Lucy Honeychurch is my favorite literary heroine of all time.
She’s not nearly sung as widely as the Elizabeth Bennetts and Jo Marches of their respective fictitious worlds, and as much as I love them, Lucy just has something that, in my book (ha!), pushes her to the top. Maybe it’s her unassuming manner; perhaps that all she really wants is her own quiet piece of happiness. The less that happiness requires rocking the boat, the better, but she proves, in the end, that she will do as much boat-rocking as it takes. She’s not trying to be rebellious; she just wants to understand things as they are.
For the uninitiated, Lucy Honeychurch is the main character of a little book called A Room With a View by E.M Forster. She’s a young Edwardian-era English woman — and while she does her best to stay within societal norms, they sometimes seem silly and needlessly confining. Any explanations she gets about why things are the way they are tend to ring hollow. Over the course of the book, she is presented with a three-way fork in the road. She could become Lucy Vyse, and fully immerse herself in what society tells her she ought to be, turning off her brain in the process. She could remain Lucy Honeychurch and simply run away from everything. Or she could become Lucy Emerson and not only continue asking questions of life, but ask as many as she wants, seeking answers the whole way. Two of these options are easy; one is not. But it is that one, difficult as it is, that is her only true chance at happiness.
Lucy, like Jo March and Elizabeth Bennett, does eventually make the right choice. But unlike Jo and Elizabeth, who are both naturally brave women, Lucy has to summon every last iota of her courage to make that choice.
Perhaps my affinity for Lucy comes from the fact that I know exactly how she feels. I too was taught to look at the world through a certain lens; the times it didn’t make sense and the explanations felt hollow, I figured it was just me. The last few years have shown me that this is not the case — sometimes when things don’t make sense, it’s because they’re nonsensical. Sometimes it is utter folly to ignore Thomas Jefferson’s exhortation to “question with boldness,” and simply trust that those in power Know More Than You. Sometimes, you do need to rock the boat.
Lucy Emerson is not so much a pseudonym (you will note that all my postings are under my own handle, “angelaisms”) as she is an aspiration. So who is she? Lucy Emerson is the person who doesn’t want to have to stand up against the prevailing winds, but will do so anyway if it’s the right thing to do. Lucy Emerson wants there to be civility and kindness, but refuses to let others use her as a doormat “just to be nice.” Lucy Emerson knows that anyone seeking to change the world must first change herself, and then lead by example. And Lucy Emerson will be among the first to cheer when she no longer needs to stand against the aforementioned prevailing winds and can go back to rocking the boat as little as possible. Previous choice of pronoun notwithstanding, Lucy Emerson can be anybody. It’s all a matter of choice — choosing to know what your convictions are, and to then stand fast in them.
Am I there yet? No. But I hope to be, eventually. In the meantime, I have this little corner of what Tammy Bruce calls “the interwebtubes” in which I can talk about those questions I would have never even thought to ask a few years ago, and the answers that I’m finding.