In A Room with a View (1908), Lucy Honeychurch is a pianist whose repertoire choices, Beethoven's Sonata op. 111, pieces by Schumann and Mozart, operatic transcriptions from Gluck's Armide and Wagner'sParsifal, and Lucy Ashton's song from Sir Walter Scott's Bride of Lammermoor, chart her decline into a full-blown Forsterian "muddle." E. M. Forster selected this repertoire with scrupulous attention to its signifying power and in accordance with his musical enthusiasms. By way of this close analysis of its musical world through the lens of recent reception theory, the novel emerges as a revealing document of musical taste in turn-of-the-century England.
This study also shows that music provides an essential key to understanding the novel's structure and symbolism. Analysis of its musical content affords new conclusions in four areas of the novel's critical reception: narrative strategy, issues of gender and characterization, developmental process, and the viability of its ending. In exquisite counterpoint with Lucy's male observe——the narrator, the curate, her unfortunate fiancéé, and the author himself——music functions in this novel as a wordless narrator with the capacity, exalted in Romantic aesthetics, to speak of the infinite. Lucy's concealed motives are also more tellingly revealed by her musical moments than has previously been noted (for example, her stumbling attempt at the Flower Maidens' scene from Parsifal, probably in Karl Klindworth's simplified transcription that would have posed no difficulty to a performer of op. 111). Beethoven, however, proves to be the novel's most pervasive developmental figure, with op. 111 serving as a recurring motif for heroism and for Lucy's aspirations to the masculine world of action. Distant echoes of Beethoven's last sonata can also be traced in the enigmatic "love more mysterious" of the novel's conclusion, which Forster proffers as a tentative solution to its tumbling mass of dichotomies.