A Room with a View

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Beauty Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Society, Manners, and Changing Social Norms Theme Icon
Sexism and Women’s Roles Theme Icon
Honesty Theme Icon
Education and Independence Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
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Aside from the characters and plot of A Room with a View, one might first notice that Forster’s novel is filled with beautiful things. Characters gaze at Renaissance frescoes, admire springtime foliage and flowers, see the rolling hills of Italy, walk through scenic woods, and enjoy classical piano music. These aesthetic experiences—taking in artistic or natural beauty—hold an almost mystical power in the novel, often speaking to the inner feelings of characters like Lucy that cannot be put into words. By playing Beethoven, for example, Lucy comes to understand and experience parts of her own personality that she otherwise wouldn’t.

In the novel, beauty stirs those who experience it, and offers brief transcendent moments of escape or freedom from the strictures and stresses of society. Experiences of intense beauty also spur characters to act impulsively on feelings. Both times that George kisses Lucy inappropriately, he is partly spurred on by the scenic natural environment surrounding him. But Forster also takes care to demonstrate that there is a difference between admiring or appreciating beauty in a detached way and being truly moved by it. Cecil is intelligent enough to appreciate fine art and music, but is never really inspired by these things. He attempts to remark upon the beauty of the countryside, but finds himself fumbling to say the “correct” things about a landscape. By contrast, Mr. Beebe, Freddy, and George do not simply admire or praise the beautiful Sacred Lake, but are moved to an exuberant scene of careless revelry.

For some, then, experiences of beauty hold tremendous, transformative power. And if one steps out of the prescribed guidelines of which frescoes are supposed to be admired, or what piece of music is most fitting for a party, Forster’s novel shows that such experiences can be found almost anywhere and take many different forms—from classic paintings to rolling Italian hills, from a secluded wood to a moving piece of music, from a stunning view to the object of one’s affection.

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Beauty ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Beauty appears in each chapter of A Room with a View. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Beauty Quotes in A Room with a View

Below you will find the important quotes in A Room with a View related to the theme of Beauty.
Chapter 1 Quotes

About old Mr. Emerson—I hardly know. No, he is not tactful; yet, have you ever noticed that there are people who do things which are most indelicate, and yet at the same time—beautiful?

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch (speaker), Mr. Emerson
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lucy thinks about the offer she's received from the Emerson family. Lucy is too reserved to accept the offer upfront, and yet she's strangely charmed by the fact that the Emersons made it in the first place: she's so used to people who refuse to speak their minds (out of supposed politeness) that she can scarcely believe that the Emersons would voice their intentions so clearly.

The passage could be considered a satire of the severity and strictness of late-Victorian / Edwardian manners, but it's also meant to signal that Lucy stands somewhat apart from her culture. Where others would be irritated by the Emersons' frankness, Lucy now starts to like the Emersons, and recognizes that they're just good people, even if they're not speaking the same "language."


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Chapter 2 Quotes

Of course, it contained frescoes by Giotto, in the presence of whose tactile values she was capable of feeling what was proper. But who was to tell her which they were? She walked about disdainfully, unwilling to be enthusiastic over monuments of uncertain authorship or date. There was no one even to tell her which, of all the sepulchral slabs that paved the nave and transepts, was the one that was really beautiful, the one that had been most praised by Mr. Ruskin. Then the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy.

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

After a time, Lucy is abandoned by Miss Lavish, and ends up all alone in a church. Lucy has heard that the church is famous for its beautiful Giotto frescos (Giotto was a famous early Renaissance painter), but she's so ignorant of art that she's unable to determine which paintings, exactly, are by Giotto. Lucy is a fish out of water. Her proper English education and excellent manners don't prepare her for her time in Italy, unless she has someone there to tell her which art she is supposed to find the most "beautiful."

And yet Lucy's lack of familiarity with Giotto and art actually help her get more out of the visit. Instead of treating Florence like a specimen, to be analyzed and critiqued, she lets the city wash over her, dazzling her with its mysteries. She doesn't just appreciate the art she's supposed to (because it's famous), but starts to appreciate all the beauty around her. Lucy begins to move away from her strict upbringing and simply be happy.

Chapter 3 Quotes

It so happened that Lucy, who found daily life rather chaotic, entered a more solid world when she opened the piano. She was then no longer either deferential or patronizing; no longer either a rebel or a slave. The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected.

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lucy escapes from the overwhelming nature of day-to-day life by playing the piano. Music is always an important theme in Forster's novels, and the passage is a great example of how music helps Forster's characters escape from reality for a while. Lucy lives in a strict, repressive world, in which her tiniest mannerisms are policed for "properness." When she plays the piano, however, no such restrictions apply: she feels that she can be free and open with herself--she's not obeying anyone, or following anyone's orders, and indeed is able to inhabit an altogether different plane of existence. In one sense, then, the passage is a confirmation of the strictness of Lucy's world--if something as simple as playing music can free her for a moment, then her world must be very repressed indeed. (Note also that the piano is an Italian invention--once again Forster links Italy to freedom from repression.)

