A Passage to India
Inequality and Integration in The Lonely Londoners and A Passage to India
The books The Lonely Londoners and A Passage to India, both present us with a world that has stark divisions and inequality based on class and race, as words like “spade” are used freely in The Lonely Londoners to label the Caribbean community thus discrimination is rife. Both texts have strong links to the British Empire, as A Passage to India, is set in British India, where many of the main characters are Britons living in colonial India and in The Lonely Londoners the novel revolves around characters who have migrated from the Caribbean as a result of a surge in post-war immigration from the Commonwealth due to a newly created welfare state, including the author Selvon, who arrived in 1950. Forster and Selvon explore the nature of integration and have a keen interest in the relationship between people of different races and do clearly show that ethnic minorities are prevented from being accepted into society as a result of their race. However, at a closer look, the authors show how complex integration between two different cultures can be and introduce the notion that perhaps it is the difference in class that results in more division. This is apparent as Forster shows that integration is attainable through the relationship between the English, Mr Fielding and the Indian, Dr Aziz. This corroborates that race does not have to act as a divide in society.
One way in which Selvon presents unsuccessful integration in The Lonely Londoners is through having no protagonists. Selvon’s background perhaps influences this choice as he lived in communal housing when first living in London and trying to integrate himself, therefore meaning his outlook on integration might be a more cynical and angry one, where he calls for the need for equality which he did not see exist in his own life. This is reflected through the lack of a protagonist in The Lonely Londoners as we are introduced to characters like Tolory and Moses who come from “similar backgrounds” and “humble beginnings” and engage in helping one another from the offset. This is evident when Moses says “both of we is Trinidadians and we must help out one another”, the use of the modal verb “must” further shows that Selvon had a strong belief in community, as rather than it being an optional choice it comes across as a compulsory action to take. Yet the fact that these characters have to rely on one another so much suggests that integrating into British society was challenging for them, as it conveys the image of vulnerability, due to the majority of characters arriving with very little possessions and a lack of personal security, Selvon does this to reflect his own experiences, as a immigrant to the UK and potentially educate the reader on the struggles of the working class immigrant community in inner-city London. Due to the characters in The Lonely Londoners being so close, where the majority live together, it creates a sort of inclusive community, which is not always useful in terms of integrating into society, as mixing with other races is minimal. This is damaging for integration as other cultural intake is extremely low, meaning the characters in The Lonely Londoners would have less tolerance towards surrounding Britons and vice versa. Yet despite this the critic Lisa. M Kabesh (year) states that “Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners is a text preoccupied with movement – it shows a London transformed by West Indian immigrants as they search for work, travel to and from their jobs, move in and out of rented apartments… This emphasis on mapping has led many critics to engage with this text as a work of community-building”. The constant theme of mobility and moving is paramount in building the community we see in The Lonely Londoners, this is very refreshing to the readers, as we join the characters in the development of their community throughout the novel by discovering new thoughts and places in the eyes of the newly arrived immigrants, shown when Selvon writes “ Galahad remember that as he stand up there by the pond… Which part these seagulls come from, he wonder”, these seemingly boring day to day thoughts are a part of the journey that we take when reading this book, as the book goes on we learn along with the characters, Selvon may have done this to highlight to the reader at the time, the struggles of moving somewhere completely different and that at times the community should be considerate of transitions like these in oppose to judging. Although Kabesh is right in that Selvon shows it is important for a community to be built when immigrating, this does however make it harder for the individual to integrate into that society.
By Kabesh stating that the novel is “preoccupied by movement”, it suggests that movement is what leads to a “community” or a sense of belonging. Selvon uses the narrator Moses to challenge the ideals of immigrating to a more developed society by focusing on the reality of being an immigrant and showing the struggles it entails. We can see this when he writes “for this city powerfully lonely when you on your own”. The word “powerfully” is very emotive as it adds a personal undertone to the immigrants lives that we don’t see much, whereby behind all the socialising and working, being new in a typically unfriendly city can be very lonely, hence the name of the novel. This shows that a “community” is needed to survive in a foreign country even if it prevents integration. It takes on instead a wiser omnipresent voice for younger immigrants to learn from, rather than an actual protagonist. This allows Selvon to create an atmosphere of equality among the characters where the reader is not prejudiced or biased to any individual character’s experience, thus Selvon shows in this segment that humans can naturally work well together but it is society’s prejudices against those that are different, and in this instance it is race, that prevents equality.
Forster instead in A Passage to India has two protagonists, one who is an upper-class Englishman, Mr. Fielding, and the other an educated and successful Indian character, Dr Aziz, Fielding’s willingness to integrate is shown by Forster when he writes, “He had found it convenient and pleasant to associate with Indians” this viewpoint would have been very controversial during the 1920s, as many believed that races should be kept separate. Contrasting The Lonely Londoners, Forster shows us a much broader range of characters from different races, religions and classes. We can see this when Forster writes about the “Muslim”, “Hindi” and British people attending the party which suggests integration could be possible. Yet, having said this, it is clear that Forster believes integration isn’t always a force for good as he states that the “Bridge party was not a success”, suggesting integration is not necessarily positive when it is forced. A Bridge Party in this context is an event where a mixture of races and religions are encouraged to socialise together, this is also done to keep the peace amongst races but clearly, Forster is showing that these characters do not truly believe they are all equal. Forster then goes on to say how “the Indian guests stand idly at one side of the tennis lawn while the English stand at the other”. This is not exactly a utopian vision of integration when diversity is present but instead symbolises the segregation that still exists in the characters minds and perspectives. Perhaps Forster is showing that education is what divides people. Forster himself commented on his visit to India, stating that “the sense of racial tension ….. never left me”, this is reflected well in the bridge party. Kate Symondson stated in her article that “ In answer to the question of whether an Englishman and an Indian can be friends, India replies – in her hundred, undefined voices – ‘No, not there,’ ‘not yet’”. This is shown towards the end of the novel where the Indian community demonstrate outrage towards the British, who wrongly accuse Aziz of rape, this is Forster’s way of showing how forced integration can be potentially problematic, as the “rape” resulted from the trip to the Caves, which came across as a very unnatural event which culminated from the even more forced Bridge Party. However the keywords in Symondson’s interpretation are “not yet”, suggesting that it is not set in stone that the two races are kept apart forever and whilst Indian people may find this hard to imagine due to the decades of colonisation, there was potential for change, which is what Forster is trying to put across.
