Let’s look at the romance tropes in A Room With A View, shall we? I would argue that Forster didn’t set out to write a romance novel, rather he wrote a novel that included a romance. The British Library notes that an early draft included “George’s demise, with a very different ending from the one Forster used ultimately.” Even so, Forster did ultimately write the HEA and managed to include a few other tropes of the romance genre.
1. He is a brooding and tortured hero.
What is up with George Emerson? He’s depressed. He barely speaks. He feels too much, apparently, to be able to put any of it into words that mere mortals con comprehend. He’s definitely Byronic, given to philosophy when he does say something. Fortunately, after he has had a pivotal moment with Lucy, he decides, and declares, “I shall probably want to live.” This is especially important for reading the book as a romance since this British Library article notes that early drafts included George’s demise, which would have also killed any hope for an HEA.
2. She’s so innocent, yet there’s something wild waiting to be woken inside her.
Lucy Honeychurch, as the reader meets her, is nearly an opposite to George. She thinks very little, but is nearly always ready to say something. Most of her opinions are formed for her by someone else and as she passes through the story she takes on the opinions given her by the guidebooks, her cousin, clergymen, her fiance, and, finally, George. But there’s another aspect to Lucy that Forster hints at at the beginning: she plays piano, and with a certain passion that her usual appearance does not hint at. The sympathetic parson, Mr. Beebe, remarks,
“If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting both for us and for her.”
And, of course, by the end of the story we must assume that she has done so…
3. A choice between impractical passion or passionless practicality.
Lucy is on track for a marriage that will meet everyone’s expectations but will require her to do a lot of emotional work. George promises more excitement, and to let her think for herself. Compare the two men’s kisses.
At that supreme moment he was conscious of nothing but absurdities. Her reply was inadequate. She gave such a business-like lift to her veil. As he approached her he found time to wish that he could recoil. As he touched her, his gold pince-nez became dislodged and was flattened between them.
And George, overcome by the romance of Italian scenery:
George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her.
4. I Can Outrun These Feelings!
Once she’s realized she doesn’t love Cecil Vyse, Lucy immediately makes plans to travel again rather than face George Emerson again. And George, as it happens, immediately made plans to move to London. But of course the trip is stopped in the nick of time, and HEA ensues.
Comparing A Room With A View to my earlier readings, it seems a bit surprising that…
1. Nobody is incredibly rich.
This is the first middle-class romance that has been on my reading list. Neither George nor Lucy is rich or aristocratic. Lucy, in fact, chooses George after ditching the higher class Cecil Vyse, who was instructed by his mother to “make her one of us.” She explicitly rejects her opportunity to be a Cinderella character. And even with Cecil, we never learn how many pounds of year he might have, only that his mother is able to throw off-season dinner parties full of the grandchildren of famous persons.
2. Lucy is not witty.
Forster actually points out that she is not especially smart. She is not overflowing with quotable lines, though the narrative description is.
I’m surprised, really, that I can’t identify more of the typical romance tropes in A Room With A View. It seems that, compared to my reading experience, Forster took a unique approach to a love story by setting it among the middle class and escaping the power dynamics that are so prevalent in other romance novels. My next reading, EM Hull’s The Sheik, is all about power dynamics, but before we get into that, I have a post coming next week on the clergy as characters in historical romance.