A Room with a View

A Room with a View - E.M. Forster Reading this book as an adult had a much stronger effect on me than as a teenager. I am in awe of how many issues were addressed in this book, albeit subtlely . But remaining a truly funning and enjoyable read. Each page was a treat for mind. A major theme running through "Room with a View" is the rigid social hierarchy and structure of Edwardian England society. Room was published in 1909, a society and world on the brink of major change. Political issues are hinted at in the book - unrest in Ireland and the English position on that issue, the changing role of women, and the slow unraveling of the aristocracy stucture. Room is funny, engaging and romantic; the politics are addressed in such a way that do not overwhelm the book and perhaps, we are far enough from the implications of the political and societal problems in that book that they are entertaining to read about. The idea of such sexual repression and censure of a peck on the cheek is ridiculous to most western women that to read about it and the drama surrounding it is fun. The idea of such a rigid social structure and refusing to socialize outside of it just seems so, restricting. But a niggling question in the back of my mind while I read this -- was have we really left all of this behind? Aren't women still judged for their sexual choices? Do people really socialize outside of their economic class? The constrains are obviously much less stringent and controlling in our current society. But I could just come up with so many examples of where social censure or restriction existed right now .....Throughout the book, older and more settled characters make comments to reinforce the current societal structure, such as,"They don't understand our ways. They must find their level""It is dreadful to be entangled with low-class people."While the younger characters (but wealthy)profess to be "democrats" or "radicals" and favor mixing of the classes. Their actions belie that while they may consider these issues, their lives do nothing to suggest change.Confines and structure are the set-up of this novel, thus the title is apropos - - "Room with a View". Lucy, the main character, is a young woman touring Italy with a chaperone. Her life is structured and restricted, essentially her experience in life is walled in and protected -- e.g. she exists in a room with a peak of a view out to the world. But Lucy attempts to push the boundaries of her life but not without resistance."Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why. It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different. Their missionwas to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by means of tact and a sportless name, a lady could accomplish much. But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first censured, then despied, and finally ignored. Poems had been written to illustrate this point.""you cannot realize what men can be-how they can take brutal pleasure in insulting a woman whom her sex does not protect and rally round.""It makes a difference doesn't it, whether we fully fence ourselves in, or whether we are fenced out by the barriers of others?"Yet there is only so much our Lucy can do, she is hemmed in. Her behavior controlled by gossip and social censure, in the event she even thought to step out of line. Forster, describes scenes where women are confined by clothes and their role, yet the men are able to literally shed their clothes, swim naked and wrestle together -- young and old alike. And when they are discovered by other people, it is simply a funny scene. No shaming. Beyond being a funny and embarrassing scene (watch the movie, if you haven't seen it, this scene is ridiculously funny -- 3 grown men, completely naked and wrestling with each other in a pond), it seems to me that Forster was using this scene to contrast while the men were hemmed in by society, there were times when they could strip off those constraints and have some fun. The women cannot. When Lucy hints at perhaps moving to London on her own and getting a flat, Lucy's mom takes this as an open declaration by Lucy that she will be fighting alongside the suffragettes -- Lucy's mother lectures her:"And mess with typewriters and latch-keys ... and agitate and screamn, and be carried off kicking by the police. And call it a Mission -when no one wants you! And call it Duty - when you can't stand your own home! And call it Work - when thousands of men are starving with the competition as it is!"For some interesting reading, here is some information about the women's rights movement in the early 1900s in Britain:Emmeline_Pankhurst WSPU Forster brilliantly weaves in current political issues (the women's rights movement and the changing role of women) and uses Lucy's mother as the voice of the opposition to this. Lucy is women pushing for a change and she runs directly into the limitations. In the end, love overpowers all the walls controlling Lucy, but not without consequences. Forster has a knack for describing scenery and making me want to travel to the locations he describes now. The view is breathtaking and if you haven't read this book for years, I highly recommend it. "Youth enwrapped them ... they were conscious of a love more myserious than this. The song died away; they heard the river, bearind down the snows of winter into the Mediterranean."