Forster's Room
Welcome to the regular column concerning EM Forster and his novels.
Written by Rachel O'Brien

In this section you can pose questions you have about something EM Forster has written and our columnist will try to answer them. Try to make the questions as specific as possible so it is clear what you are asking. Post your questions on the EM Forster Message board with 'Column Question' somewhere in the message.

The Column

This edition: Two reviews of EM Forster; 'A Room with a View' and 'The Other Side of the Hedge'.

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

The Short View:

One wonders whether young Lucy Honeychurch observes rites of propriety because it is what she ascribes to or because it is what she has been conditioned to do. If you see A Room with a View through to completion, you will learn the answer.

The Reverend Mr. Beebe, one of the novel's more likeable characters, talks of Lucy thus: "I can show you a beautiful picture in my Italian diary: Miss Honeychurch as a kite, Miss Bartlett holding the string. Picture number two: the string breaks."

If the reader can see Lucy in this light, he or she may wonder whether the string will ever break. Lucy, a young English girl, is passed from mother to Charlotte Bartlett, then to fiancÚ Cecil Vyse. The ties begin to be strained through Lucy's experiences in Italy, but Lucy sticks to the path to which she feels obligated via her familial and social relations. When Lucy's eyes at last open to the true nature of Mr. Vyse's character, he notes that she has found a "new voice." He is too blind to recognize that the new voice is her own; Lucy also has yet to recognize this fact.

It is the supreme honesty of George Emerson's father that breaks the string, making Lucy realize her deceptions and self-deceptions. She is not only free from the others, but from her own strictures as well: She is free to love.

E. M. Forster is not a novelist for the typical modern reader: His sublime humour, rich descriptives and classical references require a patient reader who seeks them out. The effort is most rewarding, and you will soon find yourself wanting to read A Room with A View again, for fear you have missed something.

The Long View. SPOILER ALERT! This extended review reveals the plot - do not read if you don't want to know the ending! Otherwise click here.

The Other Side of the Hedge (Short story synopsis)

This is just a hasty review. The main characters are nameless, so I'll call the narrator, "Charlie."

Charlie is a young, weary traveller on a barren road banked by tall hedges which blot out all views except the narrow strip of sky overhead. In the course of his determined travels down this narrow, endless road, he has lost possessions and a brother. He disapproves of the brother, who 'had wasted his breath on singing, and his strength on helping others. But I had travelled more wisely, and now it was only the monotony of the highway that oppressed me . . . '

Spent, he collapses at the side of the road, and through the hedge he glimpses a narrow opening with a hint of blue sky. He struggles through and plunges into water which turns out to be a moat. He is saved by an older man whom I'll call 'William.' The land is a paradise of beautiful scenery and happy residents. Charlie asks, 'Where does this place lead to?' and William replies, 'Nowhere, thank the Lord!'

Hearing this, Charlie wants no part of their hospitality. He sees it as a prison and refuses good food, comfortable sleep and flowers: "They all seemed happy; and I might have been happy too, if I could have forgotten that the place led nowhere."

William had earlier given Charlie a view of his road from where it first began. He cannot believe that he has not come further, and William explains the winding nature of the road. He attempts to explain to William why his winding road is better than their Eden-like prison. Finally, William leads Charlie back to the place in the road where he had gone through the hedge. He is suddenly overcome by the sight of the road: 'But through it, in the waning light, I saw again just such a road as I had left - monotonous, dusty, with brown crackling hedges on either side, as far as the eye could reach. I was strangely disquieted at the sight, which seemed to deprive me of all self-control. A man was passing us, returning for the night to the hills, with a scythe over his shoulder and a can of some liquid in his hand. I forgot the destiny of our race. I forgot the road that lay before my eyes, and I sprang at him, wrenched the can out of his hand, and began to drink . . . The man whose beer I had stolen lowered me down gently to sleep off its effects, and, as he did so, I saw that he was my brother.'

How many people have you known who are so determined in their search that they miss beauty, or perhaps even their true destiny, along the way? I've known a few, especially behaving so in their personal relationships. They've been so afraid of closing off their other options that they can't make a commitment.

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