Indian Ink and A Room with a View are both set in different eras. A Room with a View is set in the Edwardian era when, like the central character in the book, people were beginning to challenge Victorian attitudes about emotion and sexuality and old ideas about class and religion. It was published in 1908 and was Forster’s third novel. Forster’s characters, like Forster himself lived in the time of the British Empires pinnacle. The novel is about a young woman, Lucy Honeychurch, whose love for a British socialist and experiences in Florence cause her to question the values that society has imposed on her.
It is particularly interesting that the novel is set in Florence, which was the centre of the Renaissance. The word renaissance means rebirth and this could be symbolic of the rebirth of Lucy’s ideas and values. Indian Ink is written as a play and is set in the 1930s and 1980s. In the 1930s the scene is set in India which belongs to the British Empire. At this time a young poet named Flora Crewe who is visiting finds herself poised between two very different societies. The 1980s section of the play is set in England where sixty years after the poet has died, her sister and the son of the artist that Flora associated with come together.
Although it is written as a play it reads as though it has been written as a novel as it is very descriptive describing even the colour of Flora’s ‘cornflower blue dress’. Lucy, the central character in A Room with a View is the child of the noveau rich. Like Flora she is young charming and likeable. At the beginning of the novel Lucy is relatively uninformed and gradually throughout the book learns more about not only Italy but herself. By the end of the novel like Flora, Lucy is a strong and independent woman.
Flora’s understanding of foreign culture also increases through the play as she experiences ‘proper’ India rather than British India. In Indian Ink and A Room with a View, the foreign country challenges the views upheld at the time. In Indian Ink Stoppard explores four different views of colonialism in the 1930’s and 1980’s through different characters. In the 1930’s Das talks to Flora about colonialism from his and Mr Coomaraswami’s viewpoints. Both greatly differ, Das says ‘”Perhaps we have been robbed… The woman here wear sari’s made in Lancashire.
The cotton is Indian but we cannot compete in the weaving” ‘yet Mr Coomaraswami’s ‘”criticism is that you haven’t exploited India enough. Where are the cotton mills? The steel mills? No investment, no planning. The Empire has failed us. ” ‘A similar discussion about colonialism also takes place in 1980 between Mrs Swan and Anish when Anish says ‘ “Even when you discovered India in the age of Shakespeare, we already had our Shakespeare’s…. We had a culture more older and splendid, we were rich! After all that’s why you came! ” To which Mrs Swan replies ‘”We made you a proper country!
And when we left you fell to pieces like Humpty Dumpty! ” ‘ The use of four varying views not only encourages the audience to think about the effects and morality of colonialism, but also gives insight into the characters. It highlights Mr Coomaraswami’s love of the English, and Anish and Das’ political feelings. It also presents Mrs Swan as very old-fashioned as she does not realise that it was actually the British Empire which was responsible for hindering India’s economic prosperity when the Empire left as they took away all the skilled labour, money and trade.
In A Room with a View, Italy challenges many of Lucy’s values and ideas. In the beginning perhaps Lucy’s room without a view symbolises her conformity to social norms and when the Emersons offer her a room with a view it symbolises the change of her own ideas about passion and the social rules by which she lives and associates the Emersons (and their socialistic beliefs) with this newfound liberty. When she goes out by herself she thinks ‘It was unladylike. Why? Why were most big things unladylike?
‘ (P45). At first Lucy resists the liberating effect that Italy has on her; when she experiences the murder at the Piazza Signeria, it obviously affects her deeply as she felt that ‘she, as well as the dying man, had crossed some type of spiritual boundary’, yet she says to George ‘How quickly these accidents do happen, and then one returns to the old life’ (p45). Perhaps she reacts like this to hide the bond between her and George as any relationship between them would be socially unacceptable.
Similarly in part two of the novel she again deceives herself about her feelings for George when she stays with Cecil because those around her approve of her engagement. At this time, it is passion particularly which is frowned upon. Mr Beebe thinks that Lucy would be much better if she, like him, remained celibate. This idea is also reinforced by Mr Eager’s violent reaction to the Italian lovers kissing, he even goes as far as to separate them and takes ‘the trouble to call him a liar’.
This war could be a representative of Forster’s repressed desire as a homosexual in a time when homosexuality was frowned upon. Sex also seems to be a terrible source of anxiety for women of this period and there is belief that a woman’s reputation should be guarded at all costs. Lucy’s self deception shows how at first she upholds these values but her display of feelings at the end towards George- ‘”It is impossible” murmured Lucy, and then, remembering the experiences of her own heart, she said “No, it is just possible” -show how she overcomes them.
