A Passage to India
The role of the Marabar Tragedy in a passage to India
In the first fifteen chapters of A Passage to India, E.M. Forster prepares for the tragedy of the Marabar visit rather successfully. The tragedy is perceived as the failure of the Marabar expedition and its aftermath: Adela Quested’s accusation of Aziz’s improprieties, and Mrs. Moore’s loss of sanity. From Forster’s portrayal of symbolic issues to his description of the Marabar Hills to the experiences of the women in the caves, he has implanted various connections that allude to the tragedy of the Marabar visit. The use of foreshadowing gives readers a sense of impending disaster: Forster implies that the English and Indians can never be friends. This pessimistic view as well as the inter-racial tension accounts for the underlying cause of the tragedy in the Marabar caves.
The main issue Forster addresses in A Passage to India is the possibility of friendship between the English and the Indians. The controversy is first brought up in the conversation between Hamidullah and Mahmoud Ali, and again through the Bridge Party. Hamidullah contends that the cross-cultural friendship is only possible in England. The men agree that it is impossible for them to live harmoniously in India, for the structure of the colonial system converts the English’s attitude towards the Indians to a disrespectful one. From the very beginning, Forster makes it clear to the readers that cross-cultural friendship is futile, and that friction between the two nations is inevitable. As newcomers to the country, Mrs. Moore and Adela express their wish to see the ‘real India’, unfiltered through the lens of the English. In response to this desire, a Bridge Party is organized.
The Bridge Party, intended to bring together people of different nationalities, turns out to be a failure. The Bridge Party represents all of the problems of cross-cultural exchange between the English and the Indians. The racial distinctions are brought out through the portrayal of Mrs. Turton. The failure of the Bridge Party foreshadows the futility of the attempt to achieve a union between the British and the Indians. Forster implies that the people of both countries have difficulty accepting each other.
The inter-racial tensions are portrayed through the interactions between the two nations. The Indians are offended by the English attitude of superiority. Aziz is summoned to Major Callendar’s house during dinner only to find the Englishman out. Mrs. Callendar and Mrs. Lesley took Aziz for a servant, and stole his tonga. Although Aziz was slighted, he is nevertheless friendly towards Mrs. Moore and Adela. He invites them on an expedition to the Marabar caves, proclaiming that the caves are extraordinary and worth seeing. Both Englishwomen are delighted with the invitation. However, the friendship between Aziz and the two Englishwomen is not built on firm grounds. Only Godbole remains aloof to the drama of the plot, recognizing the hidden evils of the Marabar caves. He sings for his visitors a Hindu song in which a milkmaid pleads to the Hindu God Krishna to come to her and her people. Godbole admits that Krishna did not come to the milkmaid, signifying that the plea for God’s grace and blessings is being ignored. Mrs. Moore becomes aware of a spiritual presence greater than her own Christian God. This sudden realization frightens and confuses her; she is convinced that human interactions are meaningless compared to this spiritual presence. Mrs. Moore is discouraged and becomes spiritually drained after hearing the song; this results in her disinterest in the expedition and disillusioned reaction in hearing the caves’ echo.
It is ironic that Mr. Fielding misses the train to the Marabar Caves, for Englishmen are characteristically on-time. Godbole’s miscalculation of his morning prayer is what accounts for the lateness of their arrival. It appears that even the Hindu Gods do not give their blessings to the success of the expedition; the expedition is doomed before it has even started. Without Mr. Fielding, Aziz, who has never been to the Marabar Caves, is forced to be the guide. Ronny Heaslop only allowed the women to go on the expedition under the condition that Fielding would accompany them. The absence of Fielding from the expedition puts Aziz in the position of responsibility and leaves him without an intermediary between himself and the Englishwomen. This contributes to the trouble that will arise later in the journey. The announcement that “Indians are incapable of responsibility” leads the readers to anticipate misfortune. The expedition, which is filled with misunderstandings, starts off with a crisis. Exaggerated gossips misled Aziz to believe that the Englishwomen were very keen to see the Marabar Caves. The truth is that neither party particularly wants to go into the caves. Adela and Mrs. Moore’s disinterest is mirrored in the dull and vacant appearance of the landscape. Forster uses the image of a “cocoon” to describe the emotional isolation of the Englishwomen. Before the expedition, Adela possessed a keen interest to seek out the ‘real India’ and Mrs. Moore had a genuine spiritual understanding and sincerity towards its people, but Forster suggests that the women are separated, unable to understand each other and uninterested in making a real connection. The change is drastic: the alarming differences speak to the strong impact that Godbole’s song had on them.
Forster’s description of the Marabar Hills predicts the tragedy to come. The emphasis on the hill’s primitiveness confuses and isolates the visitors. The word “nothing” recurs in the description of the hills; their strange and unsettling beauty radiates a sense of menace that sets the appropriate tone for the dissolution of a friendship. The cave itself embodies nothingness and emptiness and gives readers a sense of unease. The caves are “older than the spirits”; there is something uncanny and ghostlike about the appearance of the Marabar Caves. Their strange landscape suggests that the power of illusion can be so great that it can destroy the sense of reality.
The natural environment of India also contributes to the preparation of the tragedy. India is a country oppressed by its natural forces. The oppressive heat and intense sunshine determine a man’s attitude and perception. The dehumanizing effect of the intense climate sparks the irrationality and hallucinations that Mrs. Moore will come to experience. The sun is described as a powerful but brutal creature; its heat is destructive. The hot season foreshadows the heat and turmoil, argumentativeness, and inexplicable sadness to come. The heat of the caves disorients Mrs. Moore and muddles her thinking, causing her illusions to intensify. The darkness of the caves also contributes to Mrs. Moore’s madness: “She lost Aziz and Adela in the dark didn’t know who touched her, couldn’t breathe…For an instant she went mad, hitting and gasping like a fanatic.” In the confusion, Mrs. Moore was unable to control herself.
Both Mrs. Moore and Adela confront their deepest fears in the caves. The terrifying echo haunts Mrs. Moore, causing her to abandon her spiritual beliefs and interest in human relationships. The contrast between her silence and the echo’s sound “boum” ruins her. In the cave she becomes aware of the darker side of her spirituality, and her growing ambivalence about God. Adela confronts the shame and embarrassment of her realization that she and Ronny are not actually attracted to each other.
Forster’s portrayal of the difficulty of establishing a friendship between the English and Indians and his subtle hints of the disaster surrounding the natural environment combine to suggest to readers that the expedition to the Marabar Caves will be a failure. The symbolism of Godbole’s song and the echo in the caves made it seem natural that Mrs. Moore would lose her sanity due to her loss of spiritual faith. In this aspect, Forster is very particular in preparing readers for the failure of the expedition. As for Adela, it appears that she will encounter problems of her own, but Forster’s build-up for the accusation of Aziz’s improprieties is rather ambiguous. In all, Forster is rather successful in preparing readers for the tragedy of the visit.
A Review of the Character of Fielding and Aziz in E.M. Forster’s Book, A Passage to India
Emotional Unorthodoxy in Personal Relations
Of Forster’s many declarations in his essay “What I Believe,” the most salient is that personal creeds or beliefs “stiffen” a person and render them less open-minded about everything that defies that creed. The budding friendship between Anglo-Indian Fielding and native Indian Aziz in Forster’s novel A Passage to India demonstrates the value of personal relationships over the value of creeds that generally obstruct those relationships. Forster does this in a way that highlights the unorthodox emotional and temperamental qualities of both men, suggesting that, without these, a friendship between the two who be unlikely.
The relationship between Aziz and Fielding, while eventually descending out of real friendship, is based on their joined effort of overlooking the prejudices about Anglo-Indians and native Indians, respectively. However, to say that they are able to connect by ignoring prevailing prejudices is inaccurate; their ability to connect as they do is primarily because they are both of specific temperaments that allow them to be more emotionally accessible to the other. Fielding, according to the narrator, believes that “[t]he world…is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of good will plus culture and intelligence” (62), and we are told that this is only because, unlike many of his fellows, Fielding has had ample time away from the “herd” of the English. He is not without prejudice or assumptions about non-English peoples. However, even when Aziz and Fielding’s emotional connection is strained by an ignorant comment—like when Fielding implies Aziz, “an obscure Indian, had no right to have heard of Post Impressionism” (66-67)—the obvious underlying “good will” to both of their intentions softens the blow of their fumbles.
