“Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing”: doing the don’ts in and about Florence in E. M. Forster’s "A Room with a View"
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On the threshold of adulthood young Lucy Honeychurch is a product of the upper-middle class Edwardian society, a puppet on a string of stifling conventions. Hers is an “undeveloped heart”, trapped by proprieties of the Victorian type that somewhat define her penchant for spontaneity as dangerous. Will a mini-Grand Tour to Italy, in the company of the typical morose and uptight chaperone, be just as uneventful as expected or will the Tuscan sun exert its summer magic? More than the portrait of a prospective lady, A Room with a View (1908) mirrors E. M. Forster’s take on a very particular topic, that of the English abroad. Both tourists and expatriates converge during the holiday season to test their moral stiffness while tempted by the appreciation of beauty, nature and passion. Disruptive characters, like the liberal Emersons, or turbulent events, like the furtive kiss on the hillside, thus become tools for an awakening of sorts on the part of the female self, as Lucy transposes and transcends a strict code of behaviour, and emancipates herself not only from the Baedeker (the famous portable travel guide) but also, and most importantly, from “the surface of things”. If one comes to Italy “for life” and not for anything else, if the room and the view are metaphors for contrasting worlds, what impact does the act of travelling produce in the traveller, and one inexperienced or ill prepared at that? And what are the domestic consequences of what one sees and feels in a country other than one’s own when a return is inevitable? The scope of this article is to assess not only the way(s) in which Forster privileges the search for individuality and feminine agency within the social-comedic plot of the novel, but also to confirm the sense of imbalance that holidays inevitably bring to the holiday-seeker, as hopes are dashed, expectations thwarted or new sensations embraced.
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