It could be said that Forster explores how although integration can happen he is warning the reader against possible dangers when it is forced. His use of the natural imagery of the caves acts as a symbolism for what can happen when it is. This is due to the characters that have attempted to come together all being worse off as a result of visiting the caves, as Aziz ends up arrested, Mrs Moore ends up dying and Adela becomes bed stricken. The description of the caves suggests they are dangerous yet beautiful as “They are like nothing else in the world” and “There is something unspeakable in these outposts”, Forster then continues to describe the reflection of the flames on the polished inner surface of the caves, ‘another flame rises… the walls of the circular chamber have been most marvellously polished”. The flames are seen as fragile human interventions from the outside that briefly bring beauty but are doomed to extinction, from this we can apply this analogy to Forster’s opinion of the forced integration of the British and Indians, for example at the Bridge parties explored earlier, as he is saying that the British intervention in India does produce some beauty in India like the hordes of new infrastructure, but is eventually doomed to fail as it is unnatural. In terms of the structure of the book, this represents a crisis which the rest of the novel seeks to resolve, Forster does this to entice the reader and give the novel more substance, as it helps retain a common theme to the book by providing the reader with a case to follow without knowing what the outcome will be, this is very effective as Aziz’s freedom is in the balance. Following on from this, Chapter 17 acts as a mouthpiece for public opinion at the time, and highlights how lowly the British thought of some Indians, we can see this when Mr Mcbryde says “Quite possible… when an Indian goes bad he goes not only very bad but… queer”. This could highlight how integration is in face not possible whatever the class, as it shows that even when talking about people of a relatively similar class, some of the British in the book clearly have racial prejudices; this was picked up by the readers of the book when it was first published as it received worldwide condemnation due to how it perceived the English officials, stated by Symondson in “The Mystery and Muddle Of A Passage To India”, an article in connection with the British Library. Yet Forster does give challenging voices to this through Fielding’s attitude to the Aziz situation as it is one of compassion and objectivity, we can see this when he says he will have to “muddle ahead”, with reference to the future of the case and the coming months, this is a noble position, as he could quite easily wash his hands over the whole thing and be “loyal” to the English, as McBryde suggests. Fielding represents a more educated type of Briton, who is in India to regulate education and teach. The Fielding- Aziz relationship is one that vouches for the statement that class is a bigger divider than race in some cases, as Aziz and Fielding are both educated (Doctor and Teacher) and relatively upper-class men which allows them to put prejudice aside during most of the book. In comparison to this the immigrants in The Lonely Londoners are sold a dream before coming and unlike Forster’s use of caves, Selvon uses the imagery of sights in London to romanticize the dream that the immigrants have been sold when travelling to the UK, an example of these big dreams being portrayed is when Tanty says “But they say that it have more work in England”, the use of “they”, shows that a lot of the immigrants have based many of their dreams on what the government had fed them, in an attempt to entice them into coming. This idea is further explored when Selvon writes “he using the names of the places like they mean big romance, as if to say ‘I was in Oxford Street’ have more prestige than if he just say ‘I was up the road’”, this shows that some immigrants in this novel were still in awe of these landmarks and like in A Passage To India, this imagery leads to change in some of the major characters life, evident in The Lonely Londoners when Selvon writes when referring to Galahad going to Charing Cross “just to say he was going there made him feel big and important”, showing that these landmarks had a serious mental effect on the characters, to the extent that Galahad felt “like a new man”, Selvon would have done this to show that the only boundary between the immigrants in the book and full integration, are the people in that society, as the immigrants had no qualms with adapting to London life and at times actively embraced it. However, when some characters arrived in the UK this illusion is shattered. We can see this at the beginning of the book with the opening being ”one grim winter evening”. Selvon structures the novel to open like this to present us with the harsh reality of what many immigrants go through who are promised “streets paved with gold”, this contrasts with the British in India who are told to expect “queer behaviour” and “untrustworthy men”.
