Bachelor of Arts
A Room with a View, Music, Forster, Beethoven
This essay addresses fragmentation and connection on multiple levels in relation to E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel, A Room with a View. George Emerson, the novel’s Romantic hero, loves Lucy Honeychurch and wishes to connect with her. But Lucy cannot decide to marry George for love until she realizes she loves him, the latter of which is not possible until she connects two fragments of her self. Music – in particular that of Beethoven, Schumann and Wagner – brings Lucy to the brink of connecting her inexperienced social self with her sophisticated and intuitive musical self.
Forster’s act of combining aesthetic and literary traditions – Romantic, Victorian and Modernist – invites us to step back and look at fragmentation from two angles. Forster believed that fragmentation in the early twentieth century was caused by modernity’s “absence of social cohesion.” On this level, Forster as a novelist uses Romantic music to accomplish the Modernist goal of connecting the fragments of early twentieth century society. He does this through A Room with a View’s Lucy Honeychurch. In the scope of the novel, I map Lucy’s progression toward connection onto the development of classical music through the nineteenth century: the music she plays drives her toward connecting her two selves.
The first section of this paper (“Forster, Romantic Music, and the Novel”) explicates Forster’s use of nineteenth-century classical music in his fiction, focusing on Lucy’s position as an expressive female musician and the influence of Romantic music on Forster’s fiction-writing. Section two (“Lucy’s Obstacles”) sets up Lucy’s personal obstacles at the beginning of A Room with a View, including her struggles with propriety and inability to define her feelings, both of which lead to the divide between how she plays the piano and how she lives her life. In the third section (“The Muddle and its Representatives”), I define the term “muddle” in the context of Forster’s novels, discussing the muddle’s antitheses – the spontaneous or the real – and music’s role in pushing Lucy out of the muddle and toward connecting the fragments of her life. The final section of this essay (“Lucy at the Piano”) addresses Lucy’s innate musical sensibilities and how the specific music she plays is significant for her development as a character. This section builds on the previous sections in its illumination of how music helps connect Lucy’s musical and social selves, bringing her out of the Muddle and into “real life”-the life in which she acknowledges her love for George Emerson.
Platt, Tammela A., "“Only Connect”: Music’s Role in Forster's A Room with a View" (2010). Honors Papers. 389.