If not for this perceptiveness, or indeed the willingness to perceive the character of the other as opposed to the stereotype of the other, both Fielding and Aziz could easily have written the other off as just another Anglo-Indian or just another native Indian. For his part, Aziz, who is generally unimpressed with Anglo-Indians, is eager to meet Fielding, as he perceives in Fielding a “true courtesy” and a “good heart” (60). This is unconventional for Anglo-Indians, and it is the continued emphasis on Fielding’s unconventionality and optimism about personal relations that attracts Aziz (67); Fielding is unconventionally willing to be vulnerable around Aziz—in a subtle way. Allowing an eager Aziz to assist him with his collar stud, for example, dispels a tension that might otherwise exist in a new meeting between any other Anglo-Indian and Indian. Aziz, of “so emotional a people,” appreciates and even idolizes this tendency in Fielding (65). While Fielding shows his prejudice by recognizing the tendency as a stereotyped action of Indians in general, he also acknowledges the tendency as useful in “[dispensing] with preliminaries” and getting right to the intimacy of friendship (65). Aziz’s openness to this unconventional Anglo-Indian and Fielding’s appreciation of Aziz’s ice-breaking emotionality paves the way for a friendship that might not exist if either had been of the mind to accept the prevailing prejudices toward each other’s “type.”
While both men manage to set aside those prejudices and expectations of either’s behavior for the sake of friendship, that friendship is in constant jeopardy of collapse. By the novel’s end, the conflict borne of differences in the display of emotions and intentions finally unravels, and both Fielding and Aziz concur that the friendship they once cultivated cannot continue as it once had (316). While this is potentially a regression into their stiffening creeds, the moments when both men were able to approach the other as a person rather than as a character of India or a character of England illustrate the positive, if not completely enduring effects of personal relations over creeds and beliefs.
The role of global conflict and modern nationalism in A passage to India
While Walt Whitman’s poem “A Passage to India” romanticizes the idea of blended Indian and British nationalities, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India realistically explores the emergence of Indian nationalism in opposition to British imperial rule. The novel unfolds in post-World War I British India and illustrates the growing tensions between the British Empire and its colonial subjects. India contributed munitions, funds, and troops to the British war effort, and these wartime contributions led to an increase in demands that India gain independence from the British Empire. The British did not simply refuse to grant India self-government: they implemented harsher anti-sedition legislation and extended the power of the colonial government. The Indians who had played a significant role in the Great War felt slighted, which provoked vigorous, widespread anti-British sentiment. Simultaneously, many prominent citizens became critical of nationalism’s prevalence in the European continent. The emergence of nationalism in Europe led to the alliance system that transformed World War I into a global affair rather than simply a dispute between two countries. Through the antagonistic relationships between British and Indian characters, Forster portrays nationalism as a source of conflict instead of unity and critiques the global fixation on nationalism.
Throughout the novel, Forster presents the emergence of Indian nationalism as a response to British imperial control rather than as a reflection of a strong Indian identity. While discussing the relationship between England and India with Cyril Fielding, the British principal of a local college, Aziz, says, “until England is in difficulties we keep silent, but in the next European war… Then is our time” (Forster 360). Aziz’s comment reveals the residual post-war anti-British sentiment that ubiquitously taints Indian life. By calling World War I a “European war,” Aziz references the complex, nationality-based alliance system that dragged the entire European continent into a disastrous conflict. The sentence directly links opposition to “England” and “European wars” to Indian nationalism when Aziz says “our time,” which implies that he includes all Indians in his statement. The connection between anti-British views and Indian nationalism reflects the reactionary nature of Indian nationalism. Later in the novel, when Aziz discusses Indian nationalism with Fielding, he says, “down with the British anyhow. That’s certain. Clear out you fellows…We [Indians] may hate one another, but we hate you most” (Forster 361). Aziz’s statement reflects the intense anti-British sentiments present among native Indians. He hints at the power of nationalism by saying “we [Indians] may hate one another, but we hate you most,” which also suggests that, much as British nationalism unites Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England, Indian nationalism unites all Indians regardless of the religious divisions between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. Aziz uses the word “hate” twice to indicate that although the different religious groups actively despise each other, their shared hatred of the British overcomes religious divisions. Forster’s depiction of reactionary nationalism reveals his disdain for nationalism formed through anti-foreigner sentiments. During a debate about Indian nationalism, Aziz exclaims, “India shall be a nation! No foreigners of any sort! Hindu and Moslem and Sikh and all shall be one!” (Forster 361). Aziz believes wholeheartedly that India should be a united nation state, free of foreigners and British control. The use of multiple exclamation points signifies the urgency and passion behind Aziz’s remark. He connects the word “nation” to anti-foreign views, and thus alludes to the idea that nationalism fuels xenophobia and jingoism rather than international cooperation. Forster concludes the novel with clear disdain for nationalism and, specifically, for the divisive effects of anti-foreigner, hate-fueled nationalism.
Through the novel’s condemnatory portrayal of the Anglo-Indians, Forster criticizes the inflated sense of British nationalism that led to the nation’s aggressive imperialist tendencies. After a group of Englishmen discusses the highly contentious trial between an Englishwoman and the Indian accused of assaulting her, the narrator says, “[those] simple words had reminded them that they were an outpost of Empire” (Forster 202). The trial inflames the imperialistic views of the Anglo-Indians. They remember that they represent “an outpost of Empire,” which separates them from the Indians. Much like the anti-British sentiments that catalyze Indian nationalism, a sense of paternalism and racial superiority fuels British nationalism and imperial conquests. The Anglo-Indians’ perception that they represent the empire allows them to channel their patriotism and feel proud of their national identity. However, the perceived superiority that accompanies imperial rule causes conflict when the British and Indians interact. At the Bridge Party, when the British stand on one side of the lawn and the Indians stand on the other, Mrs. Turton tells Mrs. Moore, “you’re superior to them, anyway. Don’t forget that. You’re superior to everyone in India” (Forster 42). Mrs. Turton highlights the racism that pervades British nationalism. She represents the British viewpoint and interprets British nationalism as racial superiority rather than as a common cultural identity. Her ethnocentric opinion of “superiority” characterizes the foundation of British nationalism and imperialism. Through the negative depiction of British characters, Forster criticizes British nationalism’s reliance on racism and violence to bolster national pride.
Forster uses his novel as a platform for criticizing nationalism through the relationship between India and Great Britain. He criticizes the general trend of reactionary nationalism as a response to the Age of Imperialism because the intensified nationalism attributed to the outbreak of World War I. Forster also critiques the perception of racial superiority that many nations adopt as a validation of nationalistic pride and as a justification for imperialism. Although he uses India and Great Britain as prime examples of destructive nationalism, the criticisms in his novel apply to all nations in the twentieth century whose nationalism triggered the Great War. Forster’s novel and harsh critique of nationalism foreshadow the imminent outbreak of the world’s most destructive war, itself caused by nationalism: World War II.
Whitman, Walt. “A Passage to India.” Leaves of Grass, 1871 Forster, E. M. A Passage to India. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. Print.
A View of the Concept of Confusion as Portrayed by E.m. Forster in Her Book, a Passage to India
Truth in a Cave
One of the driving forces of conflict in A Passage to India is the frequent occurrence of misunderstanding that occurs whenever these groups interact. Of course, “misunderstandings” are frequently innocent and can be smoothed over; attempted rape is heinous and should be treated as such in any culture. Aziz’s (alleged) attempted rape of Adela Quested leaves the rational Englishwoman vulnerable to episodes of intense emotion, which she is unable to process without the intuitive interpretation of Mrs. Moore. It is Mrs. Moore’s intuition that clarifies Adela’s muddle of emotions and at last suggests that a misunderstanding on Adela’s part, not a crime on Aziz’s part, is at hand.
