A Room with a View

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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.
Honesty Theme Icon

In Florence, when Lucy is trying to explain her kiss with George to Charlotte, she tries as hard as she can to be absolutely honest about everything. And throughout the novel, Lucy insists to herself that she must not lie. But, over the course of A Room with a View, simple black-and-white distinctions between truths and lies start to blur. Often, Lucy does not quite lie, but leaves out the whole truth, omits certain things from stories, or doesn’t tell certain people certain things. She doesn’t tell Charlotte, for example, about George throwing her (blood-stained) pictures into the river in Florence, and later promises not to tell her mother about George kissing her. Later in the novel, she keeps her history with George a secret from her fiancé Cecil, as well as from her mother. Despite the importance Lucy places on absolute honesty, these kinds of half-lies can often be seen as justifiable—for example, they can be a necessary means to an end (Lucy doesn’t tell her mother about the kiss in order to protect Charlotte), or can be understood as in the best interest of those involved (Lucy doesn’t tell Cecil about George so as not to hurt him or make him unnecessarily jealous).

But while the novel reveals the ambiguities that almost always surround issues of lying and truthfulness, it also suggests that there is one kind of lie that no one can get a way with: lying to oneself. Lucy is greatly concerned with not lying to others, but for much of the novel she doesn’t realize that she is deceiving herself in pretending not to have feelings for George. She tries to suppress and stifle her love for him, and lies to herself about how much she loves Cecil—but in the end, her true feelings come out, and she is only able to find happiness when she embraces this truth and stops lying to herself about her own feelings. Thus, while one cannot always be absolutely honest in all facets of life (and perhaps would not necessarily want to be), Forster displays through the character of Lucy the ultimate importance of being honest at least to oneself.

Honesty ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Honesty 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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Honesty 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 Honesty.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I think he would not take advantage of your acceptance, nor expect you to show gratitude. He has the merit—if it is one—of saying exactly what he means. He has rooms he does not value, and he thinks you would value them. He no more thought of putting you under an obligation than he thought of being polite. It is so difficult—at least, I find it difficult—to understand people who speak the truth.

Related Characters: Mr. Beebe (speaker), Lucy Honeychurch, Charlotte Bartlett, Mr. Emerson
Related Symbols: Indoors, Outdoors and Views
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Emerson family--George and Mr. Emerson--has offered to do a favor for the far wealthier and more well-to-do group of Lucy and Charlotte. The Emersons overhear Lucy and Charlotte moaning about how their rooms don't have a nice view; they offer to exchange rooms with the two women, an offer that's appalling to both Lucy and Charlotte. Neither woman wants to be in a lower-class man's debt. But as Mr. Beebe, a friendly reverend, explains, the Emersons aren't trying to gain a favor for themselves--they're just trying to be nice.

Lucy and Charlotte are so sheltered and "well-mannered" that they look a gift-horse in the mouth--they wonder why on earth two strangers are offering them anything, and conclude that the strangers must have poor intentions. Beebe has to explain what, from a 21st reader's perspective, seems perfectly clear: the Emersons are just trying to be friendly. Manners and customs act like a veil between Lucy and the Emersons, obscuring the natural goodness of all the characters.


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Chapter 16 Quotes

The scales fell from Lucy's eyes. How had she stood Cecil for a moment? He was absolutely intolerable, and the same evening she broke off her engagement.

Related Characters: Lucy Honeychurch, Cecil Vyse
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lucy has just had a long conversation with George. George tells Lucy the plain truth: Cecil isn't a particularly good man, despite the fact that he and Lucy and engaged to be married. He lists all the examples of Cecil's condescending behavior towards women--if he were to marry Lucy, George argues, he'd treat Lucy like a child, never letting her make up her own mind about anything. While Lucy isn't convinced of George's argument at the time, she begins to see that George was right all along; Cecil really is a condescending, sexist fool.

To emphasize the suddenness of Lucy's epiphany, Forster makes a Biblical allusion: in the Bible, when Saul (later the Apostle Paul) embraced Christianity, his temporary blindness was instantly healed, and the "scales" fell from his eyes. In other words, Lucy feels as if she's been blind her entire life, and can only now see Cecil for what he is. The fact that it's George's speech that prompts her epiphany suggests that, deep down, Lucy may have always found Cecil a little irritating, but she put up with him because her family and her culture demanded that she do so (in other words, her culture demanded that she play the part of submissive fiancee).

Of course, the irony of this is that Lucy only escapes one man (Cecil) telling her what to do by listening to another man (George) tell her what to do. In this way, Forster perhaps subtly critiques himself, and acknowledges that although he has created an empowered female character in Lucy, he is still a man speaking through her voice.

Chapter 19 Quotes

But I cannot see why you didn't tell your friends about Cecil and be done with it. There all the time we had to sit fencing, and almost telling lies, and be seen through, too, I dare say, which is most unpleasant.

Related Characters: Mrs. Honeychurch (speaker), Lucy Honeychurch, Cecil Vyse
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Miss Honeychurch talks to her daughter about her broken engagement to Cecil. Honeychurch doesn't really understand why Lucy has broken off the engagement, but she wants she news of the broken engagement to get out anyway. Mrs. Honeychurch is, as one might expect, a master of public relations: she knows that the best way to avoid a scandal is to be open and honest about the engagement; otherwise people will assume that Mrs. Honeychurch and her family are hiding something.

Mrs. Honeychurch's stated reasons for breaking the news of the broken engagement are fascinating: she suggests the danger of "being seen" as frauds. Respectability is the basic currency of the English upper-classes, and to be deceptive or devious in anything is the easiest way to lose respectability.

"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.