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.
Education and Independence ThemeTracker
Education and Independence Quotes in A Room with a View
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.
"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.
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.
"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."
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.
"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.
"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.'"