A Room With a View: Chapter 9-12
Chapter 9 begins a few days after the engagement, as Lucy and Cecil are invited to a garden-party in the neighborhood. Cecil’s snobbery becomes evident at the gathering; he is very annoyed at being congratulated, and finds the country society vulgar. They begin talking of Mr. Beebe, and Lucy realizes that Cecil doesn’t like him, although he denies it. Lucy says that there is one clergyman that she does hate: Mr. Eager. She finds him very insincere, and a snob. She repeats the rumor Mr. Eager had shared about Mr. Emerson killing his wife, but disguises the Emersons’ identity by lying that the old man’s name was Harris. Cecil is a bit taken aback by Lucy’s passionate moral outburst over Mr. Eager. He does not think it proper for a woman to rant about things. However, he decides that this is a sign of youth and vitality.
Their carriage takes them past the two villas, “Cissie” and “Albert,” that were purchased by Sir Harry Otway. The homes are an eyesore, but Sir Harry cannot tear them down as there is an elderly tenant in Albert Villa. The only thing to do is to find a suitable tenant for Cissie Villa—that is, someone who is not too low-class for the area. Lucy suggests the Miss Alans, and promises to write them immediately.
Cecil and Lucy decide to walk back rather than ride in the carriage. As soon as they leave, Cecil makes fun of Sir Harry. He thinks the gentleman’s snobbishness ridiculous, as Sir Harry himself would be a nobody in London. Lucy agrees that Sir Harry isn’t clever, but she thinks he is nice, and doesn’t let his silly pretentions bother her. It makes Lucy anxious that Cecil has such contempt for everyone in her community. What if he decides to hate Freddy, or her mother, as well?
Cecil wants to take a path through the woods rather than the road. He complains that Lucy is more comfortable with him in a room than in open country. Lucy realizes that he is right: she does always picture him in a room, with no view. This annoys Cecil, who wants Lucy to associate him with the open air. The path takes them past a little pool of water that Lucy calls “The Sacred Lake.” Lucy says that Freddy likes to bathe there, and she did too, until she was discovered by Charlotte and made to stop. Near the edge of the water, Cecil asks if he can kiss Lucy. She agrees, but the kiss is awkward, and Cecil feels it is a failure. He wishes that he’d had the courage to embrace her passionately.
As they walk back, Lucy seems lost in thought, and tells him that the real name of the old man Mr. Eager treated unkindly was Emerson, not Harris. Her comment suggests that she is thinking of George.
Chapter 10 explains some of the history of the Honeychurch family. Lucy’s father had been a prosperous local lawyer who built Windy Corner before the area had been developed. When wealthy Londoners moved to the area and built their mansions, they mistook the Honeychurches for country aristocrats instead of the nouveau riche they really were, and therefore, Lucy had been accepted into the higher society of the area. Now after having been to Italy, Lucy sees that this society is rather narrow, but she still has a great affection for it, and cannot despise it. Cecil wants to introduce her to broader society, but fails to see that Lucy is beyond that; all she really wants to find is a soul mate, an equal partner.
Lucy and Minnie Beebe play bumble-puppy, a silly game with tennis balls, while talking to Mr. Beebe and Mrs. Honeychurch about the Miss Alans, who are planning to move into Cissie Villa. Meanwhile, Cecil stays inside, to avoid being hurt as the game deteriorates into roughhousing. Freddy announces that it is not the Miss Alans, but a family called Emerson, who are going to live in the villa. Lucy is shocked to find that the Emersons are none other than George and his father, who have been invited by Cecil as a joke on Sir Harry, as Cecil thought them very vulgar. Cecil claims that he believes in democracy and wants to punish a snob, but Lucy is angry that he has spoiled her work in inviting the Miss Alans and made her look bad.
Chapter 11 is set in London at the apartment of Cecil’s mother, Mrs. Vyse, where Lucy and Cecil have gone for a visit. While there, Lucy receives a letter from Charlotte expressing alarm about the arrival of George to Lucy’s neighborhood and advising her to tell her mother and Cecil everything. The letter annoys Lucy, who does not intend to say anything about the incident in Italy.