Forster takes the role of an omniscient narrator in A Passage To India and sets an objective tone to the novel this allows him to overview the scenarios in the novel, with an unbiased angle, most prominent during the court case a time where one would be most judgemental the narrator stays calm, collected and unbiased. This very divisive chapter sets Britons against Indians and creates division, Forster’s commentary on this is representative of the whole novel and allows us to enter minds as divided as those on both sides of the case. We can see this at the start of Chapter 24 when Forster writes “Adela after years of intellectualism, had resumed her morning kneel to Christianity… Just as the Hindu clerks asked Lakshmi for an increase in pay, so did she implore Jehovah for a favourable verdict. ”, this is a cultured commentary on both characters and it is Forster’s way of again showing that integration is possible, the use of “just as” places Adela and the clerk as equals, as Forster is showing how people of a different race, class and gender can actually have quite similar lines of thought, which would not have been common thought in the 1920s. On the other hand, the narration of The Lonely Londoners is slightly more inclusive and less objective, this is mainly due to the fact that it takes the form of Caribbean dialect and not the Queen’s English, like in A Passage To India, this can be seen throughout the novel, a prime example of this is Selvon’s consistent referral to acquaintances as “fellars”, “Mahal was a mad Indian fellar”. Selvon said he did this to provide an “authentic representation” according to “Form and Language in Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners”, of this particular subcultural group. One similarity to Forster’s, A Passage To India, is the very personal insightful look we get into main characters lives whose stories are related through the episodic structure of the narrative, and who combine to represent a collective subcultural community of black working-class immigrants in 1950s London. This is in many ways like Forster’s commentary on both communities in A Passage To India, yet even more personal as it is in the first person, as opposed to Forster’s third person commentary, shown when Selvon writes “Sir Galahad was a fellar like that”, this engaging tone allows us to feel even more connected to the characters in The Lonely Londoners and almost part of the community at times, the use of “like that”, suggests we are familiar with what being a “fellar like that” entails, furthering the idea of a new cultural movement in London. Selvon does not follow any Britons lives in the story which contrasts to A Passage To India, in order to promote the new Caribbean subculture in London, whilst showing that integration may not be possible, where we get an insight into the lives of both sides of the “divide”, this links to my statement as it reinforces the idea that class is a bigger factor to division than race, as the characters in The Lonely Londoners are portrayed as working class from the offset we can see this when Moses asks Galahad where his luggage is and is met with “What luggage? I ain’t have any”, this poverty is shared by all the characters and may explain why they do not integrate as well as say Fielding in A Passage to India, who travelled to India with the knowledge he would take up a good position. Race does play a part in making it difficult to integrate, however, the British are unwelcoming and are seen as superior. Prejudice exists throughout the whole thing and race is certainly a contributing factor, however, it also might suggest that if they were of a higher class in society they may have had more of a chance to integrate. Finally, another way in which Forster presents integration is through the use of repeated images, phrases and motifs. The Novel takes the form of a symphonic structure, with the three parts having distinct tones and structures. This repetitive nature of some motifs, images and phrases, in the midst of the different parts of the novel could be symbolic for people who even when placed somewhere new, can, in fact, fit in by being themselves. The echo motif from the Marabar Caves is first instigated in chapter 14, when Forster writes “For not only did the crush and the stench alarm her; there was also a terrifying echo”, this motif continues throughout the novel and is the basis of the rest of the novels proceedings, by leading to the court case which dominated the remaining chapters. The dangerous nature of the echo is discovered when the echo is said to have undermined “her hold on life”, this melodramatic terminology represents a line being crossed by the Britons, who at that point were overly keen to integrate and appreciate the culture, even when it may put them in danger. In addition to this towards the end of the novel, the caves become just another one of “the hundred voices in India”, showing they become less relevant after the court case and not so prominent, due to Adela, a victim of the echo, losing the case. Forster is also very repetitive when it comes to the repetition of animalistic imagery. We can see this when the image of the snake that proves to be a tree stump on the journey to the caves is taken up by the “coliling worms” of the Caves echoes, the Russell’s viper in the Government College and the “undying worm” of Mrs Moores disillusion. The repeating of this animalistic imagery helps to give the narrative a meaningful texture and density, developing and suggesting complex ideas, in a more artistic way then plainly stating them. For example, describing Mrs Moore’s mental state as a “undying worm”, reinforces the fact that the echoes inflicted long-lasting mental deformities on to Mrs Moores state and also helps to foreshadow her unfortunate death later on in the book, as it suggests she is hanging on to her life by the end of a thread, by the use of the word “undying”. In comparison to the Lonely Londoners, is much more free-flowing and less structured, as it doesn’t have any chapters and certainly no sections like in A Passage To India, this aides the novel with a free-flowing tone and gives the reader a more simple task when following the story. However, Selvon does use a repetitive technique when talking about the big sights in London, we can see this when Selvon writes about the big lights in “Piccadilly” and his friends house in “Kensington” later on, this can be compared to the constant repetition of the Marabar Hills, as they are clearly having an effect on the people witnessing them, awe inspiring at first and in the case of the caves detrimental later, much like the big sights in London where the novelty wears away towards the end of the novel. Overall, both texts’ repetitive nature, aided by the understanding of the books and allowed for more interesting stories, with recurring themes that are easy to follow.
In Conclusion, I believe that both novels warn against integration to an extent, bearing in mind they were written in the 20th century. However, A Passage To India presents us with a world where it is a lot more possible than in The Lonely Londoners. My original statement was “ Class is a bigger factor division than race”, after writing this piece, I still stand by this statement, as the Aziz and Fielding relationship, shows this, an inconspicuous friendship at times, that thrives for the most part of the novel, despite both communities despising each other for the most part of the novel. In the Lonely Londoners, the characters arrive expecting the worst of the English, who did not cover themselves in glory in this book, but the thought dominating the character’s mind more than anything was the idea of moving up the class system, or at least acquiring more capital, due to their humble circumstances. This set the English and the Caribbean’s apart from the get-go and created an us vs them atmosphere within the community. However, I believe the novels are not equally comparable when it comes to integration, as the Immigrants in The Lonely Londoners, have to put up with a lot more discrimination, than in A Passage To India, therefore making it harder for them to achieve total integration.
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. https://www.jstor.org/stable/459789. 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.
A Study of the Depiction of Characters in E.M. Forster’s Book, a Passage to India
How are the characters in A Passage to India represented?
A Passage to India, reveals that most characters are round characters who have the capacity for development. This is similar to human beings because people do change with time and Forster tries to build authentic characters. By presenting such intense characters, the fact that he is a good observer of human psychology is underlined.
Forster believes that a “proper mixture of characters” is very important for a novel. It is a means for people to understand the philosophy of life when as they go along the pages of the novel. Readers can identify with Forster’s characters. He is among the few writers who are really able to portray real life human characteristics into a work of fiction and he even creates, in the plot, a space to explore human characteristics.
Forster uses Aziz as a scapegoat and as a focus for the hostility between the two communities. Although Mrs. Moore and Godbole are not essential for the plot, they remain significant characters who reflect symbolism. Mrs. Moore’s “poor little talkative Christianity” is seen as being ultimately vulnerable to the echo of the Marabar Caves but her spirit and body live on as a healing presence in the third section of the novel. Godbole’s Hinduism can accept both muddle and mystery. Thoughtful and brave, Adela and Fielding seemed to be ideal to being the hero and heroine of Forster’s earlier novels since they reflect liberal values. Yet, our final image of them together, is of “dwarfs shaking hands.”
