When E.M. Forster wrote A Room with a View in 1903, he wasn’t pleased with it, stating it was “clear and bright and well constructed, but so thin.” (Macaulay, 2007:78). This novel has become one of Forster’s most famous and well liked books. It is a satirical romantic comedy that criticizes the world of polite manners and social rules, through amusing dry wit and hilarious characterization. It is a social satire criticizing conservative Victorian British society at the beginning of the twentieth century; at a time when the Edwardian more lax standard of codes was just beginning to take hold (Leah, 2012). A Room with a View is about a young woman living in the repressed Edwardian times who travels to Italy with her spinster cousin. While in Italy they make the acquaintance of a number of characters who often find themselves in humorous situations.
What we find humorous is influenced by our culture, our age, gender, personality and our life experiences. Bremmer and Roodenberg (1997), define humour as ‘any message – transmitted in action, speech, writing, images or music – intended to produce a smile or a laugh’. Veatch defines it as “a psychological state which tends to produce laughter.” (Veatch, 1999). Wit that is critical humour is a genre of literature called satire (Audrieth, 1998).
In writing about authors who write satire, Bloom & Bloom explain that they “have liked to think of themselves as judges of morals and manners” (Bloom, 1979). In satire, vices and shortcomings are ridiculed with the purpose of shaming either individuals or society. A critical attitude is blended with humour so that in the end “humanity may be improved” (Harris, 1990). A Room with a View is a light hearted social satire of the Horatian type. These satires criticize social vices with gentle and lighthearted humour making the tone of this type of satire sympathetic rather than abrasive (Gifford, 2013). It is meant to be constructive social criticism, and humour is the tool Forster uses to draw attention to an issue he wants to correct, in this case society, namely the snobbish attitudes of the English upper middle class.
Satire and humour provide insight in helping us understand society. Harris states “Satire’s job is to bring attention to problems but not to do harm by its ridicule, rather to inspire social change, improvement”. (Harris, 1990) The intent of the satirist is “to persuade and educate through their works.” (Gruner, 1992) Harris states, “The satirist's goals can be affected only to the extent that the audience responds to the attack.”(Harris, 1990) Readers respond to humour well, so an author is able to make the reader see things as he sees them which has been influenced by his experiences and background.
Forster was raised by his overbearing mother and suffocating aunts (Merriman, 2007). The influence of his female relatives is evident in this novel. Perhaps the domineering character of Charlotte is a reflection of his mother and...