In almost every encounter with Miss Quested, she is described as “fair-minded” and honest (34), and she approaches life with academic curiosity; she is described by Aziz as being unlikable for these qualities—he appreciates Mrs. Moore’s more emotional, intuitive characteristics, which he suggests make her more “Oriental” and more relatable (23). However, Adela’s “pathetic” searching nature and fair-minded rationality suggests that her account of her experience at the caves might not be an overreaction at all. Not having encountered many situations that would provoke exceptionally emotional responses, Adela is constitutionally lacking in any real emotionality. In this section alone, she thinks to herself that “she could comfort [Ronny]; but intimacy seemed to caricature itself,” and that “practical talk was the least painful” (194-195). Although not “pukka,” or properly English in every way, Adela is very much styled after typical English attitudes: she lacks those qualities that would allow passion and intimacy.
Because Adela is so stunted with her emotional responses, she needs Mrs. Moore, the intuition to Adela’s intellectual rationality, to help her process the new emotional upheaval in her life. Adela enters the cave in a muddle of feelings over her ideas of marriage, and she displays a frustrated desire for intense emotion that she knows is unlikely in her marriage to Ronny. The lack of emotionality in her daily life, and her chronic inability to cope with emotionality as a consequence, is heightened at that moment with Aziz, when his account of marriage highlights how barren her own emotional life truly is. This culminates in Adela’s experience in the cave, where her frustration with a lack of emotionality is so intense that it forces her into a hallucinatory state in which she becomes convinced that Aziz, the focal point of her frustration, has attempted to assault her. Perhaps, as is suggested when Mrs. Moore says, “‘And all this rubbish about love, love in a church, love in a cave, as if there is the least difference’” (202), Adela misinterprets her frustrated desire for dramatic emotions to the point that it physically overwhelms her and leaves a lasting psychological impression (the echo) and the conviction that Aziz has made unwanted advances toward her. It is only after consulting Mrs. Moore that Adela even considers the notion that her accusation against Aziz is a mistake.
Though absent for the trial, Mrs. Moore plays a pivotal role in further interpreting Adela’s emotional experience at the caves. The invocation of Mrs. Moore (“Esmiss Esmoor”) from those gathered outside the courthouse provides the clarifying presence Adela needs to feel more grounded in truth (226). With the addition of Mrs. Moore’s sense of intuitive truth, Adela is finally able to accurately recall her experience and admit that Aziz had never even followed her into the cave, let alone attempted to assault her. The invocation of Mrs. Moore at last exorcises Adela’s echo, that distorting presence that had twisted the events of the caves to be in the Englishwoman’s favor, and clarifies the obvious: she is mistaken, and Aziz is innocent. Mrs. Moore provides the clarifying presence of an intuitive mind, the mind that can accurately perceive and make space for more than one kind of truth.
The three stages of a journey as illustrated in A passage to India
Forster’s story in A Passage to India exists outside the physical experiences of his characters. The novel is less a tale about Indian life under British rule than an endeavor to map religious and interpersonal journeys of people. British colonial rule over India is, literally, the reason why the British and Indians interact, but their interactions with each other create personal changes. The structure of the novel demands attention to some characters more than others, particularly those whose thoughts concerning God and religion are most manipulated. Furthermore, the pertinent passages for these changes are not necessarily found in the most outstanding events, such as Aziz’s trial. The changes to be studied affect how the characters respect each other, the land, and God. The tripartite structure chronicles the transformative process when everything, particularly religious outlooks, are questioned and then reformed.
In Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, the author calls on his readers to appreciate “hour-glass” (134) novels. A Passage to India is one such book, and we pay particular attention to the middle section; Part II disrupts the characters until they are released into Part III–the bottom of the hourglass. “Caves,” contains both the climax of the actions in the story as well as the climatic strain of spiritual confusion. The Marabar Caves symbolize this confusion, for “Nothing, nothing attaches to them, and their reputation–for they have one–does not depend upon human speech” (137). Much will be said about Hinduism and its influence on the confusion of the caves, but “Hinduism…like Islam and Christianity, seems powerless before the nihilistic message of the Marabar Caves” (Crews 176-177). The nothingness is a perpetual backdrop for the story.
It is difficult to look at how an author manages the subject of religion without first understanding his own religious viewpoints and reasons for writing. According to Frederick C. Crews, “Forster is not asserting a religious belief of his own, but is simply trying to be open-minded” (176). Much will be said about Hinduism, and it must be understood that Forster does not favor Hinduism as a religion. He merely appreciates the aspect of the religion that caters to “His disbelief in Providence, his sense of man’s ignorance of divine truth, [and] his rejection of the idea of a man-centered universe” (176). The great undercurrent of the final stage of the novel is the Hindu celebration in Part III. This commemoration shows the readers how to bridge the gap between the British and Indians, something the Bridge parties could never do. Few of the main characters are Hindu and none openly convert to Hinduism, but people like the atheist Fielding and Muslim Aziz embrace friendship and peace amongst people. They both, particularly Fielding, exhibit the desire to treat everyone with mutual respect at all times. Part III’s title, “Temple,” foreshadows a break from Muslim and Christian God-to-man relationships in favor of the universal harmony that Hinduism promotes. With the celebration, Forster revels in Hinduism by showing its participants in jubilation, making it a happy belief system in which many have found hope.
Forster’s implied solution to the wrongs within society is not without its flaws, and he often alludes to this. For instance, the festivities include such blatant errors as “God is love” on banners rather than “God is love.” Ironically, the Indians put the words in English in order to show the universality of God and, therefore, possible peace amongst men (320). Even the beautiful courtyard in which part of the ceremony takes place can “scarcely be seen behind coloured rags, iridescent balls, chandeliers of opaque pink glass, and murky photographs framed crookedly” (318). The most compelling images are those of gods being blatantly noticeable and other times masked. One of them is constantly being “entirely obscured, when the wind blew, by the tattered foliage of a banana” (319). In this case, it is nature in the form of wind that keeps the viewers from seeing God. This is precisely what happened with Mrs. Moore in the caves–she experienced nature, understood harmony, but it scared her because she couldn’t see God in any of it.
Forster realizes that the idea of harmony is a confusing notion, and he highlights this when Mrs. Moore misinterprets Godbole’s song and leads herself into despair. Forster’s use of Mrs. Moore exemplifies the fact that universal harmony can be a difficult concept, especially for those who are used to much simpler interpretations of God. The British assign labels and seek order in everything to not only understand, but to maintain control. Essentially, what they can define, they can control. There is no order in India and there is no label to be placed on individuals’ relationships with the universe. The Westerners “had not the apparatus for judging” (293), but Forster will find some Westerners, besides Fielding, who are capable of assessing India and its people properly.
Adela also has trouble with labeling, as we see with the green bird in the tree. Ironically, she was horribly fearful of being labeled an Anglo-Indian wife because of the immediate associations she would imbibe. Adela felt the weakness that comes from being on the opposite end of a label, for becoming an English wife in India would restrict her words and actions. She came to India in Part I to meet her mate as well as to find the “real India,” but Adela found much more as she entered the caves of Part II. The point when she was most unsure about marriage was while in the caves. She knew that what she felt could not be named. It was not until she was with Ronny and the innate physical instinct kicked in–being something she could define–that she decided she wanted to marry him. At this point, she thinks that she had full control of her thoughts and emotions because she previously knew her instincts, whereas she has never known the caves.
Adela and Mrs. Moore visit the Marabar Caves soon after they hear Godbole’s song. They both see the surrounding landscape on the way to the caves. They both see the void present in their surroundings. Adela finds mystery without answers in everything at the caves, including a stick she mistakes for a snake as well as the identity of her presumed ravager. Although she truly knows the identity of the assailant all along, the mystery of the caves leaves her aloof and unable to process the happenings. Mrs. Moore, accordingly, finds nothing but “boum,” that monotonous sound that every utterance becomes, whether it is a word whispered in an ear or a prayer to the Almighty. Their emptiness significantly troubles the women and we know this because it pervades their dearest thoughts: Mrs. Moore to her religion and Adela to marriage.
