expressed at various times by Mr. Emerson, is that body and soul are one, and true love involves both; this is something Cecil, an effete and celibate man by nature, will never understand.
The tension over George continues to build in these chapters. Lucy’s feelings for him are more and more difficult to deny, but she has “developed” into a person who is more talented than ever at repressing her true feelings for the sake of propriety. Although she is ready to break off her relationship with Cecil, she still cannot bring herself to admit that she loves George. Forster’s message is that society is wrong when it teaches people to lie and to repress their natural feelings in order to conform with what is “proper.”