Furthermore, Forster uses a traditional method of writing that was much used by writers of the 18th and 19th Centuries. He employs an omniscient narrator who overviews the action and can even enter minds as dissimilar as Dr. Aziz and Ronny. This narrator has a distinctive voice and function. He is humane, cultured and at the same time ironic. He sets the tone for each section. For example, the opening chapter of the novel gives us an overview of Chandrapore and its distinctive natural and social geography. The omniscient narrator also welcomes the reader to a new journey of self-exploration through the ‘passage to India’ but the complexity of this journey is underlined when readers cannot decide whether India is a mystery or a muddle.
Finally, Forster is a successful novelist in that he was able to describe on paper the deep impression that India left on him using several techniques he thinks are important aspects of the novel. Through his characters and through his narrative technique, he was able to present India’s “formlessness” which existed since the time India was under the British rule.
Modern Nationalism and Global Conflict in E.M. Forster’s 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.
The Significance of Religion in ‘A Passage to India’
E.M Forster’s ‘A Passage to India’ is a literary work which operates on two levels simultaneously- personal and impersonal. Scenes involving the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters alternate with scenes vocalizing the voice of the omniscient narrator, who directly addresses some of the heavier issues which lie at the heart of the novel. The theme of religion operates in the same way. On a larger plane, it enables Forster to deliver social commentary by supporting the themes of colonialism and ethnic relations. His portrayal of the tensions which exist within the different segments of Indian society foreshadows historical events which occurred years after the novel was published. However, each of the three major religions is also portrayed as a philosophy through which man makes sense of himself and the universe around him. The presentation of its effects on individual characters enable Forster to explore philosophical concepts such as infinity and head vs. heart. The reactions and personal values of the adherents of each religion, in turn, reinforce the other themes of the novel, connecting everything to Forster’s grand vision.
On a socio-historical level, religion is portrayed as a divisive force. The sections ‘Mosque’ and ‘Temple’ are separated by the section ‘Caves’, representing the gulf which lies between the Moslems and the Hindus in India. The Marabar Caves are associated with the idea of negation- the trip to it is said to have “challenged the very spirit of the Indian Earth, which keeps men in compartments”, and ends in disaster. Its insidious presence, both in the structure and throughout the novel nullifies any hope of unification between the Indians and the Moslems, despite Dr. Aziz’s heroic battle cry at the end of the novel (“Hindu and Moslem and Sikh shall all be one!”). Almost a quarter of a century later, the partition of India into the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan justified Forster’s premonitions. Meanwhile, the sole Occidental religion, Christianity, is conspicuously absent- not just in the structure, but in the rest of the novel as well. The Oriental places of worship are described in detail by Forster, and are the locations of important plot events (e.g Dr. Aziz’s first meeting with Mrs. Moore). The mosque and the Hindu temple are both evoked in concrete terms while there is no mention of anything Christian built on Indian soil. The religion appears only through characterization and biblical references, both of which do not leave lasting impressions. Thus, Forster hints that Christianity, and by extension the British colonialists, have no place in India. Despite their attempts to subjugate the Indians, they will never be able to establish themselves permanently in the country. Again, Forster’s prediction was accurate. In 1947, India obtained its independence from the British, 23 years after the publication of the novel.
The description of places of worship also illustrates the central contrast between the attitudes of the English and the Indians- the former are rational and reserved, while the latter openly show emotion. Both the mosque and the Gokul Ashtami festival are described through the usage of imagery, and evoke a sense of the spirit behind the religion. Dr. Aziz’s quiet appreciation of the beauty of the mosque (“…the contest between this contention and dualism of the shadows pleased him…”) and the various sensations he experiences vaguely (e.g the amateur orchestra, the smell of jasmine flowers) create an impression of stillness, showing how Islam is a source of solace for the emotional Dr. Aziz. His recitation of a poem shows how he connects with Islam from his heart. The Gokul Ashtami festival is described differently- it is a vibrant burst of color and motion, with a myriad of sensations described one after another. There is a sense of collectiveness- even Professor Godbole’s vision is tempered by his interactions with other characters (e.g talking to the drummer, his colleague disentangling his pince-nez). Although the vitality of the festival and the scene at the mosque convey different atmospheres, both are brimming with feelings. Christianity, on the other hand, is never shown in practice (except for Adela’s brief prayer on the morning of the trial). Only the formal trappings of religion, such as biblical quotes and missionaries, appear, which is reflective of the English people’s rationality. Religion, despite being something personal, is not close to their hearts. The exceptions are Mrs. Moore and, towards the trial, Adela Quested, but they find it unable to calm their mental turmoil.
The first religion which appears in the novel is Islam, which is portrayed as a religion reveling in past glory. This is shown through the characterization of Dr.Aziz. The decay of Islam is one of his favorite topics, and he possess a wealth of knowledge about the Mughal emperors of the past, such as Akbar and Alamgir, which he usually brings into conversations with Fielding and the Englishwomen, impressing them with his passion. Nevertheless, the Moslems in the novel do not follow their religion blindly. Certain Islamic ceremonies such as circumcision prevail- others such as polygamy, are rejected by educated Moslems. Traditional religious values are thus tempered by Western ones. Dr. Aziz initially rejects his arranged marriage as he was “touched by Western feeling…disliked union with a woman whom he had never met.” Adela’s question about polygamy was akin to asking him if he was civilized, and made Dr. Aziz feel insulted. He felt a greater need to defend himself as monogamy was a new conviction. As the novel progresses, Dr. Aziz’s initial zest for Islam wears off. The Shrine of the Head and the Shrine of the Body at Mau go against Islam’s forbiddance of idolatry. Dr. Aziz, although initially scornful, soon accepts it, even bringing his children to visit it.
