The structure of Room is built on the idea of contrast. As Alan Wilde writes, “the major theme of the novel… is expressed in the contrast between two opposed responses to life: the one, direct and vigorous; the other, vicarious and guarded.” (Wilde, Alan. “The Aesthetic View of Life: A Room with a View.” In Art and Order: A Study of E. M. Forster, 46–61. New York: New York University Press, 1964.) Each of Lucy’s love interests represents one of these responses. Life with George promises eternal comradeship, where Lucy is free to think and act for herself, whereas life with Cecil guarantees protection and social acceptance. Forster uses George and Cecil as foils to address greater societal concerns, including women’s emancipation; honest action in lieu of propriety; and “the holiness of direct desire.” (Summers, Claude J. “The Holiness of Direct Desire: A Room with a View.” In. E. M. Forster, 77–104. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1983.)
Contrasting imagery associated with each of these characters enhances their opposition: George—who is described as “Michelangelesque”(120)—is aligned with the outdoors, views, light, and air; Cecil—described as a “Gothic statue”(81)—is aligned with the indoors, no views, darkness, and shadow. As Lucy remarks to Cecil:
‘Do you know that you’re right? […] When I think of you it’s always as in a room. How funny!’
To her surprise, he seemed annoyed.
‘A drawing-room, pray? With no view?’
‘Yes, with no view, I fancy.’(99)
The consistent application of contrast between characters and imagery lays the foundation for the novel, providing “the background of sharp conflict against which the protagonists move.”(Wilde 47)
tl;dr: Comparison Chart
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