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.
Beauty Quotes in A Room with a View
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.