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Friday, 28 October 2016

Startled, shocked, reddened with displeasure: chapter 1 of A Room with a View

Everything seems to be pale and dull after Melville. Except for Tolstoy. The Bronte sisters. Nabokov. 
I've just started reading A Room with a View. The 1st page is about Lucy Honeychurch and Charlotte Bartlett whining about the rooms and being upset with the Signora's Cockney accent or the manners of some ill-bred English folk. So small, so petty, so narrow.
A stranger butts in the conversation.
"Miss Bartlett was startled." 
Why? 
"Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would “do” till they had gone." 
When the man and his son George seem to impose on them the idea of exchanging rooms: 
"Miss Bartlett, though skilled in the delicacies of conversation, was powerless in the presence of brutality. It was impossible to snub any one so gross. Her face reddened with displeasure. She looked around as much as to say, “Are you all like this?”..." 
In another mood I may have laughed. 
It is clear we're meant to find Charlotte Bartlett ridiculous. Lucy? I'm sure we're supposed to like Lucy- I've watched the film (with Helena Bonham-Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis). 
Look at this scene: 
"... Hardly had she announced this fell decision when she reversed it. The curtains at the end of the room parted, and revealed a clergyman, stout but attractive, who hurried forward to take his place at the table, cheerfully apologizing for his lateness. Lucy, who had not yet acquired decency, at once rose to her feet, exclaiming: “Oh, oh! Why, it’s Mr. Beebe! Oh, how perfectly lovely! Oh, Charlotte, we must stop now, however bad the rooms are. Oh!”" 
Genteel people have such affected manners it gets on my nerves. 

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