By Part III, Mrs. Moore’s and Adela’s presences in the story are minimal. What they leave, though, is a lesson that helps readers through Part III. Parts I and II show, with Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested, examples of British individuals attempting to find the romanticized “real India.” Adela and Mrs. Moore stumble because they begin to understand India, but they become wayward when they find out that nothing can be identified in India. They learn that one cannot label India or understand it in the concrete and absolute sense to which the West is accustomed. Because of what they have discovered–or what little they have actually unearthed–Mrs. Moore finds hopelessness and, for Adela, it all becomes too much to handle.
Whether it is the first, second, or third section, very little excitement actually occurs–the events that do take place are given strength because of the implications. For instance, the incident in the caves did not really happen as stated, yet it seems significant because of the Indian-to-English tensions it stirred up. Forster clearly wants the focus of the novel to be drawn toward the events happening in the minds of his characters. By adding a third section to A Passage to India, the author shows that the novel is about the spiritual journeys of a group of individuals and not merely about an Indian overcoming a British woman’s accusations.
When addressing Part I, according to W.H. Mason, “It is…the title ‘Mosque’ that should guide our thinking about the place of Part I in the composition of the novel” (Mason 25). Amidst all the discord between Indians and the British, Mrs. Moore has the only positive experience with an Indian in Part I, and it takes place on common, holy ground. For Christians, there is eternal hope in salvation and heaven. Even with these factors, Mrs. Moore cannot overcome her new religious feelings. She realizes that the only hope for the earth lies in harmony, but she becomes dejected as the caves “[rob] infinity and eternity of their vastness” (165). All that her religion has promised in the afterlife is swallowed up and echoed back as “boum.” Her actions mean nothing. Accordingly, her words to God produce the same, monotonous echo as her actions.
The meeting in the mosque is, arguably, the most compelling incident in the novel. Alone, the meeting between the Muslim and the Christian is paramount because of how much we see Dr. Aziz and Mrs. Moore change by the end of the novel. Undoubtedly, seeing a genuine friendship forming between an Indian and an Englishwoman motivates readers; this is particularly unique since the English women are consistently more racist than the men. Looking at the confrontation more deeply, the relationship has haunting implications because it is Aziz who leads Mrs. Moore to the caves in Part II, and it is in these caves that the old woman hears the foreboding echo.
The meeting at the mosque, though, cannot be looked at as an isolated occurrence. It becomes inextricably linked with Aziz’s discussion with Mrs. Moore’s son, Ralph Moore in the last of the three sections. Forster clearly indicates the link between mother and son as Aziz also calls Ralph an “Oriental.” The difference in the mother and son are simple: Mrs. Moore found death because her deeply-rooted convictions were questioned, whereas it is quite reasonable that Ralph, as a young man, can more securely adopt, enact, and better understand that philosophy which killed his mother.
Aziz, a native Indian, cannot be a proper guide on either the caves expedition or the boating trip with Ralph. The young man is the one who Aziz gives control, because he symbolically unravels the mystery of India more adroitly than Aziz. Forster’s optimism in the end is not pinned solely on Aziz and Fielding, for most of it is directed at Ralph and Stella Moore. Ralph and Stella seem most susceptible to the influence of universal harmony. All four characters, though, seem to understand the importance of this harmony that Forster holds ideal.
The Hindu notion of faith is set on a basic premise: birth, death, and rebirth. In Part I, Forster gives birth to his characters, with all of their existing beliefs and perceptions included. The caves of Part II kill those perceptions, particularly those of Mrs. Moore and Adela. Part III represents rebirth, but there is an odd twist to this rebirth. The rebirth is that of the fresh souls of Mrs. Moore’s children. We are introduced to them just as we are introduced to the rest of the characters in Part I–with their existing beliefs and perceptions. New characters bring new hope.
Forster, with his scathing depictions of both the British (in “Mosque” and “Caves”) and the Indians (primarily in “Caves”), closes the novel with a fundamentally Hindu notion. Part III, “Temple” (in reference to Hindu worship), is where the disturbances of the first two sections are somewhat relieved–or, at least, there is relief in sight. Forster uses a Hindu celebration to make sure the idea of harmony–oneness with the universe–is not forgotten as the novel closes. The notion of universal harmony that Hinduism puts forth pervades the thoughts of Aziz and Fielding as they continue past “No, not yet” (362), and into the future when they can find friendship.
Forster wants the British to treat the Indians with respect. He exemplifies this with the three-part structure of A Passage to India. Part I shows characters with relatively firms ideas about life and spirituality. Part II is when mysteries become muddled and confusion becomes typical. Part III is when the characters shine, and they shine in the light of a Hindu celebration. Although the mystery remains, the muddle of India and the British intervention is clearing. Man has stood in the way of man by establishing social orders wherein one can degrade another by labeling inferiors. The labels hindered relations from beginning to end of A Passage to India. Even the final paragraph exhibits the divide. If it were to take “fifty-five hundred years” (361), Forster’s hope is that the souls of men will eventually harmonize, disintegrating social order.
A Comparative Study of “Heart of Darkness” and “A Passage to India”
At a glimpse, it might seem quite uncanny to compare two such seemingly dissimilar works as Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. Apart from disparity in their length and structure (Heart of Darkness: a novella, A Passage to India: a fully developed novel), the two narratives are separated by a generation and were produced in differing periods of each writer’s career. Each of the two novelists emerged from a very different background and had a very unique upbringing. In the case of Conrad, the novella is the direct outcome of his experiences as in charge of a small river steamboat in the African Congo in 1890. For his part, E.M. Forster, after having traveled so often through India, seems to have produced A Passage to India as a result of his own ‘passages’ there.
Regardless of all these factual differences, the two novels have much in common. Both works deal with the issues of colonialism and not only ‘fall’ into the category of post-colonial literature, but doubtlessly trigger a lot of debatable problems related to colonialism that otherwise lay hidden under the feigned integrity of the British rule. Just as Heart of Darkness, though apparently dealing with an ordinary seaman’s journey, is claimed not to be a ‘typical’ one, similarly, the “Passage” that Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested take to India is a lot more than simply a passage. This multiplicity of meaning makes it quite obvious that both the novels must be comprehended at various reading levels in order to derive complete essence out of them.
Both the novels carry the burden of factual evidence from specific eras of history. A Passage to India puts before our eyes the time of decline of the British Empire following World War I, while Heart of Darkness takes us into the realm of the European Imperial Powers resulting in a lot of scuttling in Africa. In this way, both E.M. Forster and Joseph Conrad can be taken as perfect examples of the writers who could explicitly voice the mood of a particular moment in history. The views of natives expressed in both the novels against ‘imperialism’ and its impact are the epitome of their times. ‘Social Darwinism’ and ‘Euro-centrism’ are two notions directly traced by both the novelists in a thorough manner. Only the ‘Fittest’ could survive in the world depicted by them and the only possible ‘center’ for the production of ‘fitness’ in that world was doubtlessly considered to be ‘Europe’.
The mastery of the production of outstanding characters that fix so well in their actual costumes of history can only be the trait of an exceptional writer. Both Conrad and Forster are bestowed with this trait which they exhibit well in these two masterpieces. Both stories are related from the viewpoints of European characters who find themselves in foreign lands as direct representatives of a European power or due to some connection with imperial activity, although A Passage to India is unusual in a way that it also throws light on the viewpoint of a colonial native. Conrad’s characters take up their roles and move ahead with the flow. Kurtz is one of the most skillfully created characters in both psychological and moral terms. He is depicted as a representative of the entire Western civilization. Just like Ted Hughes’s ‘Hawk’ in ‘Hawk Roosting’ boasts about itself that: ‘It took the whole of creation/To produce my foot, my each feather/Now I hold Creation in my foot’, similarly, ‘All Europe contributed to making of Kurtz’ which gave vent to his ‘unspeakable rites’ and ‘unsound methods’. His conclusion at the end to ‘Exterminate all the brutes”, seen in the political-cum-moral dimension, can be considered as capitalist exploitation aspiring at world supremacy. Forster’s characters are very strong and fully developed. Like Conrad, we find him focusing on the trials of the individual in a situation of moral isolation leading either to destruction or illumination. Dr. Aziz, a mess of extremes and contradictions, seems to be an embodiment of Forster’s notion of the ‘muddle’ of India. Directly or indirectly, Forster wants us to see many of the characteristics of Dr. Aziz as the traits of many of the Indians in general. Fielding is yet another interesting character in the novel. Just as Marlow serves as an intermediary between the two extremes of Kurtz and the Company, similarly, Fielding appears to be a moderator between the Court and Dr. Aziz.