Despite Islam’s seeming lack of endurance, the Moslems in the novel consider themselves superior to Hindus. They use various unflattering adjectives (e.g “flabby”, “slack”,) to describe the Hindus. Dr. Aziz criticises Mrs. Bhattacharya’s false invitation to the Englishwomen on the grounds that they are Hindus, then ironically proceeds to make the same mistake himself. The engineer, Mr Syed Mohammed described Hindu religious fairs with contempt, and Dr. Aziz once rapped a Brahmany bull (which is sacred to Hindus) with a polo stick, enraging Panna Lal. This lack of respect for other religions is one reason why the chasm between Moslems and Hindus are so deep. Each thinks of the other in terms of their religious identity, and not as individual people. Dr. Aziz reconciles with Mr. Das but thinks of him as a Hindu first, while Mr. Das thinks “Some Moslems are violent” without considering whether Dr. Aziz himself falls under this category. The herd mentality is too strong to allow the continuation of the brief unification brought about by Dr. Aziz’s trial. Nevertheless, Dr. Aziz himself finally seeks employment in a Hindu state, because his hatred of the British is stronger than his dislike of Hindus. He still makes flippant comments about Hindus, but is less harsh (“… he hoped that they would enjoy carrying their idol about, for at all events it did not pry into other people’s lives.”).
Like Islam, Christianity is also presented as a religion which erects barriers between people, despite the presence of biblical quotations which encourage mutual acceptance. This shows the hypocrisy of the Anglo-Indians, who do not practice what they preach. “In our Father’s house there are many mansions” is the message preached by Maurice and Mr Sorley, the two Christian missionaries, yet the Anglo Indians treat the natives with contempt, dehumanising and humiliating them. Mr McBryde’s wife expresses her opposition towards missionaries, ostensibly because she sees the Indians as inferior beings, and so unworthy of heaven. The Anglo- Indians are not particularly religious- they seem to ignore the missionaries, whose lack of resources is shown by their living beyond the slaughterhouse and travelling third class on the railways. Ronny Heaslop embodies the typical Anglo-Indian attitude towards religion- the “sterile, public school” brand which lacks practical application. It is part of the Anglo-Indian identity and not a way of life (“Ronny approved of religion as long as it endorsed the National Anthem, but objected when it attempted to influence his life.”) However, because religion is meant to serve as a moral guide, the textbook version of it, which focuses on clear divisions between good and evil, is not enough in India, with its lack of explicit boundaries.
The only person who can be considered a ‘true Christian’ in the novel is Mrs Moore, who is one of the most spiritual characters. Her loving acceptance of the wasp and her consideration for the Indians (“God has put us on Earth to love our neighbors…”) shows her inherent good nature. However, even she fails to find solace in Christianity. The phrase “poor little talkative Christianity” is used, foreshadowing Mrs. Moore’s disillusionment with the religion. Its tenets are not vague- on the contrary, Christianity is the most organised religion and is associated with churches, Chaplains and missionaries. However, the word ‘talkative’ implies that its teachings are merely rhetoric, since the deeper side of divinity, that which is unknown and incomprehensible to man, is not addressed. Mrs. Moore thought more about God in India, but out of the familiarity and structure of English society this offered little consolation. The echo in the Marabar caves gave Mrs. Moore a vision of negation, where man is powerless to influence anything around him. As a result, she realized her own insignificance, and became bored of living. Similarly, Adela Quested took to prayer after the Marabar incident. It was ineffective, however as she had not reconciled her feelings and her intellect. Christianity places emphasis on rational moral codes without fostering true spiritual understanding. It is a reflection of the Anglo-Indian character; logical to a fault and unable to apprehend the “muddle” of India.
In contrast to Islam and Christianity, Hinduism is religion portrayed as a unifying force, and one which is not hindered by racial barriers. Mrs. Moore is a Hindu at heart (“then you are an Oriental”). As a result of her simple kindness towards all creatures, Mrs. Moore is Indianized as a Hindu Goddess, “Esmiss Esmoor”- she is symbolically elevated to the spiritual plane of which she had been acutely aware. Mrs. Moore’s spirit is also carried on through her two children, Ralph and Stella Moore, whose instinctive appreciation for Hinduism is further evidence of the religion’s inclusiveness. All the major characters ( representative of the three religions) appear in the final section of the novel- Adela’s voice is heard through her letters and Mrs. Moore’s, through Ralph Moore. Images of peace and harmony dominate, as even Dr. Aziz (who is initially skeptical) is caught up in the joyous mood of the worshipers, and behaves kindly towards Ralph Moore. The atmosphere of togetherness is further strengthened by the description of the procession, which unites people in devotion and eventually reunites Dr. Aziz and Fielding as well, when their boats collide in the water and with some of the devotees. Thus, Hinduism presents the possibility of connection between people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Hinduism focuses on the unification of man and God through love and the equality of all creatures. This is shown through Professor Godbole, the main representative of Hinduism in the novel. In the heat of the festival, he has an almost divine glimpse of Mrs. Moore and the wasp. Like a benevolent God, he finds it in himself to love them equally. “It does not seem like much, but still, it is more than I am myself,” he thinks, of the two. This is reminiscent of Mrs. Moore’s appreciation of a wasp on her coat peg, exhibiting the simple acceptance which is at the core of Hinduism. Professor Godbole acknowledges that he can only do so much, as a tiny part of the universe. Yet Mrs. Moore, in spirit, and the wasp which he saw, together, are part of the wider universe and so more spiritually linked than he is. This is contrasted towards the Christian missionaries’ rejection of the wasp (“We must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing.”) Hinduism emphasizes spirituality instead of rules and formality, although there are caveats, such as Professor Godbole’s dietary restrictions. Ironically, the inscription “God Si Love” on the temple wall was spelt wrongly, although the Hindus actually practiced the biblical phrase.
For Hindus, God is not an inaccessible figure high up in the heavens. He is a force which flows through the blood of all living beings. The games played during Gokul Ashtami, such as feeding the deity butter, may seem bawdy and tasteless, yet it shows how God is thought to be close to His subjects. Hence, he is given human attributes such as the enjoyment of playing games. They do not just pray to God, but see themselves as a part of Him and the wider universe. Hinduism also contains an acceptance of the unknown. Professor Godbole’s ‘song of the unknown bird’ had everyone spellbound, from the Anglo-Indians to the lowly water chestnut collector alike. Its haunting quality emerged precisely because it could not be identified, yet it touched their souls. This parallels Ronny and Adela’s failure to identify an unknown bird. Their uneasiness points to an inherent need to classify things, instead of feeling and appreciating them, as they did with Professor Godbole’s song. There are things outside the boundaries of human understanding, and knowing this is the key to apprehending infinity. The cosmos is so immense hat nobody can fully penetrate its mysteries. Mystical events such as Professor Godbole’s vision and Ralph Moore guiding Dr. Aziz to the Rajah’s statue proves that there are unseen forces at work. Trying to ‘label’ things will only result in confusion, which is what Adela experienced when she entered the Marabar caves, leading to her false accusation of Dr. Aziz.
