Edward Morgan Forster wrote A Room with a View in 1908. Lucy Honeychurch is the young protagonist of the novel and travels with her cousin Charlotte to Florence, Italy at the opening of the book. Their rooms in the guesthouse overlook the courtyard. Some other patrons of the guesthouse, Mr. Emerson and his son George offer to switch rooms. Lucy is unimpressed with Mr. Emerson’s lack of tact but eventually she agrees to take the Mr. Emerson’s room which has a view of the Arno River.
Lucy is a talented pianist and while playing on her visit to Italy, a man named Mr. Beebe predicts that she will one day be a great musician (Forster, Chapters 1 – 3).
Throughout the novel, Lucy continues to run into Mr. Emerson and George. On a visit to a church, Lucy meets George who informs her that his father means well but doesn’t realize he is often impolite. Later, she meets Mr. Emerson who tells her that his son George needs her in order to find happiness.
Another time, Lucy is out for a walk and witnesses an Italian man stab another man and promptly faints. George rescues her and boldly kisses her on their journey back home. Lucy is a bit upset about the kiss but she keeps it a secret. Later, in the novel George kisses her again but this time Charlotte sees it and chastises George for his unbecoming behavior (Forster, Chapters 4 – 7).
The rest of the novel takes place in Lucy’s home in Surrey where she lives with her mother and brother. Lucy met a man named Cecil while in Rome and finally agrees to marry him the third time he asks even though Cecil finds her family undesirable. He offers the Emersons a run down little house near where Lucy lives but is disgusted when they agree to take it. Later, Cecil plays tennis with the Emersons and Charlotte lets it slip that Lucy was kissed by George. At this point, Lucy begins to realize that she does love George and the novel ends with Lucy and George staying in the room with a view that was introduced at the beginning of the novel (Forster, Chapters 8 – 20).
There are many similarities between the novel A Room with a View and the film with the same title. First, the characters are vivid representations and they are the glue that holds both the novel and the film together. Without strong portrayals, the novel and the film would not be as highly regarded as they both are. The ability of Forster and the director of the film version, James Ivory to write about and cast such believable characters make the story more dramatic and intense for audiences. Both the author and the director were able to capture this love story in such a way that enabled them to tell the story so vividly (Johnson, 1).
The title of the novel and film gets right to the point in the opening scenes of both the written version and the screen version (Johnson, 1). Lucy and Charlotte are dismayed to find that their room only has a view of the courtyard instead of the Arno River. In both versions, this event is fate for what will happen next. Lucy was destined to meet George and fall in love with him and had the two women received a room with a view the first time they may have never met the Emersons.
There are some striking differences between the written version and the film version of A Room with a View. The first is that in the film version it is Charlotte who fusses a great deal about taking Mr. Emerson and George’s room. In the novel, it is Lucy who is reluctant to make the switch. This leads right into another key difference between the two. In the book Lucy doesn’t seem impressed at all with George, however in the film she seems to be somewhat taken with him from the start. She shares a table with him at dinner and gives him a small smile as she and Charlotte are moving into his room with a view (Johnson, 1). However, just as in the written version, Charlotte isn’t sure that she approves of anything going on between Lucy and George. The beginning of something between Lucy and George is subtle in the beginning of the movie which is in direct contrast to the book where there is no indication that the two will eventually fall in love.
The film also shows more scenes that depict the turmoil of emotions that Lucy is feeling. She knows she feels something for George but isn’t sure she likes what she is feeling. There are many scenes that show Lucy running from George both physically and emotionally. In contrast to the novel, and perhaps because films are always more visual than books, it seems that Lucy spends a great deal more time struggling with her inner emotions. In the film the audience sees some sort of chemistry between Lucy and George whereas in the novel it seems that Lucy doesn’t want anything to do with George. Similarly, when George kisses Lucy the second time in the novel Lucy seems upset but in the film she begins to respond to George before they are interrupted by Charlotte (Johnson, 1). Therefore, it can be concluded that it took Lucy much longer in the novel to realize her feelings for George but in the film her feelings appeared to have been there since the first time she met George.