Like Lucy in A Room with a View, Flora does discover something about emotions throughout the play however, whilst Lucy finds out about passion from George, Flora finds out about Rasa from Das. Rasa is the essence, juice and taste of something; ‘”There are nine Rasa, each one a different colour. I should say mood. But each mood has its colour – white for laughter and fun, red for anger…. ” ‘. Das teaches Flora how to harmonise her Rasa so that her emotions are not in opposition. Both central female characters from ‘A Room with a View’ and ‘Indian Ink’ discover something about emotions due to their experiences in a foreign country.
The Emersons are the only socialists1? in A Room with a View at a time when social values were changing. Forster seems to advocate socialism through his characters. When Lucy falls in love with George Emerson and changes her ideas she finally finds happiness whereas before she was discontent, ‘The gates of liberty still seemed unopen to her. She was conscious of her discontent’ (pp46). Forster seems to think that socialism will bring happiness to all. In Indian Ink Das and Flora, like the Emersons in A Room with a View, have rebellious viewpoints.
Flora is a communist 2and Das was a nationalist (‘belief in the policy of independence’), this links them both together as in those days it is very unusual to have extreme political views as people tended to conform more to societies expectations. One of the key issues in ‘A Room with a View’ is class snobbery. This is addressed straight away by the reaction of the other tourists to the Emerson’s offer of swapping rooms – ‘The better class of tourist was shocked at this and sympathised with the new-comers’.
Charlotte Bartlett emphasises the worst snobbery and narrow-mindedness of her class, she is against Lucy’s socialising and is completely unimaginative. British society in the time of Flora does not seem that different then society in the time of Charlotte. When Flora is talking about her ‘scandalous’ court case to Durance, she says how her sister had to leave school and be taken away through the crowd in a van because of the sexual content of her poems. Although the general attitudes of society are similar, Flora and Charlotte’s attitudes to it in particular are very different from each other.
Flora is much more relaxed towards it than Charlotte who takes the opinions of those around her very seriously – ‘Miss Bartlett, much discomfited by the unpleasant scene. The shopman was possibly listening’ (pp61). Freddy, Lucy’s brother who is back home at Windy Corner, could also be used to show this typical English attitude towards class. He is too young to have been influenced by society’s views. He likes George who could be seen as having a liberal attitude and dislikes Cecil who is Lucy’s fianci and looks down on anyone not of his class.
The other characters, with the exception of the Emersons, have been affected by the pressures of class and approve of Cecil’s engagement to Lucy. Lucy breaking off her engagement to Cecil shows how she challenges following what society thinks would be best for her. In Indian Ink Durance also has the common attitude of the English at the time of the Empire, whilst he tells Flora that he loves ‘Indian’ India, he feels superior to the Indians and goes to the club with the English community.
This is particularly shown when he is talking about this ‘terribly nice chap’ who is an Indian officer and has spent time at Cambridge and learnt English sports yet Durance does not seem to think that there is anything wrong with the fact that he cannot get into the club. He also calls British India ‘proper’ India which suggests that he sees British India as superior to Indian India. In A Room with a View, Forster presents the English tourists as having a superficial interest in the Italian culture, like Durance in Indian Ink. They stay with the other English and look down on the Italians.
Miss Lavish prides herself on being original and experiencing foreign countries, she is looked upon by the other British (with the exception of the Emersons) as ‘the clever one’. She pretends to be worldly yet when she takes away Lucy’s Baedaker they both get lost, she contradicts herself when she says ‘”The true Italy is only to be found by patient observation” ‘ yet she rushes past the beautiful Square of Annunziata with a shriek of dismay. She is very patronising towards the Italians and sees herself as superior to them, this is highlighted when she says ‘”Look at that adorable wine – cart!
How the driver stares at us, dear, simple soul! “‘. Miss Lavish is seen as having a radical viewpoint and yet is actually just as snobby as everyone one else. As the novel is quite political this could be to show how some types of radicalism are actually false. In A Room with a View Lucy is disappointed by the Pension Bertolini which she feels is a part of England and the Signora who was ‘a Cockney, besides! ‘ this suggests that she wants to be more involved with the Italian way of life. Flora like Lucy tries to experience the foreign culture.
She visits the Rajah and stays with Mr Coomaraswami rather than at a hotel or at the club with the other English. She also tries to understand the Indian notion of Rasa and says to Das that she ‘”Didn’t like you thinking that English was better just because it was English” ‘ (p44). However the way that she occasionally mocks Das could show her feelings of superiority towards the Indians, she is almost playing with him when she says ‘”You can imagine it but you cannot mount it”‘ and he is obviously distressed after she says it.