A Room with a View

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A Room with a View Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Lucy wakes up, admires her view of the Arno river, and looks at various Italian men working on the other side of the river. Charlotte comes into the room and tells Lucy to hurry and get up, before “the best of the day” is gone. Charlotte wants to stay at the Pension and get acclimated to Florence, but Lucy wants to go out and see the city on their first day there. At breakfast, Charlotte insists on accompanying Lucy into the city, but then a lady interrupts to say that she is going to Santa Croce and Lucy is welcome to accompany her, so that Charlotte can stay at the Pension.
Lucy can appreciate the beauty of her view of the river, which may also suggest the first glimpse she gets in Italy of independence and the larger world outside her home and upbringing. Lucy is certainly not independent yet, though, as she must still be looked after, whether by Charlotte or by another older woman.
Themes
Education and Independence Theme Icon
Beauty Theme Icon
Lucy excitedly looks for information about Santa Croce in her Baedeker travel guidebook, and the woman, who introduces herself as Miss Lavish, tells Lucy that they will discover “the true Italy,” beyond what is mentioned in guidebooks. Miss Lavish and Lucy walk around Florence, and Miss Lavish greets everyone they encounter. She tells Lucy, “you will never repent of a little civility to your inferiors,” and confides to Lucy that she is a “Radical.”
Miss Lavish arrogantly claims to know about “the true Italy,” even while staying at a Pension whose tourist guests replicate British society. She identifies herself as a radical, wanting to act as if she rebels against traditional society, though she retains a patronizing attitude toward her “inferiors.”
Themes
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Lucy tells Miss Lavish that her father has always been a Radical, as well, and assures her that she is not too aristocratic. Busy in conversation, the two lose their way. Lucy wants to ask for directions or look in her Baedeker book, but Miss Lavish forbids her and says that they are now in “an adventure.” The two drift and wander through streets until they finally find themselves at the church of Santa Croce. There, they happen to see Mr. Emerson and his son George.
Learning to maneuver through social situations, Lucy claims to be a radical and assures Miss Lavish that she is not too aristocratic in order not to seem snobby or pretentious. But both Miss Lavish and Lucy come from rather privileged backgrounds, as can be seen by comparison with the Emerson, and seem to be play-acting rather than authentic.
Themes
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Miss Lavish looks down on the Emersons and jokes that she would like to give British tourists “an examination paper at Dover, and turn back every tourist who couldn’t pass it.” Suddenly, Miss Lavish sees a familiar face and runs off to talk to an old man. Lucy waits for ten minutes before deciding to try to find Miss Lavish. She can’t find her, though, and is upset at being abandoned without knowing how to get home. She decides to go into the church.
Despite her claims to be a radical and sympathetic to her “inferiors,” Miss Lavish snobbishly looks down on the Emersons. When Miss Lavish abandons Lucy, Lucy is at last alone and not under anyone’s watch or care. This glimmer of independence is frightening for Lucy, though, left alone in a foreign city.
Themes
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Education and Independence Theme Icon
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Inside the church, she looks around but has no one to show her which frescoes are by the famous Giotto and thus worthy to be appreciated. But eventually, “the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy.” She sees a little Italian boy trip over the feet of a statue of a bishop, and goes to help him. Mr. Emerson also goes to the boy and says, “a baby hurt, cold, and frightened! But what else can you expect from a church?”
Rather than experiencing the beauty of the church, Lucy is at first preoccupied with trying to figure out which frescoes are the “right” ones to admire—she is more concerned with being correct than following her own taste. Mr. Emerson is critical of established religion, as well as traditional society. Again his focus seems to be on helping and connecting to people, not on social rules.
Themes
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Education and Independence Theme Icon
Beauty Theme Icon
An Italian woman comes and helps the boy up. Mr. Emerson tries to talk to her, but she does not speak English. Lucy explains to Mr. Emerson what has happened to her, and George suggests that she join him and his father. Lucy politely declines, and Mr. Emerson says that she is only repeating niceties she has heard older people say. He insists that she join them, and the three walk around the church, viewing the frescoes.
Lucy behaves according to the manners and social customs she has learned from her family and others like Charlotte. But, as the Emersons encourage her to realize, such things often only get in the way. In joining the Emersons, Lucy takes a small step away from all the social norms she’s used to.
Themes
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Education and Independence Theme Icon
Elsewhere in the church, a reverend is showing a congregation the church, and lectures about the Giotto frescoes. Mr. Emerson disagrees with what the reverend is saying, and loudly corrects him. The reverend awkwardly says that the church is not big enough for two parties, and leads his congregation outside. Lucy recognizes the reverend as an Englishman named Mr. Eager. George tells Lucy that his father has driven Mr. Eager out of the church, and often has that sort of effect on people despite his good intentions.
Mr. Emerson says what he thinks, with little regard for tact or manners. He does not seem to get along well with traditional authority figures, like Mr. Eager. But, as George assures Lucy, Mr. Emerson is not intentionally rude—one could even see his behavior as simply being honest about what he is thinking or feeling, rather than masking his thoughts behind politeness.
Themes
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Honesty Theme Icon
Lucy suggests that Mr. Emerson could have been more tactful, and George balks at the idea of tact. For a brief moment, Lucy regards George and thinks he is “healthy and muscular,” but with “the feeling of grayness, of tragedy that might only find solution in the night.” Lucy and the Emersons walk around the church, and Mr. Emerson tells Lucy that George is very unhappy. He asks if Lucy might understand George better than he can, since she is also young.
Lucy still believes in values like tact. Like his father who raised him, George couldn’t care less about such a thing. George fascinates Lucy, and this may be the beginning of more serious feelings between them. Meanwhile, Mr. Emerson feels cut off from his son because of their generational difference, as times have changed since he was young.
Themes
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Education and Independence Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Mr. Emerson tells Lucy that he knows what is wrong with George. He says it is “the old trouble: things won’t fit.” He quotes some poetry and then says that he doesn’t believe in the “world-sorrow” that George does. He asks Lucy to make George believe in a grand “Yes.” Lucy is uncomfortable and not sure what to think of all this abstract talk. George walks up and spots Charlotte in a nave of the church. Lucy joins her cousin and thanks the Emersons for “a delightful morning.”
George’s vague “world-sorrow” is an affliction typical of a self-consciously modern character. Lucy is of George’s same generation, but doesn’t understand him, as she still adheres in many ways to the traditional society of her family and of Charlotte. After her brief time with the Emersons, Lucy is back under the care and watch of her cousin.
Themes
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Education and Independence Theme Icon