Human Relations and their limitations is yet another very important aspect recurring time and again in both the novels. Forster is exceedingly drifted towards humanistic philosophy and his characters turn out to be good subjects for psychoanalysis. Nowhere do we find his voice clearer and louder than in A Passage to India, in which human relations are pushed to the very limits, trying to break boundaries of numerous kinds and attempting to bridge the gap between cultures and castes, a gap that remains as wide as ever by the end. Despite Dr. Aziz’s claim that “This picnic is nothing to do with English or Indian; it is an expedition of friends”, he has to pay a heavy price for attempting to be intimate with English people even though everything gets resolved in his favor ultimately. We certainly agree with the idea the result is just a disaster ‘when English people and Indians attempt to be intimate socially.’ Similarly, Heart of Darkness can also be studied as Marlow’s journey into the depths of human psyche and relations. The darkness becomes a prejudice that fails to see other culture as humans and rejects all sorts of intimacy between people of different races.
Symbolism is an important tool for writers. But for some particular writers, this tool turns into a very powerful weapon with which they can not only defend their thoughts well but very skillfully convince their readers to support their standpoint. Both Conrad and Forster own this very weapon and utilize it fully in their work. The landscape, rivers, caves and even various characters are taken as symbols representing very complex ideas.
Darkness is associated with almost all the places and people that Marlow comes across including his own self. The river Thames, like the dark Africa, turns out to be one of the dark places. ‘And this also,’ said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the world’ (Conrad 7). The river that Marlow travels in serves as a multi-level symbol in the novel as do the Marabar Caves in A Passage to India. Each of these ‘nature’ symbols represents not only a number of ideas but at the same time they remain the vague center of each idea. The river that, according to Marlow, resembled ‘an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest, curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land’ reminds us of the snakes that Dr.Aziz mentions to Mrs. Moore , saying, “There are bad characters about and leopards may come across from the Marabar Hills. Snakes also.”
The experience that Miss Quested had at the caves can also be taken as the realization of her own inner darkness. The hysteria she experienced afterwards could also be compared with the last words of Kurtz, ‘The horror, the horror’. The Fact that Mrs. Moore had a similar feeling of awe after hearing the echo in one of the caves is another hint into the power of the symbol of Caves. Dark as they apparently are, these caves seem to be laden with the ability to throw light on the inner darkness of humans. Like Coleridge’s ‘caverns measureless to man/down to a sunless sea’ presented in ‘Kubla Khan’ , these Malabar caves of India have their own awe, their own terror and their own dreadful impact.
The endings of both the novels leave a somewhat similar impact on the readers. While everything seems to ‘lead into the heart of an immense darkness’ for Conrad’s protagonist, all the forces of nature seem to deny the union of East and West in the world of Dr. Aziz and Fielding. ‘No, not yet,’ and the sky said, ‘No, not there.’
Friendship in Light of British Colonialism in A Passage to India
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster is one piece of literary work that questions the possibility of an Indian and an Englishman ever becoming friends. From the beginning to the end of the novel, the central theme is relationships and friendship in light with British colonialism. On a more personal level, Forster explores the British colonial rule using the friendship theme. The main relationship in the novel is centered on Aziz (and Indian) and Fielding (English). The first half of the story presents what can only be classified as liberal humanism between Aziz and Fielding characterized by a connection based on good will, intelligence and frankness. However, the aftermath of the story’s climax brings the friendship to a sudden halt. Aziz and Fielding’s relationship is evidently strained by external forces influenced by the tendencies of their individual cultures as well as the prevailing political circumstances. The mutual stereotyping of the English and Indian culture continually pulls their friendship apart. Evidently, although friendship may be possible, colonialism, religious differences and the role of human nature make it “not yet.”
Colonialism, as the prevailing political circumstances, in many ways, thwarts any possibility of friendship. Apparently, from only reading the A Passage to India, one could easily tell that Forster’s work is profoundly mystical or symbolic. However, it is a realistic documentation of the attitudes that British colonial official had in India. There negative, unwelcoming, standoffish and unreceptive attitude towards Indians creates two opposite worlds that can rarely be brought together in the name of friendship. Forster spends lots of time especially using satire to harshly condemn British women who are self-righteous, overwhelmingly racist and viciously condescending to the Indians. Forster criticizes the British rule suggesting that they should be kinder and sympathetic to the Indians to create a society that largely depends on one another.
The harsh colonial rule is characterized by myths and misconceptions between the Indians and the Englishmen. For instance, The Englishmen presume that they are better-off, above and more important than their Indian counterparts. According to Forster, the superiority of Englishmen puts them above Indians which makes them more trusted (10). For instance, Adela accuses Aziz of assault. She goes ahead to disavow the accusation at the trial which brings the friendship and relationship between Aziz and Fielding to an end. The end of the novel is a clear indicator that the political landscape of India had a hand at the end of the friendship. Forster’s ultimate vision in the possibility of any friendship between an Indian and an Englishman is pessimistic. However, there is the possibility of friendship after India has been liberated or on the English soil. The implication is that, under the colonial rule, a friendship between the two sides is a dream. The mere fact that one side is in control while the other remains subject to the control eliminates any possibility or chances of friendship.
Religious differences are characteristic of the tendencies of the individual cultures as well as mutual stereotyping which evidently pulls a relationship apart. In this novel, Forster establishes characters that are mainly Muslim and Christian. However, Hinduism also has a major thematic role in the story. Forster brings out the Hindu religion as defined by the ideal of all living things, whether small or large, united as one in love. Forster’s establishment is presented though Professor Godbole who happens to advocate for the unity of all living creatures. Mrs. Moore buys into this idea and is quite dissatisfied by the “smallness of Christianity. Nevertheless, the values and principles of each religion have a daunting effect on any possibility of friendship. Indians happen to be open and ready to unite with everyone in love and harmony. This is evident when Godbole refuses to take any sides during the conflict. However, Christianity, the main religion of the Englishman does not accommodate any aspects of Hinduism or Islam.
Differences in religious values, beliefs, systems, and principles are negatively consequential to the possibility of friendship especially when the parties are not in harmony with one another. Aziz is a Muslim while Fielding is a strong Christian. Fielding even laments that his Indian counterparts do not recognize or appreciate Western architecture. Christianity in the novel is presented as inclusive. Those who embrace it, though, use it to silence the other people (Forster 5). Although tolerance is the primary element preached by Islam and Hinduism, the followers use it to separate themselves from each other. In other words, religion happens to be the baseline of exclusion. It means that there cannot be any chances of friendship when parties of different religions are always trying to exclude each other. Aziz and Fielding’s relationship is destroyed by the different religious belief system. Remarkably, if people are separated or accepted basing on their spirituality, there cannot be a single chance of friendship. Religion, according to Forster, is like the sky; although it embraces everyone, individuals always use it to support their own courses and hence, keep others out, which, destroys friendships and relationships.
Apart from cultural and political dominion in the novel, Forster emphasizes that the co-existence of nature with human life has an influence on the relationships that people have with one another. Evidently, Forster knows, understands and appreciates the many beauties of India’s landscape including the architecture of both Eastern and Western cultures. Forster uses nature to describe and delineate not only the setting of the story but also the relationship between Aziz and Fieldman. There is mud, there are buzzing flies, there are evil caves, the sky is dun-colored, there are floods and even relentless and fierce heat. All these characteristics and elements of nature signify a harsh, unyielding and unreceptive atmosphere that negatively influences the existence of friendship between humans. Forster describes Chandrapore as a place of cheerless plains and lumpy hills (1). The place, according to him, contains fists and fingers of the Marabar and there is nothing which fits. In essence, man is absolutely out of harmony with nature.