Although Forster seems to favor Hinduism over the other two religions, setting an entire section against the backdrop of the Hindu festival at Mau, he is careful to present its drawbacks as well. There are divisions within the religion itself, between Brahman and non-Brahman. Strict rules also exist for Brahmans, such as the touch of a non-Hindu requiring another bath. Hindus are also not averse to arguing with Moslems. Their protest over the Moslems cutting of a branch of the sacred pepul tree to facilitate the paper tower procession during Mohurram, is an example. Nevertheless, Hinduism is portrayed as the most accessible of all the three religions, and the most suitable for establishing mutual goodwill.
In conclusion, Forster maintains a delicate balance between presenting his authorial opinion and allowing the reader to draw his/her own conclusion. He uses religion to highlight the problems of colonial India, but leaves room for interpretation. None of the religions are presented as the perfect solution but neither are any of them presented as the root cause of the country’s issues. Rather, they are a reflection of the communities’ mind-sets. Forster combines his examination of religion as a socio-historical factor with religion as a means for self-actualization. The former focuses on the collective attitudes of a community while the other deals with spirituality on a personal level. This enables him to make a subtle distinction between religion and its followers. While a religion’s teachings may be morally adequate, an individual who does not follow them would receive no benefit. In the end, religion is subjective and inextricably linked to human nature, the vagaries of which Forster explores in detail.
The Waning Days of British Imperialism in “A Passage to India” and “Burmese Days”
In the preface to The English Novel in the Twentieth Century [The Doom of Empire], Martin Green claims that “One could read all the works of the Great Tradition, and never know that England had an empire”. While this argument could be applied to the bourgeois, largely domestic nature of the nineteenth-century literary canon, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1924) and George Orwell’s Burmese Days (1934) mark the development of a post-war, politically engaged consciousness, largely triggered by the brutal Amritsar massacre of 1919. Both novels – influenced by the writers’ own experiences in the East – launch a fiercely satirical attack on the conduct of the British Raj overseas and the moral bankruptcy of the English country club. A particularly noticeable aspect of Orwell’s and Forster’s critiques is the complicity of English women in encouraging and reinforcing masculine ideals of belligerence and jingoism in the East, thus exacerbating the strained relations between natives and their British rulers. However, although both texts exhibit a shared disdain for the overbearing, Kiplingesque pomposity of the British ruling classes in the East, Forster’s liberal pragmatism and humanist approach contrasts to the more radical and nihilistic tone of Orwell’s novel, thereby demonstrating how the works of both writers present us with innovative and challenging, yet strikingly distinguishable, interpretations of the flagging days of British imperialism. E.M. Forster wrote A Passage to India against a backdrop of political turbulence and simmering racial tensions, largely compounded by the incompetence of the British colonialists in the East. His novel consistently contrasts the blind complacency and barely-hidden racial prejudice of the colonists with their repeated assertion that they “are out here to do justice and keep the peace” . The callous conduct of the British inevitably has a detrimental effect on cross-cultural understanding and friendship, and, despite the naive efforts of Mrs Moore and the aptly-named Adela Quested to gain an authentic view of India, the oppressive and unjust political structure of the country results in the two women experiencing a divisive and strikingly unfathomable environment. Indeed, while observing her son, the City Magistrate, at work in the court, Mrs Moore laments the insensitivity and negligence of the British Raj in India: How he did rub it in that he was not in India to behave pleasantly, and derived positive satisfaction therefrom… One touch of regret – not the canny substitute but the true regret from the heart – would have made him a different man, and the British Empire a different institution. Amongst this destructive mire of bigotry and suspicion, it is only the elderly Brahmin, Godbole, with his distinctly non-British form of wisdom, who expresses the intrinsic unity of East and West (“When evil occurs, it expresses the whole of the universe. Similarly when good occurs”). Through the character of Godbole, Forster skillfully adopts the ancient values of Hinduism as a vehicle for an alternative and remarkably contemporary mode of thought regarding cross-cultural relations, thus paving the way for a succession of ground-breaking and provocative literary representations of colonialism. Published a decade after Forster’s novel, George Orwell’s Burmese Days embarks on a vitriolic and darkly humorous attack of the grandiose illusions of imperialism and the crass, mindless debauchery of the administrative staff, whose crude reliance on “Booze as the cement of empire”  results in the development of a society steeped in moral failure and corruption. Despite being set during the waning days of British colonialism, the bullish nature of the exclusive and fiercely racist “Kipling-haunted little Clubs”  ensure that any form of political dissent is crushed, leaving the protagonist, John Flory, isolated in his comprehension of the ways in which Empire degrades the natives whom it self-importantly claims to uplift. Similarly to Forster’s narrative, Orwell expresses a firm belief that no member of a subjugated race can develop a true friendship with a member of the dominant race, as the oppressive political structures at work in Burma ensure that such a friendship will end in betrayal and resentment. As Flory reflects following a heated political exchange in the European Club, “With Indians there must be no loyalty, no real friendship.” , a notion which augments the socially-constructed and seemingly impenetrable barrier to positive relationships between Englishmen and their colonial subjects. Paradoxically, however, both novels feature an unlikely alliance between a Western male and an educated native, in both cases a doctor. Indeed, Orwell uses the bond between Flory and Dr. Veriswami to humorously employ the diagnostic language adopted by many politically engaged writers during the interwar period, derisively likening the British Empire to an elderly patient: “Aha, Mr Flory, she iss very low, very low! Grave complications setting in. Septicaemia, peritonitis and paralysis of the ganglia.” . By adopting the language of diagnosis and cure as a metaphor for the dying British Empire, Orwell evokes a disturbing sense of cultural sickness and contagion, which, in turn, warns of the corruptive nature of the Anglo-Indians’ crudely mercenary approach to society. Instead of bringing peace and justice to the native people of the East, Orwell suggests that the function of the