How Has Forster Created a Sense of Character and Society in “room with a View”
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How has Forster Created a Sense of Character and Society in “Room with a View” ?
Forster wastes no time in setting the scene and setting the class boundaries of his characters. We know even from the first statement that Miss Bartlett is towards the upper classes and is potentially a very highly strung woman, which is later proven to be true. “The Signora had no business to do it” is so telling because we can imagine the word “Signora” being spat out in disgust and the forcefulness of the “no” truly imprints Charlottes histeria as major trait of her disposition.
The elitist attitude of Miss Lucy Honeychurch shortly follows. The way her opinion of the Signora is put, “And a Cockney, besides! “, is very derogatory and so we can make the assumption that because she is looking down upon the lower class Londoners, that she herself will in fact be from the upper class.
In the time that the book was set, just after the turn of the century, it was common for the upper classes of Britain to take “A Grand Tour” which would involve visiting all the major cities in mainland Europe. From the word “Signora” we may infer that Miss Bartlett and Lucy are abroad (which was a comparatively rare thing to do) and that they have enough money to do so and therefore are upper class. (Although we do then discover that charlotte is actually penniless and is merely chaperoning Lucy).
In the fourth paragraph, that fact that the Signora had “promised” them both rooms with views is repeated from the first paragraph. This shows that Lucy is obviously used to getting her own way and can afford to make a fuss and this is a reflection on the society from which she comes giving us a closer insight into her character and the standards she expects.
Charlotte is very conscious of how other people see her and it seems the person that she is and the impression of herself that she would like to impose onto other people are two different things. She would like to seem self-sacrificing as seen in the phrase “any nook does for me” and when she consequently offers her room to Lucy. When the offer of the room escalates into bickering the reader can see that the manners enforced by their society prevent them from “full-blown” arguing and yet the education of their society prevents either of them from either thinking logically or practically.
This is where we meet Mr. Emerson. There are no false pretences; he is described in the narrative as ill-bred and his intrusion into their argument is executed without thought and without trepidation all signs that he has few manners or inhibitions and therefore, despite have the decency of trying to settle the womens dispute, he must be of a lower class. The evaluation of Mr. Emerson carried out by Miss Bartlett that follows attracts the reader to the differences in the classes in society of that day. For example, Miss Bartlett disapproves of his sense of dress, a factor although shallow was of high importance if she was going to consider to be seen acquainted with them.
A method that Forster uses exceedingly well throughout, is the use of one monosyllabic noise by an upper class character to describe their opinion on the situation. Whether it be a melodramatic “Oh!” or and uninterested “Ah” this technique heightens the superiority of the character hence highlighting the difference in class and the structure of the past society.
Also, Forster differentiates between characters by referring to them as “The better class of tourist” or “one of the ill-bred people” which also adds hyperbole to importance of class. As a result, this makes gestures that bridge the gap even more momentous because not only do they break the barrier but they prove a certain humanity. However, an alternative interpretation of this could be that it shows naivety on the intricacies of the workings of the gentry system. A joyfully subtle example of such an expression is shown in the phrase: “It gave her (Lucy) no extra pleasure that anyone should be left in the coldshe gave the two outsiders a nervous little bow.” She would have been nervous of