Significant Moments

Two significant moments in Room are marked by the unassuming titles of their chapters. The chapter titles all reference the content contained within them—save for chapters four and twelve, which are titled “Fourth Chapter” and “Twelfth Chapter” respectively. In chapter four, Lucy and George—each exploring Florence on their own—witness a murder in the Piazza Signoria. Lucy faints at the sight of the murder, and George escorts her back to the Pension Bertolini. On their return, George jettisons Lucy’s recent purchase (photographs, now covered in blood due to the events in the piazza) into the Arno. This action and the ensuing conversation cause Lucy to pause:

She stopped and leant her elbows against the parapet of the embankment. He did likewise. There is at times a magic in identity of position; it is one of the things that have suggested to us eternal comradeship. She moved her elbows before saying:

‘I have behaved ridiculously.’(41)

While George insists that “something tremendous has happened,”(41) Lucy—though concerned with what the other guests will think if she and George return to the pension together alone—contemplates this “something” as well. Forster later explains that it was not the murder, but this moment, that is a turning point for the two characters:

For the real event—whatever it was—had taken place, not in the Loggia, but by the river. To behave wildly at the sight of death is pardonable. But to discuss it afterwards, to pass from discussion into silence, and through silence into sympathy, that is an error, not of a startled emotion, but of the whole fabric. There was really something blameworthy (she thought) in their joint contemplation of the shadowy stream, in the common impulse which had turned them to the house without the passing of a look or word. (55)

The real event, of course, is the initial intimacy shared by Lucy and George. Following this event she avoids him at every turn, until they are once more brought together in the fields of Fiesole, where George—surprised and impassioned—kisses her. Following this kiss, Lucy flees to Rome before  eventually returning to England, where she becomes engaged to Cecil Vyse.

George does not appear again until chapter twelve. Having just moved into Lucy’s neighborhood (at the invitation of Cecil, who is unaware of George and Lucy’s acquaintance), George is invited by Lucy’s brother Freddy to bathe in the “Sacred Lake.” The two young men, together with Mr. Beebe, are gamboling naked about the water when they are happened upon by Lucy, her mother, and Cecil.

‘Come this way immediately,’ commanded Cecil, who always felt that he must lead women, though he knew not whither, and protect them, though he knew not against what. (122)

While Cecil is commanding Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch, George greets them openly—“barefoot, bare-chested, radiant and personable against the shadowy woods.”(123) Although the lake is barely more than a pool by the following morning, Forster writes that it was “a passing benediction whose influence did not pass, a holiness, a spell, a momentary chalice for youth.”(123) The significance of the moment is explained four chapters later, when George is entreating Lucy to break off her engagement to Cecil. First he derides Cecil, citing the incident:

‘Next, I meet you together, and find him protecting and teaching you and your mother to be shocked, when it was for you to settle whether you were shocked or no.’ (154)

After continued conversation he returns again to the moment by the lake:

‘I have cared for you since that man died. I cannot live without you. ‘No good,’ I thought: ‘she is marrying someone else’; but I meet you again when all the world is glorious water and sun. As you came through the wood I saw that nothing else mattered. I called. I wanted to live and have my chance of joy.’ (155)

So it is that the moment serves as a turning point: not only does it spur George to action, but it also directly opposes him to Cecil before Lucy. Each man’s association (with views and rooms and all the other manifestations of the natural and artificial) is irrevocably aligned with him in this scene, and the juxtaposition is not lost on Lucy.

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