A Room with a View

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Education and Independence 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
Beauty Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Room with a View, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Education and Independence Theme Icon

When the novel begins in Florence, Lucy is a young, rather naïve woman and—while she is not exactly old by the end—the novel follows her growth from a child to a more mature, independent adult. Along the way, Lucy undergoes various processes of education, as she learns more about the world, social interactions, and herself, taking lessons from her own experience as well as from other people such as Charlotte, Cecil, and George. In fact, one could see the entire plot of the novel as the process of Lucy shifting from one guide or teacher to another. at the beginning of the novel, she listens to and learns from Charlotte. Throughout the middle of the novel, she learns about art, literature, and London society from Cecil. And finally, she learns from George, Mr. Emerson, and Mr. Beebe to respect her own feelings and desires.

This process of learning, maturing, and awakening allows Lucy to become more independent, standing up to her mother and the rest of her family, for example, by eloping with George. However, Lucy only acts on her own wishes at the encouragement of others. This may raise the question of whether one can be taught by someone else to think and act for oneself. If Lucy is to some degree taught by George and Mr. Emerson to be independent, does this detract from such independence, since she is in a sense still dependent on their very teaching?

For much of the novel, it seems that characters cannot escape their own upbringings, and live lives that are in many ways predetermined by the educations they have had. Even George is in a sense only so critical and progressively minded because he was raised that way by his father. When speaking to his mother, Cecil says that he wants to bring up his own children just as Lucy was raised, suggesting that someone’s character is (at least mostly) dictated by how they are raised and educated. But even if Lucy does not achieve absolute independence from her various authority figures and, so to speak, teachers, she certainly does undergo a transformation toward greater autonomy and self-determination. At the end of the novel, she may in some sense still be learning from George, but is in a much more equal relationship than she was in with Cecil. Much of her life has been determined by her upbringing and various form of education from older family members and friends, but this very education gives her the ability to break free, to some extent, from the limited life offered to her at Windy Corner.

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Education and Independence ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Education and Independence 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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Education and Independence 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 Education and Independence.
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.


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Chapter 3 Quotes

"Mr. Beebe—old Mr. Emerson, is he nice or not nice? I do so want to know."

Mr. Beebe laughed and suggested that she should settle the question for herself.

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch (speaker), Mr. Emerson, Mr. Beebe
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lucy asks Mr. Beebe for his opinion of the Emerson family. Lucy is interested in the Emersons, especially after spending time with them in the churches of Italy. And yet she's not really confident enough in her own opinion to conclude that the Emersons are either "nice or not nice" (additionally, the fact that she divides all of humanity into two vacuous categories, nice and not nice, suggests her emotional immaturity).

Mr. Beebe has already claimed that he doesn't like the Emersons because of their socialist views: Beebe is a more traditional English figure, a friendly reverend who has duties to his congregation--as a result, he distrusts political radicals. But Beebe is also friendly and open-minded to encourage Lucy to figure things out for herself: he wants her to grow into a mature woman, rather than relying on authority figures.

Chapter 4 Quotes

There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our midst. She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was Queen of much early Victorian song. It is sweet to protect her in the intervals of business, sweet to pay her honour when she has cooked our dinner well. But alas! the creature grows degenerate. In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too is enamoured of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green expanses of the sea. She has marked the kingdom of this world, how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and war—a radiant crust, built around the central fires, spinning towards the receding heavens. Men, declaring that she inspires them to it, move joyfully over the surface, having the most delightful meetings with other men, happy, not because they are masculine, but because they are alive. Before the show breaks up she would like to drop the august title of the Eternal Woman, and go there as her transitory self.

Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

Forster continues to expound on the notion of a medieval lady--i.e., the kind of woman that Lucy has been trained to be. For centuries, English women were taught that they should be docile and obey men at all times, allowing men to attain happiness for themselves while women watched and "inspired" them from the sidelines.

And yet Forster makes it clear that the notion of a calm, docile, obedient woman is breaking down in Lucy's lifetime, if indeed it was ever stable. Women like Lucy don't just want to be obedient--they want to explore the world, love men, see nature--to essentially allow themselves to be human beings rather than ideals. Women have strange, romantic desires just like men, and they should be able to explore such desires.

