Book for May 2011
A Room with a View is Forster's most romantic and optimistic book. He utilizes many of his trademark techniques, including contrasts between "dynamic" and "static" characters. "Dynamic" characters are those whose ideas and inner-self develop or change in the plot, whereas "static" characters remain constant.
Published in 1908, the novel touches upon many issues surrounding society and politics in early 20th century Edwardian culture. Forster differentiates between conservative and radical thinking, illustrated in part by his contrasts between Medieval (Mr. Beebe, Miss Bartlett, Cecil Vyse) and Renaissance characters (Lucy, the Emersons).
Lucy personifies the young and impressionable generation emerging during that era, during which women's suffrage would gain strong ground. Forster, manifesting his own hopes for society, ends the book with Lucy having chosen her own path — a free life with the man she loves. The novel could even be called a Bildungsroman, as it follows the development of the protagonist.
Binary opposites are played throughout the novel, and often there are mentions of "rooms" and "views". Characters and places associated with "rooms" are, more often than not, conservative and uncreative — Mrs Honeychurch is often pictured in a room, as is Cecil. Characters like Freddy and the Emersons, on the other hand, are often described as being "outside" — representing their open, forward-thinking and modern character types. There is also a constant theme of Light and Dark, where on many occasions, Cecil himself states how Lucy represents light, but Forster responds but stating how Cecil is the Dark, alluding to the fact that they can never be together, and that she really belongs with George. Interestingly, the name Lucy means "light", while the name Cecil means "blind", i.e. one who is "in the dark".
Forster also contrasts the symbolic differences between Italy and England. He idealized Italy as a place of freedom and sexual expression. Italy promised raw, natural passion that inspired many Britons at the time who wished to escape the constrictions of English society. While Lucy is in Italy her views of the world change dramatically, and scenes such as the murder in the piazza open her eyes to a world beyond her "protected life in Windy Corner".
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At King's College, Cambridge, between 1897 and 1901, he became a member of a discussion society known as the Apostles (formally named the Cambridge Conversazione Society). Many of its members went on to constitute what came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group, of which Forster was a peripheral member in the 1910s and 1920s. There is a famous recreation of Forster's Cambridge at the beginning of The Longest Journey.
After leaving university he travelled in continental Europe with his mother. He visited Egypt, Germany and India with the classicist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson in 1914. By that time, Forster had written all but one of his novels. In the First World War, as a conscientious objector, he volunteered for the International Red Cross, travelling to Alexandria, Egypt.
Forster spent a second spell in India in the early 1920s as the private secretary to Tukojirao III, the Maharajah of Dewas. The Hill of Devi is his non-fictional account of this trip. After returning from India, he completed his last novel, A Passage to India (1924), for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.
Other books we've read by the same author:A Passage to India