Plainly, Forster intentionally chose an obnoxious and detestable location in India to depict the disharmony and lack of friendship among the residents. In the entire novel, Forster explores and delineates the extremes of malevolence and benevolence while using nature to help with both. For instance, the beauty of the moon depicts and characterizes the beautiful friendship between Aziz and Mrs. Moore. However, the incident at the cave is forecasted by the pale sun in the insipid sky. Furthermore, the wasp in Moore’s room illuminates the concept of God’s love and the need for unity and love among His creations. While the bee sting brings Aziz and Ralph together; the rocks force Aziz and Fielding apart. In other words, Forster tries to imply that nature has a say in human friendship and affairs. It is what determines the kind of relationship that exists between people.
Conclusively, from the beginning to the end of the novel A Passage to India, the theme of friendship is greatly explored. Several influencing factors come into play throughout the entire story. Cultural stereotyping and political dominion are the main factors that affect how people interrelate in the novel. Friendship in the story is depicted through Aziz’s relationship to Fielding. Colonialism defined by political control negatively impacts friendship. Similarly, different religious values and belief systems are also negatively consequential to human-friendly relations. Nature, however, as depicted by Forster in the novel, seems to have a unique role in influencing human relationships.
- Forster, E. Morgan. A passage to India. Pearson Education India, 1929. Print.
Through the Occidental Lens: Representation of the Indian Society in the English Classic, A Passage to India
Rudyard Kipling in his poem The White Man’s Burden (1899) says,
“Take up the White Man’s burden —
Send forth the best ye breed —
“Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild —
Your new-caught, sullen people,
Half-devil and half-child” (1-6).
Kipling, here hails imperialism by proposing the idea of a moral burden that have been destined upon the Whites to refine and civilize the uncouth and brutish oriental world. The poem has ingrained the prominent belief about the British being superior to the colonised “Other”. This misconception was communicated chiefly through the literature of the time. While there is quite a large number of works, which explicitly promote this belief, an equal number of works exist where this idea isn’t explicit. Though not coined by Edward Said, he employs the word orientalism to define this popular belief in his work Orientalism. Edward Morgan Forster’s A Passage to India, popular as an anti-imperialist text exhibits orientalist ideologies in a subdued manner. This paper aims to scrutinize the novel A Passage to India to prove this. The clever concealment of orientalist ideologies in the novel A Passage to India problematizes the dominant notion of the novel being an anti-imperialistic one. The method used in this research is meta-analysis and meta-synthesis. A thorough analysis of the text A Passage of India is made to pick out instances to prove the subdued presence of orientalist ideologies. Several papers, which support and oppose the primary aim of this research were read and evaluated. The postcolonial theory of Orientalism and the work Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said is used as the source texts to base the analysis on.
Orientalism, according to Said can be defined at three levels. The first designation for Orientalism is an academic one. Said says “Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient — and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist — either in its specific or its general aspects, is an Orientalist, and what he or she does is Orientalism” (Orientalism 2). Another designation is “as a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between the orient and the occident” (Orientalism 2). The third one is a practical action upon the Orient by “dominating, restructuring, and having authority” (Orientalism 3). While Said speaks of the orientalising of the people of the Middle Easts or the Arabs, recent studies like that Jukka Jhouki’s Orientalism and India paves for the analysis of colonized India through Said’s lens. In order to meet the objectives of the paper, here the concept of orientalism is taken as the sum total of its definitions at three levels. Hence, orientalism is the theory employed in this paper to trace the existence of orientalist thoughts and ideologies in the Forster’s work A Passage to India, analyze orientalism as a practical action justified by the colonizers and to find its manifestation in the novel.
Said’s work Culture and Imperialism, published after Orientalism is about the relationship between imperialism and culture in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century. Here, Said traces the formation of the British Empire and also analyses the effect of the mainstream literature on colonization and the effect of the resistance to colonialism on mainstream literature.
Edward Said rightfully notes in the chapter “Jane Austen and Empires” in his work Culture and Imperialism that the colonial domination of almost all the nations sprout from the major “assumption of native backwardness and general inadequacy to be independent, ‘equal,’ and fit” (80). A postcolonial analysis of E M Forster’s A Passage to India summarises the novel to be an apt manifestation of Rudyard Kipling’s lines “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”, in the poem The Ballad of the East and West (1889). While truly conforming to the above said conclusion by tracing orientalist ideologies, this paper also aims to extend the study by tracing references from to novel to depict its vindication of the imperialist objectives.
Forster through his novel A Passage to India stresses on the Orientalist notions further. Written with an aim to eradicate the darkness attributed to India by the Englishmen, the novel in turn exoticises India to a large extent. He evaluates the ‘Other’in a myriad of ways and quite unknowingly reiterates the Orientalist ideology of the ‘Other’ (here India) being primitive, irrational, violent and being inferior to the colonizer.
The idea of the mystery associated with India first gets discussed during the tea party at Fielding’s house:
“I do so hate mysteries,” Adele announced.
“We English do.”
“I dislike them not because I’m English, but from my own personal point of view,” she corrected.
“I like mysteries but I rather dislike muddles,” said Mrs. Moore
“A mystery is a muddle”
“Oh, do you think so Mr. Fielding?”
“A mystery is only a high-sounding term for a muddle.” (Forster 28)
V.G. Kiernan’s comment about the association of mystery and muddle with East as “Europe’s collective day dream of the Orient” has been restated by Edward Said, in his work Orientalism (52).This idea can be incorportated into an Indian context to explain the fixation of the British with the exoticisation of India. Orientalist writings on India perpetuate the image of India being a land of mystery, muddle and strange people. The above statements from A Passage to India illustrates this.
Forster employs Mr. Fielding to put forward his opinion about treating India and Indians fairly throughout the novel. But Forster’s love for India is cynical to a certain extent. Here, Mr. Fielding, the spokesperson for Forster in the novel conveys his hatred for anything that is mysterious This in turn reveals his superficial love for India and the Indians. Unlike other British officials, Mr. Fielding tries hard to love India despite its queerness, a characteristic attribution to India from the part of the West. Yet, another instance where the veil of superficiality associated with his love for India gets ripped off is his visit to Venice.
“The buildings of Venice, like the mountains of Crete and the fields of Egypt, stood in the right place, whereas in poor India everything was placed wrong. He had forgotten the beauty of form among idol temples and lumpy hills; indeed, without form, how can there be beauty?” (Forster 124).
Here, Mr. Fielding who claimed to love India admires the buildings of Venice and at the same time shows his disgust at the haphazard placing of buildings in India. The air of superiority surrounding the British officials who walked through the lanes of India, seem to be sumptuously breathed in by Mr. Fielding too.
Forster’s A Passage to India known for its anti-imperialist strain contains instances, which prove otherwise. Said, in his work Orientalism says, “the orient has helped to define Europe (or the west) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience” (Orientalism 1). The orientalist idea of India being a muddle, mystery and full of chaos finds its expression in Forster’s description of the Indian landscape and its people. The descriptions about how Dr. Azis lets his bicycle fall to ground, goes to a dinner past the time and how his bicycle gets a puncture depicts the chaotic and unruly life of an Indian through the eye of a baffled colonizer who finds all this mess incomprehensible.
Forster says, “He raised his voice suddenly, and shouted for dinner. Servants shouted back that it was ready. They meant that they wished it was ready, and were so understood, for nobody moved” (Forster 2)
The description of the above-mentioned situation comes from a narrator who tries to contrast the ‘unruly and orderless’ nature of Indians from the ‘neat and ordered’ nature of the Britishers. The degree of ironic strain in the above-mentioned statement is high and hence never fails to create an impression of a’ non-chaotic and decipherable’ life as the opposite side of Indianess. These descriptions automatically attach the adjectives lazy, irrational, crude and unruly to Indians and adjectives like productive, civilized and organized to the British, creating a clear dichotomy between the two. This is proof of the deep-rooted orientalist ideology that has been instilled in the minds of the colonizers through various records, which documented life in India.
In the first chapter of the novel, Forster describes the civil station as “sensibly planned, with a red-brick club on its brow” (10). He says “it has nothing hideous in it, and only the view is beautiful; it shares nothing with the city except the overarching sky” (1). The use of the expression ‘nothing hideous’ gives an impression that the ‘civil station’ is the only place in the district of Chandrapore that is free of ‘mystery and muddle’.