Chapter 9 Quotes

"I had got an idea—I dare say wrongly—that you feel more at home with me in a room."
"A room?" she echoed, hopelessly bewildered.
"Yes. Or, at the most, in a garden, or on a road. Never in the real country like this."
"Oh, Cecil, whatever do you mean? I have never felt anything of the sort. You talk as if I was a kind of poetess sort of person."
"I don't know that you aren't. I connect you with a view—a certain type of view. Why shouldn't you connect me with a room?"
She reflected a moment, and then said, laughing:
"Do you know that you're right? I do. I must be a poetess after all. When I think of you it's always as in a room. How funny!"
To her surprise, he seemed annoyed.
"A drawing-room, pray? With no view?"
"Yes, with no view, I fancy. Why not?"
"I'd rather," he said reproachfully, "that connected me with the open air."

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch (speaker), Cecil Vyse (speaker)
Related Symbols: Indoors, Outdoors and Views
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Cecil shows that he's a good observer, if not necessarily a good man. He correctly recognizes that Lucy, whom he loves, thinks of him as existing in a closed room without a view. Cecil further deduces that Lucy thinks of him as being in a closed room because they considers him stuffy, unimaginative, and generally repressive.

Cecil's existence stands apart from that of the Emerson family. Cecil is an aesthete, and his arrogant emphasis on style and taste are purely self-referential: he's more interested in his own tastes and styles than he is in the world itself. Other characters in the novel, such as the Emersons, are more open and free in their thinking, reflecting their genuine love and fascination with the world (and thus suggesting they have a "connection with the open air"). Lucy strives to be free and unrepressed, and so she's less attracted to Cecil than Cecil would like.

Chapter 14 Quotes

I am no match for you in conversation, dearest. I blush when I think how I interfered at Florence, and you so well able to look after yourself, and so much cleverer in all ways than I am. You will never forgive me.

Related Characters: Charlotte Bartlett (speaker), Lucy Honeychurch
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lucy confronts Charlotte about her interference in Lucy's life. Charlotte thinks she's looking out for Lucy and ensuring that she marries the best suitor available; thus, when Charlotte catches Lucy kissing George, she pressures Lucy to move on. Here, Lucy gets irritated with Charlotte for meddling in other people's business. She wants to make her own choices--and to Lucy's surprise, Charlotte apologizes for interfering.

Charlotte's apology to Lucy is interesting because she admits that Lucy is a more confident, independent person than Charlotte. Charlotte was supposed to be Lucy's chaperone--i.e., she was supposed to use her superior skills and experience to help Lucy make the right choices. Charlotte seems to realize that her "greater experience" doesn't mean anything--Charlotte has just been indoctrinated into English customs for longer than Lucy.

Chapter 19 Quotes

"I want more independence," said Lucy lamely; she knew that she wanted something, and independence is a useful cry; we can always say that we have not got it. She tried to remember her emotions in Florence: those had been sincere and passionate, and had suggested beauty rather than short skirts and latch-keys. But independence was certainly her cue.

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch (speaker)
Related Symbols: Indoors, Outdoors and Views
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lucy proves how repressed and sheltered she is, even after she discovers her feelings for George Emerson. Lucy knows that she wants to break away from her strict English society, and yet she doesn't really understand how to go about doing so. Lucy remembers Italy as a place where she could be free of her social control: it was in Italy, after all, where she fell for George.

The tragedy of the passage is that Lucy has a hard time articulating her feelings of rebellion. She's been so conditioned to believe in the necessity of proper behavior that she can't think of any other way to conduct herself. All she can do is turn back to the word "independence," even though it doesn't really encapsulate what she truly wants.

"I taught him," he quavered, "to trust in love. I said: 'When love comes, that is reality.' I said: 'Passion does not blind. No. Passion is sanity, and the woman you love, she is the only person you will ever really understand.'"

Related Characters: Mr. Emerson (speaker), George Emerson
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Emerson talks to Lucy Honeychurch about her upcoming engagement to Cecil, and Lucy doesn't bother to correct him. Mistakenly certain that Lucy is engaged to Cecil, and therefore will never end up with George, Emerson mourns that he told his son to trust in his love for other people. Emerson feels that by raising George to be open and honest about his feelings, he encouraged George to fall for people of all kinds--including Lucy, a woman far outside George's class.

The passage is a great reminder of the social and psychological differences between George's family and Lucy's. George--perhaps because of his lower class situation, it's suggested--has been raised to believe in the importance of honesty and sincerity. Lucy has been trained to be proper and reserved about her feelings--to the point where she can't even tell Mr. Emerson that she's no longer engaged to Cecil.