British simply amounts to “rubbing our dirt onto them” , with Englishmen and Burmans alike committing abhorrent deeds for the sake of social mobility and prestige. Forster’s novel addresses a similar process of moral debasement at work amongst British expatriates in India: “They all become exactly the same, not worse, not better. I give any Englishman two years” . Even the Indian Dr. Aziz – an affectionate and youthful presence for much of the novel – becomes consumed by a “genuine hatred of the English”, eventually isolating himself from Flory as a result of his humiliation at the hands of the British law: “I am an Indian at last, he thought, standing motionless in the rain” [278-9]. It is therefore clear that, rather than bringing a beacon of hope and prosperity to the East, as literary antecedents such as Rudyard Kipling had implied, the narratives of Forster and Orwell depict the presence of Anglo-Indians as a deeply destructive force in the East, circulating petty resentments and deep-seated prejudices which eventually tear apart positive human relationships. In this way, the highly anglicised colonial setting evoked by Forster and Orwell is arguably a microcosm of British society, with its myopic “country club” mentality acting as a poor recreation of suburban England. Indeed, the political somnolence of Middle England is a recurring theme in Orwell’s writing; his personal account of the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia (1938), expresses his dismay at returning from Spain to a complacent, distinctly “English” society, with seemingly no connection to foreign affairs (“Earthquakes in Japan, famine in China, revolutions in Mexico? Don’t worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning”). Interestingly, however, both Orwell and Forster’s biting satire is most ruthlessly exercised towards Anglo-Indian women, whom they frequently depict as chief collaborators in the colonial system of oppression and subjugation. For example, the haughty, colonial wife in A Passage to India, Mrs Turton, most effectively encapsulates the Englishwoman’s scornful and highly gendered intolerance of Indian natives through her series of increasingly absurd outbursts: “Why, they ought to crawl from here to the caves on their hands and knees whenever and Englishwoman’s in sight, they oughtn’t be spoken to, they ought to be spat at” . Similarly, the primary female character in Burmese Days is mystified and repelled by Flory’s admiration of Burmese culture – “She was grasping, dimly, that his views were not the views an Englishman should hold.”  – yet becomes attracted to him when he adopts a conventional, “manly” demeanour at a shooting expedition. Through their position as agents of chauvinism and oppression, therefore, women are equated with British “civilisation” and become a destructive and dogmatic force in the East, a consensus between the two authors that has prompted the feminist literary critic, Jenny Sharpe, to conclude that the Anglo-Indian woman “perhaps more than anyone else, embodies the memsahib in all her contradictions”. However, it is important to recognise the differing ways in which Orwell and Forster approach their critique of English colonialism. Unlike Forster in A Passage to India, Orwell actually addresses the underlying economic reasons for the British presence in the East: “how can you make out that we are in this country for any purpose except to steal? It’s so simple. The official holds the Burman down while the businessman goes through his pockets” . Through Flory’s withering account of colonial ambitions in Burma, the reader gains an insight into Orwell’s growing political radicalism, with critics agreeing that his experience in the country doubtlessly accentuated his sensitivity to the unjust caste system at home in Britain. As such, his acute disillusion with the British social system is reflected through the troubling sense of nihilism that permeates the text, a powerful scepticism that manifests itself most palpably in the novel’s tragic and unsettling conclusion: “There is a rather large number of suicides among the Europeans in Burma, and they occasion very little surprise” . Orwell’s Burma is a socially fragmented country of indigenous corruption and imperial hypocrisy, and the reader is offered very little hope of redemption or justice. Forster, on the other hand, avoids making these sweeping structural condemnations, instead placing emphasis on the personal rather than directly addressing the social and political implications of British colonialism. This humanist tendency is apparent through his repeated speculation over whether an Englishman and Indian can ever be friends under colonialism, a preoccupation that runs throughout the text. It is important to remember that Forster is not advocating an end to British imperialism – instead he favours a more conciliatory and tolerant form of British rule in India – thus his text lacks the radical undertones of Orwell’s Burmese Days. Moreover, Forster does not share the overly bleak outlook held by Orwell, as memorably demonstrated in the final horseback-riding scene, where Fielding and Aziz attempt at reconciliation:But the horses didn’t want it – they swerved apart; the earth didn’t want it…the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn’t want it, they said in their hundred voices, “No, not yet,” and the sky said, “No, not there.” The literary theorist Edward Said believes this conclusion to be “disappointing”, serving as a gloomy mark of the East’s permanent estrangement from the West. However, he arguably fails to acknowledge the resonant sense of hope embedded in these lines (“not yet… not there”), and the gentle poignancy of the two friends’ final outing. Through its depiction of the complexities and development of Fielding and Aziz’s relationship, the novel subtly implies that cross-cultural friendship, though frustratingly elusive in colonial times, may be achieved in the future. As such, Forster could be said to share the “evolutionary meliorism” of writers such as Thomas Hardy, who favoured a reasoned and rational approach to social issues. While Mrs Moore and Adela ultimately fail in their “quest” for true communion with India, the reader is awakened to the possibility of a new age of tolerance and understanding, therefore raising hopes for the liberalisation of Anglo-Indian rule and improved relations between East and West. In conclusion, both Forster and Orwell present a penetrating and socially conscious depiction of Britain’s weakening control over the East, exhibiting varying degrees of pessimism with regard to the future of relations between Englishmen and natives. While Forster’s ire is directed chiefly at the negligent and callous attitudes of the public schoolboys who rule India, Orwell presents a sustained critique of the political structures that maintain imperialism, making it possible to identify Burmese Days as a radical 1930s rejoinder to Forster’s influential novel. In any case, Orwell and Forster’s bitingly satirical representations of British imperialism mark a significant departure from the nationalist, soldierly rhetoric of Rudyard Kipling, and have therefore proved instrumental in shaping the public and literary discourse surrounding imperialism in the East.