To Forster,the “Marabar Caves” is the epitomes of the Indian “muddledom”. The air of mystery that surrounds the cave from the moment its name is uttered gives a chill down the spines of the readers. The description of the Marabar Caves creates a sense of terror in the minds of the newly arrived Britishers and readers alike. Forster fails bitterly to create a sense of awe in them. His evasive description of Adele’s experience in the novel creates further confusion. Said’s idea of “Latent Orientalism” finds its expression here. Ronald.L.Iverson in his article Latent Orientalism opines that latent orientalism is a collection of “underlying attitudes and assumptions about the Orient which have remained essentially constant and unchanging through the years”. Here, the caves becomes a medium exploited by Forster to further exoticise India and recapitulate the idea of binary. Galsworthy Lowes Dickinson wrote to Forster in 1924 explaining the need for him to be more explicit about the cave incident. To this Forster wrote, “It’s a particular trick I felt justified in trying because my theme was India. It sprang from my subject matter. I wouldn’t have attempted it in other countries, which though they contain mysteries or muddles, manage to draw rings round them” (Furbank 2:125). This statement, from the part of a writer who wrote against the prevalent ‘orientalist strain ‘employed by writers of the time, is indeed paradoxical. Thus, this proves the plight of a writer who finds it impossible to unlearn certain ideologies imbibed in his early years despite his determination to change the dichotomized discourses about India.
Peter Burra, in his work “The Novels of E M Forster” regards A Passage to India as ‘a book which no student of the Indian question can disregard”.This dominant notion about Forster’s A Passage to India being a novel which treated the subject of “Anglo-India” with a sympathetic eye is indeed problematic. Forster himself admits this when he says “the sense of racial tension, of incompatibility, never left me” (Ganguly, 45).
Mr. Cyril Fielding appears to be the only man in the novel who treats Indians with the respect that they ought to get. Mr. Fielding acts as a spokesperson for Forster throughout the novel. As a result, he also becomes the bearer of Forster’s orientalist ideologies. There are many instances in the novel where one gets to see his sugar-coated love for India getting bitter.
During the ride Fielding and Azis took before they parted, they talk about the British rule of India. Mr. Fielding says: “Away from us, Indians go to seed at once. Look at the King-Emperor High School! Look at your poems… Free our women and India will be free. Try it, my lad” ( Forster 141).
Here, Mr. Fielding sheds all forms of politeness that has been carried off by him for too long and shows his true colours. The above statement divulges his ‘quasi-love’ for India and Indians. Like any other colonizer, Mr. Fielding too firmly believes that India will perish without the aid of England. He becomes a patronizing father who informs Aziz of his and his countrymen’s’ inferiority and incapability for proper administration. His statement about the present condition of King-Emperor High School and the possible return of Azis to charms makes him no less of a cruel colonizer. Anil Seal, in his work “The Emergence of Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in the Later Nineteenth Century” mentions how the British dealt with “activities inconvenient” to them by pronouncing them to be “self-interested mechanisations rather than genuine nationalisms” (191). The above statemen testifies this. These statements by Fielding also recapitulates Jukka Jhouki’s opinion that the colonizers considered “Occidents as problems, not as citizens” (4). Hence, for the colonizers, orients were those burden carried by them for the welfare of the ‘inefficient colonized’.
Fielding claims India to be a country belonging to nobody. Like any other British official, he believes that a country like India with myriad of religions will disintegrate and crumble without the administration of a powerful and capable force like Britain. According to Said, for the colonizers, “the oriental was a member of a subject race” and hence “he had to be subjected” (92). This elucidates colonizers’ idea about the inability of the natives to rule themselves and maintain peace. Forster’s want to continue ruling over India gets conveyed through Fielding’s statement. Such kinds of statements force the Indians to accept subjugation and fuels the act of orientalising. Forster wanted British to rule over India and worked ardently to extinguish the fire of nationalism in the minds of Indians.
On one side Forster shows the hollowness associated with the British idea of knowing India through the statements made by Rony Healesop. Rony claims about him knowing naturally about the distance to Marabar Caves, even if he had not been to it. On scrutinizing this statement, the underlying orientalist idea of attributing stereotypical features to a particular land and its people becomes evident.Forster also expresses his concern over the over-dependence of British officials on the records of Indian life, kept by the preceding officials in ruling India. He mentions this through the conversation between McBrydes and Mr.Fielding. McBrydes says “Read any of the Mutiny records; which, rather than the Bhagavad Gita, should be your Bible in this country” (Foster 73). Despite all this, Forster’s aim of analyzing the “Anglo-Indian” problem through the lens of an unprejudiced observer of India, fails in certain ways. Even though he tries to rebuke the dominant Orientalist ideologies like the dichotomy of the colonizer and colonized, that have been in circulation, he fails to see his own assimilation of these ideologies and his exploitation of these in the novel A Passage to India. Forster through the novel presents certain newcomers who want to see the ‘real India’. The course of narrative in which the newcomers visit a cave called Marabar in hope of seeing and understanding ‘real India’ is indeed problematic. Forster’s use of the caves of Marabar to extend his idea of mystery and muddledom to whole of India needs to be problematized. He depicts a certain set of characters eager to know and understand the real India but becomes baffled and disillusioned once a minute portion of the so called India is introduced to them. Hence, knowingly or unknowingly, Forster creates an impression of mystery, chaos and muddledom as having close association with India when his real aim was to remove the haziness associated with the life of Indians in the life of Britishers and hence bridge the gap between them.
Forster’s flaw or rather his objective is accurately identified by Edward Said, in his work, “Culture and Imperialism”, but in a more positive light. Said says, “Of course Forster was a novelist, not a political officer or theorist or prophet. Yet he found a way to use the mechanism of the novel to elaborate on the already existing structure of attitude and reference without changing it” (205). This implies how Forster’s A Passage to India becomes a text that perpetuates orientalist ideologies despite its attempt to view India through an indological perspective. A fact that becomes explicit on analyzing this novel is Forster’s belief about the inefficiency of the Indians to rule themselves. This kind of portrayal of India and its citizens through a translucent lens that depicts Indians as someone who ought to be respected but not be set free contains the very essence of orientalist ideology. This justifies Said’s comment in “Culture and Imperialism”, about the prevalent notion about “Indian politics as the charge of the British”, and about how it “culturally refused a privilege to Indian nationalism” (205).
- Al, Huri, Ibrahim. A Summary of Orientalism by Edward Said 1978. Researchgate.researchgate.2016.Web.27 Feb.2019.
- Burra, Peter. The Novels of E.M.Forster. Nineteenth Century and After.CXVI.Nov.1934.pg583.
- Dhara, Chandra Shekhar. British Representation of Indians as Oriental ‘other’ in Forster’s Passage to India. http;//www.joell.in. Journal of Englisj Language and Literature.2018.Web. 23 Feb 2019.
- Forster, Edward Morgan. A Passage to India.Edward Arnold.1924.http;//archieve.org.Web.19 Feb 2019.
- Furbank, P. N.E. M. Foster: A Life. Houghton Mifflin. 1994. Print.
- Joukhi, Jukka. Orientalism and India. [email protected] [email protected] Feb 2019.
- Hunt, John Dixon. Muddle and Mystery in A Passage to India. hhtp;//www.jstor.org/stable/2872204. The John Hopkins University Press.Dec 1996.Web.24 Feb 2019.
- Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. New York. Vintage Books. 1994. Print
- Said, Edward W. Orientalism.London.Penguin Books. 2003. Print.
- Seal, Anil. The Emergence of Indian Nationalism. London. Cambridge University Press.2009.Print.
- White, Gertrude M. A Passage to India: Analysis and Revaluation. . Modern Language Association, Sept.1953.Web.23 Feb 2019.