Chapter 6 Quotes

Fifty miles of Spring, and we've come up to admire them. Do you suppose there's any difference between Spring in nature and Spring in man? But there we go, praising the one and condemning the other as improper, ashamed that the same work eternally through both.

Related Characters: Mr. Emerson (speaker)
Related Symbols: Indoors, Outdoors and Views
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Emerson, upset with Mr. Eager's prudishness concerning the romantic carriage driver, mutters about the universality of human freedom. He notices the beautiful spring weather, and the natural beauty that spring creates. He wonders aloud why human beings try to censor the "spring" of the soul, even as they celebrate the literal spring of nature.

Mr. Emerson's analogy is interesting because it suggests that liberty--sexual, moral, etc.--in an inevitable, even cyclical, part of the human experience. There's no virtue in trying to repress what is natural and god-given--and yet that's exactly what the late Victorian society symbolized by Mr. Eager has done.

She did not answer. From her feet the ground sloped sharply into view, and violets ran down in rivulets and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree stems collecting into pools in the hollows, covering the grass with spots of azure foam. But never again were they in such profusion; this terrace was the well-head, the primal source whence beauty gushed out to water the earth.
Standing at its brink, like a swimmer who prepares, was the good man. But he was not the good man that she had expected, and he was alone.
George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch, George Emerson
Related Symbols: Indoors, Outdoors and Views
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're reminded of the link between spiritual, personal spring and literal, natural spring--it's natural beauty and vitality that inspires George in his "scandalous" action here. George suddenly shows his feelings for Lucy by kissing her, and she seems to kiss him back. Notice that it's George who kisses Lucy, not the other way around: not only is George the man (and therefore, in a late 19th century novel, the one who'd make the move), he's also the lower-class lover, suggesting that he's less restricted by the rigid manners and social norms of the aristocracy. Lucy has been shown to be equally energetic and imaginative, and yet her energy has been repressed for most of her life--and even here, she is shocked and scandalized by George's kiss, refusing to admit her own feelings.

Chapter 9 Quotes

No, Lucy, he stands for all that is bad in country life. In London he would keep his place. He would belong to a brainless club, and his wife would give brainless dinner parties. But down here he acts the little god with his gentility, and his patronage, and his sham aesthetics, and every one—even your mother—is taken in.

Related Characters: Cecil Vyse (speaker), Lucy Honeychurch, Sir Harry Otway
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Cecil tells Lucy that he finds Sir Harry Otway to be insufferable. Harry, Cecil argues, has horrible taste: he's loud and aggressive, and doesn't know how to tell beauty from ugliness. Cecil also seems to resent that everybody else like Harry, even Lucy's mother, Miss Honeychurch.

The passage is significant because it shows Cecil to be a pretentious and rather hypocritical person. Cecil is an upper-class character, too--he just doesn't have as much land or property as Sir Harry. Cecil is a snobbish aesthete, who looks down on people because they don't have any taste. Cecil's mistake, of course, is to ignore the fact that taste is largely a product of one's class, as well. Cecil would probably look down on most of the working-class families of England, as well as Sir Harry--he'd continue sneering at their bad taste.

On a subtler level, Forster here also critiques the very idea of "taste." As elsewhere in the novel, he contrasts having good taste--that is, knowing what is "supposed" to be beautiful--versus really engaging with beauty on an emotional or spiritual level. Cecil knows how to appreciate art and beauty in theory, but he never really connects with or is moved by it.

Chapter 20 Quotes

Youth enwrapped them; the song of Phaethon announced passion requited, love attained. But they were conscious of a love more mysterious than this. The song died away; they heard the river, bearing down the snows of winter into the Mediterranean.

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch, George Emerson
Related Symbols: Indoors, Outdoors and Views
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

In this happy, lyrical ending, Lucy and George end up together, having journeyed through Italy once again and reunited. George and Lucy are thrilled to be with each other again: they confess their love for one another, and embrace tenderly. It would seem that they've finally escaped from repression and the control of English proper manners.

And yet, what will George and Lucy's "happy ever after" look like? Forster doesn't tell us what's going to happen, should Lucy and George get married. He leaves the possibilities open, characterizing George and Lucy's love as mysterious and foreign--and also intimately associated with freedom and nature. If Cecil was like an enclosed room, then George is a "room with a view"--one connected to the wildness, freedom, and unpredictability of nature, but still enclosed and sheltering (Lucy doesn't end up totally free, after all).