A Room With A View


The Subtle Heroine
A Room with a View, by Edward Morgan Foster, presents the story of Lucy Honeychurch, a young woman belonging to English "high society." Foster places this young maiden in a state of conflict between the snobbery of her class, the "suitable and traditional" views and advice offered by various family members and friends, and her true heart?s desire. This conflict "forces Lucy Honeychurch to choose between convention and passion (Bantam Intro-back cover)," and throws her into a state of internal struggle, as she must sift through the elements of her "social conditioning" and discern them from her true emotions and desires. Foster develops and utilizes Lucy?s internal struggle as a means of transforming her from a petty young woman to a subtle heroine.
Lucy Honeychurch is introduced to the reader as a somewhat petty young woman, obviously ignorant to the "ways of the world," who is being chaperoned by her cousin, Charlotte Barlett, while vacationing in Italy. Numerous conversations over matters of dress, the acceptability of various pieces of furniture, and other?s vacations, suggest the snobbish nature of both Lucy and Charlotte. In fact, matters of convention encompass Lucy?s life until George Emerson?s "caddish," yet never the less passionate, display of affection in the bed of violets throws her into an internal struggle of transformation. George?s powerful advice, "Courage and love (p.66)," uttered just before he kisses Lucy, gives her the strength to begin her strength to overcome convention in favor of passion, and lights the fire of her transformation.
Next, Foster brilliantly introduces the character of Cecil Vyse, a "medieval" and high standing Englishman who, while is an acceptable suitor, really only sees Lucy as another pretty possession by his side. Cecil?s most important function ironically enough, is to serve as a "mirror" for Lucy. For by seeing his snobbish and downright crude mannerisms, Lucy receives a likely image of what she herself could become if she were to marry Cecil for convention and not for passion. Becoming disgusted with Cecil?s behavior, she breaks off her engagement with him, yet still cannot distinguish whether she is doing it because of his crude and snobbish nature or because of her love for George, which she has still yet to admit.
Finally, in a heated, tearful, and heart-warming debate, Mr. Emerson (George?s father) gives Lucy the last ounce of strength that she needs to complete her transformation from a petty young woman to a subtle heroine. Mr. Emerson sees right through her false excuses for breaking off with Cecil and forces her to realize her genuine feelings of love for George. Lucy succumbs to her passion and overcomes the confining condition of her social class. She tells her family and friends of her love for George Emerson, refusing to hold on to her "distinguished and proper" behavior, giving into her true desire, and transforming from a petty young woman to a subtle heroine.