Modern Worldview and Author’s Fiction in a Passage to India
This excerpt from E. M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India, is fictional, as well as modernist. The purpose of this essay is to enlighten the reader about the relationship between elements of Forster’s fiction and its modern perspective. The essay will show the reader of the complex and sparse characterization, as well as the interior plot which is exclusive to modern novels. It will also analyze the language used in the excerpt, the tone, the imagery, and symbolism that is expressed by the narrator during the above passage. The significance of setting and narration will also be brought to light in the essay, as well as why they affect the relationship between Foster’s fiction and its modern perspective.
Mrs. Moore, the woman who is inside the fictional Marabar Cave, is not characterized directly by the narrator. We, the readers, learn nothing about her based on physical characterization, rather we learn, partially, about Mrs. Moore and her ultimate decision through her thoughts, also known as interior monologue. This way of characterizing is the crux of modern characterization. If the readerwere to merely look at what the narrator is saying then he/she will not know a single thing about Mrs. Moore, but once we delve into the interior monologue we can learn a whole lot more. ‘“Pathos, piety, courage—they exist, but are identical, and so is filth. Everything exists, nothing has value.”’These are the thoughts that have leaked into the head of the ‘religious’ Mrs. Moore. We can derive from this that Mrs. Moore is having a crisis about religion, she is struggling to hold on, and doubt is beginning to seep into her mind. The way we know she is a religious lady is because of what it says a few sentences later, “If one had spoken with the tongues of angels… the serpent would descend and return to the ceiling. Devils are of the North, and poems can be written about them”, these are the words and language of a religious person, for it is referring to text written in the Bible. This is the core of the interior monologue, analyzing what is being said via the characters thoughts, as well as the narrator’s words, which differ from the author’s beliefs.
The plot and setting seems to be basic, Mrs. Moore is currently inside a cave, all alone, with only her echo, or as the narrator puts it, “ou-boum”. Foster chose to express the plot and setting to be basic, in order for the reader to look deeper and realize how this is a modern novel. We need not analyze the plot and setting, but rather analyze the interior plot and the symbolism of the setting, for that is how Foster creates the relationship between standard fiction and modernism.
The plot of this excerpt appears to be about Mrs. Moore, who is stuck in a cave and slowly giving up hope. But you need to read between the lines, you need to look into the interior plot. In order to do as such, we must first analyze the Marabar Cave. This cave not only creates the setting, but is also part of the underlining theme of the tone – doubt. The cave represents life, a grim life, filled with doubt and uncertainty. Once we know that we can look at the interior plot. A Passage to India was set in 1924 where England had colonized India, but there were some issues with regards to religion. There were Muslims, Hindus, and Christians, the citizens were confused, and uncertain about religion. This uncertainty is evident in the last sentence, “Then she was terrified… she didn’t want to write to her children, didn’t want to communicate with anyone, not even with God.” She feared all this confusion that finally, she gave up with religion, with people, even with her family. Mrs. Moore went through an existential crisis, although it doesn’t say that, it is evident through the interior plot.
The tone throughout the excerpt is very grim, and creates a mood of doubt. “But suddenly, at the edge of her mind, Religion appeared, poor little talkative Christianity, and she knew that all its divine words from, “Let there be Light” to “It is finished”, only amounted to “boum.””. Mrs. Moore has come to the gloomy conclusion that there is no religion, that everything she has believed in has “only amounted to “boum.””, amounted to a simple echo, from pastor, to preacher, to congregant, it was all for nothing.
Narrators in modernist novels are not very involved in the story, the emphasis is rather on the characters thoughts and perceptions. A modern narrator lets the reader follow the character through her thoughts, instead of telling readers what to think about the events. This style allows the reader to feel a more personal connection not only to the character, but also to the narrator, due to the fact that they are both observing the characters development. Such is the case in the excerpt from a Passage to India. The narrator speaks throughout the second paragraph, but tells us what’s going on in the mind of Mrs. Moore, and her thoughts, especially the thoughts of her epiphany, such is the style of modernist novels.
Foster has really tapped into the very essence of modern novels. He has used the particular and unique approach to character and plot. Foster has also correctly utilized the narrator, and made the perfect balance between the narrator and the thoughts of Mrs. Moore. Interior monologue was used as well through the excerpt which is truly a key feature of modern novels. Foster has really made an unbelievable balance between the elements of fiction, and modern perspective.
The Meaning of Hindu Birth Ceremony in E.M. Forster’s a Passage to India
A commentary on the ways in which Forster presents the Hindu ceremony in A Passage to India
Forster uses the Hindu Birth ceremony in the final section, Temple that has the purpose of tying together loose ends and reaching conclusions, to create the atmosphere of chaos. He uses humor, action and description to present this air confusion. This portrayal of the Hindu religion is significant to Godbole’s ideas of inclusivity and the implications of it. Furthermore, it represents an aspect of India, exploring themes and questions posed throughout the novel.
The entire passage radiates a snese of displacement, along with a profound confusion. This is supported by the description of the lights being “electric”. The use of the word seems out of place and thereby is also humorous, as “electric lights” are often associated with youth culture and the connotations are not that of holiness, reverence or spirituality. Forster uses this not just to highlight the chaos but also to mock the religious ceremony, mockery being another striking tone that resonates in the passage.
Similarly, mockery is brought out in the girl’s leg shooting out “like an eel”. Eel have negative connotations and the reader relates it to creatures of the deep sea, unspoken, undiscovered, evil too. This, in addition to it having “shot out” creates an overall negative impression which is in contrast to what a reader would expect to find during a religious ceremony. this mocks the Hindu religion, whose principles we know through Godbole revolve around inclusivity. By mocking this, Forster brings out the futility of the concept. This is further supported by Mrs Moore’s death and bizarre divinizing, she being someone who embraced the ideas of oneness and inclusivity.
The portrayal of an all-encompassing view as being imporssible, is sustained through the passage, changing the readers’ view on what might have been the ideal outlook. At the beginning of the novel, signs of a more open minded outlook are appreciated, amidst the hierarchical Anglo- Indians. This is seen in Mrs Moore’s attitude to the wasp and a general acceptance of each other seen at the tea party with Fielding, Aziz and Godbole, himself. However, this pleasant scene set in the first chapter of the novel is mocked in the passage with the inclusion of a choir, which is usually an Anglican or Christian tradition, and the purdah, a Muslim contribution at a Hindu festival, in a very chaotic perhaps violent setting.
Besides mocking integration of religion, Forster goes on to mock the joining of the English and the Indians. This is also very significant to the novel, being one of the main themes addressed. However, Forster, in this passage presents a theme made very serious and emotional through the characters of Fielding Aziz and Mrs Moore., rather subtly and nonchalantly. This almost dismissive attitude towards this fusion of cultures, seen in the “europeanized band “stumbling”, adds to mocking any attempts to bridge the cultural gap between the races.
Furthermore, the inadequacy of “universality” is portrayed in Godbole’s remembering the wasp. This, while having positive connotations and obvious relation to “pretty dear” reminds the reader that acceptance of all creatures must come with practicality. Like the missionaries pointed out, you could not accept the “bacteria in Mr Sorley”. This drives us to the conclusion that something must be excluded or we will have nothing. Godbole, in response, accepts that a stone cannot also be God. When the reader looks to Hinduism, as Christianity and Anglican culture cannot provide a fully inclusive outlook, even Hinduism fails the seeker.
Forster also uses the passage significantly to crush out the illusions of grandeur of India that is built up by Adela’s quest to find the “real India”. Adela is not the only one who builds up a sense of mysticism around India, as is evident when on looks at Aziz’s cultural past and stories of Emperors, and Godbole’s mystical account of the caves. These cause the reader to gnaw at the question posed by the entire novel: is India a mystery or a muddle. As, in Temple, Forster attempts to reach a conclusion on the themes, the exotic, fascinating nature of India is undone. This is seen in the inversion in “God si love”, which insists that India is more muddle than mystery.
Forster reaches a vague conclusion on India and the questions asked throughout the novel, perhaps bitterly, facing the inadequacy of India to satisfy the mystery and the ideas built up. Forster uses description largely to indicate the muddle of India and the futility, creating what is almost and anti- climactic end that cuts off loose ends rather than ties them off. Forster understands and forces the reader to deal with the fact that there is no resolve in the matter. It is as it is.