Control vs. Freedom, Self vs. Others, and Desire vs. Desired

“It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.”

-E.M. Forster, A Room With a View

Although I have stated earlier that romance fiction is a genre that I keep away from at all times, I literally could not resist the urge to pick up this book after I realized it was by E.M. Forster. Ranked as one of Modern Library’s 100 Best Books of the Twentieth Century and adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 1985, Forster intertwines social criticism and romance under the umbrella of control versus freedom. By juxtaposing conventional and personal morals, Forster subtly exposes the repression and the properness of the aristocratic, older generation and the aspirations and romanticism of the young generation (those who are claustrophobically constrained by the older generation).

A Room With a View centers around Lucy Honeychurch, a young woman born into an aristocratic family in England. She goes on vacation to Italy with her overbearing and proper cousin, Charlotte. Whilst in Italy, she falls in love with the boyish and lower-class George Emerson, who is immediately deemed “unsuitable.” Upon returning to England, she becomes engaged to the pompous yet aristocratic Cecil Vyse (you could probably guess how he was deemed). However, Lucy is torn between following her heart by pursuing her true love for George and meeting the upper-class expectation by loving Cecil. Eventually, Lucy decides that enough is enough — and sets about taking control of her own life.

Sheltered most of her life from the outside world, Lucy begins to see the world free of the upper-class values she has been accustomed to her entire life. In Italy, she is able to witness how easily everybody, regardless of social class, is able to intermingle so easily, unlike in England where she was only able to intermingle with the upper class. Her love — and subsequent rejection — for George symbolizes the zenith of her new perception of the world, for Lucy chooses to follow her heart rather than to obey stringent, upper-class values. Lucy’s epiphany is a metaphor for the realization that we should follow our heart — that we should be ourselves — rather than let others dictate who we are.

One of Forster’s earliest works, A Room With a View is written in unpretentious prose with relatively short paragraphs, witty dialogue, and medium-length chapters. A word of warning, though: since the book has so much dialogue (lots of it small talk), it can drag on and on and on till the point where you lose track of what’s happening (it happened to me a couple times). Honestly, though, the dialogue is interesting if you pay close enough attention, and you can get a lucid idea of the upper class during Edwardian England, a dynamic period in British history.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy British literature, social critiques, romances, and general reading, for the book’s theme can resonate within anyone. I read the Vintage Classics edition, which does not include much supplementary material (even the book description is very short) except an “about the author” page, but it is nonetheless an authoritative edition. A witty, short, and unpreteniously-written book, A Room With a View is a solid read.

Click here to buy the book.

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