The last startling difference is the role that the piano playing played in the film but not the novel. It is obviously easier to use auditory stimuli in a film so in this way Lucy’s piano playing abilities led great drama to several scenes in the movie (Johnson, 1). Lucy uses her piano playing to work through her conflicting feelings. When she thinks about the feelings she has for George and for Cecil she uses her dramatic performances to portray to the audience the intense nature of emotions. In contrast, the final similarity between the both the novel and the film comes at the end of both versions. Lucy and George are once again in the room with a view but this time they are staying in it together. Lucy has finally allowed herself to love George and the room symbolizes a new life together without restraints.
Both the novel and the film portray a classic love story. In the romantic genre, the two characters destined to fall in love often spend the entire plot trying to run from their feelings and trying to avoid admitting that they are actually in love. Both versions did an extremely good job of portraying this type of classic love story. The feelings in the book weren’t as vivid as the portrayal of feelings in the film but both versions left the audience with the impression that Lucy and George were destined to be together and were cheering for them along the way.
The ability of the characters to come alive in both versions is what makes them such good love stories. One criticism this writer has that is similar to other criticisms of the novel and film is that they are quite long. However, Roger Ebert has a different take on the length when he says, “The story moved slowly, it seemed, for the same reason you try to make ice cream last: because it’s so good” (Ebert, 1). In agreement, both versions were quite good but they would have been equally as good had they been shortened just a bit. The characters are portrayed vividly in both versions. Forster and Ivory are able to use their characters to tell the story in such a way that leaves audiences captivated by the lives of the characters.
George is portrayed as a passionate man who knows what he wants and goes after it (Ebert, 1). He knows he loves Lucy and makes it his mission to prove his love to her and convince her to admit that she loves him too. Lucy portrays her character very well by showing her struggling inner emotions. She knows she feels something for George at the beginning of the film but hesitates to admit it to herself. This leads to another criticism of the novel version. It seems to take so long for Lucy to realize that she does love George that the reader gets a bit frustrated and just wants Lucy to hurry up and admit her love.
A Room with a View was written at a time in history when romantic feelings were often expected to be repressed. The book did a good job emphasizing this attitude as is evident by Lucy and Charlotte’s shock over George’s bold kisses. The film doesn’t stay true to the book in this regard. The movie is full of intense portrayals of emotions (Canby, 1). Perhaps this is because it so easy to capture emotions on camera and not as easy when writing, but the book does a better job of capturing the reluctance of Lucy when it comes to admitting her feelings for George. However, the film does a better job capturing Lucy’s inner turmoil when it comes to her feelings for George.
The final bit of praise that both versions deserve is the ability of Forster and Ivory to capture a voice for the story that leaves the audience captivated by this intense love story (Canby, 1). The actual story may be a typical love story but this one is set apart from so many others because of the voice that shows through in both the written version and the film version. The differences between the two really don’t matter much because both versions tell the love story with a great deal of passion. In the beginning the desire for a room with a view seems innocent enough – the two women want to stay in a room with a beautiful view of the Arno River. However, as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the room with a view has much more symbolism that originally thought. The room with a view turns out to be a more figurative place where Lucy can feel free to express her emotions and admit her love for George. She doesn’t feel that she has to hide anything or repress what she is feeling in the room with a view. In this way, the room with a view is a place where one can discover true love and the feelings of freedom that come with it. Both the novel version and the screen version are able to capture this realization even though there are some differences between the two. In the end, this is what matters most. The two versions give audiences a hope for true love that may not always be felt because of societal expectations. Despite its length, A Room with a View is a classic love story that can be enjoyed by all audiences.
Canby, Vincent. “A Room with a View.” The New York Times, 1986. 5 Nov 2008
Ebert, Roger. “A Room with a View.” RogerEbert.com. 5 Nov 2008
Forster, E. M. “A Room with a View.” New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1995.
Johnson, Bill. “A Room with a View Creating Drama by Writing to the Point.” 2000. 5 Nov
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