Mrs. Vyse holds a dinner party, inviting all the descendants of famous people, and Lucy plays the piano, choosing a sad and broken melody by Schumann rather than her triumphant Beethoven. Cecil and his mother discuss Lucy afterwards, both impressed by her style and her playing, Cecil commenting that the Schumann had been perfect for the occasion. Mrs. Vyse is shown as a good person whose true character has been stifled and crushed by London society, making her snobbish and weary.
That night in Mrs. Vyse’s home, Lucy has a nightmare and is comforted by Mrs. Vyse, who reassures her that Cecil cares for her.
In Chapter 12, Freddy and Mr. Beebe pay a visit to the Emersons. Mr. Beebe notes and comments on the books they have brought, which include poetry by Byron, A. E. Housman’s poetry collection A Shropshire Lad, Samuel Butler’s novel, The Way of All Flesh, books of Roman history by Edward Gibbon, and philosophy books by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. On the wardrobe, they see the inscription “Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes,” a quote from Henry David Thoreau. The books and the quotation reveal the Emersons to be highly educated and free-thinking men.
Meeting George, Freddy blurts out an invitation to go swimming. Mr. Emerson approves of this, commenting that one day, even ladies will greet one another in that way, when the sexes are equal and people no longer despise their bodies. Mr. Beebe goes along for the swim. He tries to draw George out, commenting on what a coincidence it has been for them all to meet again. George says he thinks it is Fate.
At the pond, George is at first reticent, but soon all three men are naked and running around the pond, frolicking and chasing each other. Suddenly, Mrs. Honeychurch, Lucy, and Cecil come along the path on their way to visit a neighbor, Mrs. Butterworth, and see all the men naked. George, naked except for Mr. Beebe’s hat, whoops in their faces and runs away. He returns wearing Freddy’s pants, and shouts a hello to Lucy.
Analysis of Chapters 9-12
By the standards of English society at the time, Cecil and his London milieu are the upper class, but Forster shows in these chapters that upper class does not mean better class. Cecil looks down on the petty snobbishness of Lucy’s provincial society, but in doing so, he is an even bigger snob. Cecil and his London acquaintances are effete and world-weary, while the Honeychurches are playful and whimsical. The line between Cecil’s world and Lucy’s world is drawn very clearly when at Windy Corner, Cecil stays indoors while Lucy and the others clown around at bumblepuppy. Cecil’s small-minded attitudes are also contrasted negatively with those of the freethinking Emersons.
The names of the characters shed some light on Forster’s intentions. The name “Vyse” recalls a vise that squeezes and crushes with its force. Mrs. Vyse has been crushed, as in a vise, by the snobbish high society of London. The name “Honeychurch” reminds one of all that is sweet in home, family, and conventional beliefs—all the sweetness that Cecil, with his snobbishness toward provincial life, fails to appreciate. The name “Emerson” recalls the transcendentalist philosopher and his call to find truth expressed in nature.
The Sacred Lake is symbolic of a return to nature, similar to Walden Pond in the writing of Thoreau, another transcendentalist. As the bathers shed their clothing, they also shed the roles society has placed on them and become free creatures of the earth, playful and joyous. Freddy has on Mr. Beebe’s clerical waistcoat; George has on his hat—social positions become meaningless in this Edenic setting in the woods.
The two scenes at the Sacred Lake provide a sharp contrast between Cecil and George. In the first scene, Lucy arrives at the Sacred Lake with Cecil and he kisses her, but his glasses are caught between them and it is an awkward moment. In the second scene, Lucy sees George naked and jubilant at the pond. Cecil’s relationship to Lucy, as even he is aware, is cramped by notions of politeness and chivalry. George, on the other hand, unashamed of his nakedness, seems ready to share with Lucy in the “Garden of Eden” that his father spoke of, in which women and men no longer despise their bodies and become equals.
The motifs of a room and a view appear again in this part of the novel. Lucy always pictures Cecil with a room with no view, but she associates George with a beautiful view of the outdoors. A “room” stands for a civilized place, and also a place that is enclosed and limited. A “view” stands for an open, natural worldview, one that is as expansive as it is beautiful. Although he doesn’t like to hear it, Lucy sees Cecil’s world as small and limited.
It is ironic that it is Cecil who reintroduces George into Lucy’s life. He fancies that he is opening up her world and helping her to be less snobbish by bringing the Emersons to her neighborhood. In fact he will open Lucy’s world to new possibilities, but not in the way he thinks.