The Souls of Black Folk and A Passage to India
In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois illustrates the very poignant image of a color line that separates the two races in his society. He introduces the term double consciousness to explain how African-Americans view themselves, not as individuals but as a collective group; a perception made through the eyes of the society that they lived in. This perception produces what Du Bois calls a“twoness’ of American Negroes. It is this sense of “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” (Du Bois 3). The notion of double consciousness speaks not only to African Americans but to humanity as a whole. E.M. Forster’s novel, A Passage to India both illustrates and complicates Dubois’ notion of double consciousness. Through the racial misconceptions and cultural pretenses that plague the interactions between the British and Indians, we see an uncertainty that lies in each individual’s sense of identity. Du Bois’ theory of double consciousness is also complicated in this novel because he does not leave room for those individuals who do not fit his strict black and white template. There is no gray area. Every individual can identify himself as part of one group on opposite sides of the veil. Can a human being exist in society as an individual or is one’s identity only defined by the group that they associate themselves with? Double consciousness refers to the idea that we see ourselves through the eyes of others. Du Bois uses this term to describe the felt confusion that exists between social standards and daily experience for blacks in this country. Throughout the book, it is evident that Du Bois’ idea of double consciousness has two manifestations. The first is the power that white stereotypes have on black thought. He argues that despite having the knowledge of truth, African Americans continue to force themselves into a context of misrepresentation that is used to define their people. By submitting themselves to these paradigms, blacks allow themselves to remain the inferior race. The second demonstration of double consciousness is the racism that excluded African Americans from the mainstream of society. Blacks struggled to identify themselves and for them the internal conflict came from being African and being American simultaneously. The question of authenticity arose in Du Bois essay on “The Conservation of Races,” where he says:No Negro who has given earnest thought to the situation of his people in America has failed, at some time in life, to find himself at these cross-roads; has failed to ask himself at some time: What, after all, am I? Am I an American or am I a Negro? Can I be both? Or is it my duty to cease to be a Negro as soon as possible and be an American? If I strive as a Negro, am I not perpetuating the very cleft that threatens and separates Black and White America? Is not my only possible practical aim the subduction of all that is Negro in me to the American? (Du Bois 233).Though they were native to America they were not considered to be American because their roots lied in Africa. They were thought to be foreign, and separate from the rest of the population, which is how they soon began to view themselves. A Passage to India is a realistic documentation of the attitudes that British colonists hold towards native Indians, whom they control. Through the exploration of Anglo-Indian relationships, Forster attempts to illustrate how one is viewed not by his status but by his racial or cultural background. In the novel, Dr. Aziz embodies Forster’s notion of the “muddle” of India. Dr. Aziz struggles to identify with one distinct group of individuals. While his racial and cultural background characterizes him as Indian, he does not believe that he can truly relate to this group because he is an exception. His higher education allows him to want to be more like the British, who refuses to accept him as anything other than Indian. Throughout the novel, the British continue to look pass Aziz’s title and education and see him solely as “one of Indians,” who they describe as a group of selfish and ignorant individuals. One major example of this perception is when Dr. Aziz is accused of sexually assaulting Miss Quested. Through his vivid description of the accused crime, and the British reaction toward the situation, Forster satirizes the overreaction by the British as not only silly, but also dangerously based on sentiment rather than truth. Many of the English took the assault on Adela Quested as an assault by all Indians on English womanhood. The English viewed the isolated incident as a threat to the British Empire itself. Their account of the assault is devoid of any recognition or sympathetic understanding of Aziz’s honorable character. They simply see the situation as a revelation of the Indians’ criminal tendencies. This idea is described through McBryde theory behind the assault. “All unfortunate natives are criminals at heart, for the simple reason that they live south of the latitude 30. They are not to blame; they have not a dog’s chance—we should be like them if we settled here” (Forster 184). McBryde explains that Indians have criminal tendencies because of the climate, thus their behavior is inherent and justified. Dr. Aziz suffers from Du Bois’ notion of double consciousness. Aziz knows that he is different but allows himself to be slave to the stereotypes that come with being Indian. He struggles to define himself as an individual in a society that sees him simply as a member of a larger group. Because he knows that he is viewed as a “typical Indian” through the eyes of the British he feels the need to prove himself as being better than his counterparts but finds it hard to do so. Aziz’s numerous acts of generosity are often perceived to be fraudulent. In chapter VIII, Aziz lends Fielding his last collar stud to replace his broken one. Though Forster makes clear that Aziz’s unpinned collar was a display of his act of generosity towards Mr. Fielding, Ronny remarks the unscrupulous look as emblematic of the Indians’ general laziness. “Aziz was exquisitely dressed, from tie-pin to spats, but he had forgotten his back collar stud, and there you have the Indian all over: inattention to detail; the fundamental slackness that reveals the race” (Forster 87) Despite his friendship with Aziz, Fielding is still found making generalizations about the Indians based on one incident. Though Aziz is a character who illustrates a person’s constant struggle with double consciousness, there are many individuals in the novel that Du Bois’ theory does not account for. Dubois argues that being Black meant being deprived of a “true self‐consciousness,” as blacks viewed themselves only through the generalized contempt of white America. This idea can be related to the way in which the Indians perceived themselves through the eyes of their superiors, the British. While this may be true for many individuals of the oppressed group, there are some who are truly able to achieve self-consciousness. In his argument, Du Bois fails to leave room for these self-assured individuals. In A Passage to Mr. Fielding is an example of someone who does not struggle with double consciousness, but intern is able to identify himself not through the eyes of those around him but through his own eyes. Among the Englishmen in Chandrapore, Mr. Fielding is by far the most successful at developing and sustaining relationships with the natives. Though Mr. Fielding is well aware of his status as an English man and the power that he has over the natives, he strives to be seen as an individual who does not embody the common stereotypes made about his people. In fact, he is the exact opposite and is seen throughout the novel as a model of liberal humanism. He treats the Indians not as an inferior race but as a group of individuals that he can connect with through mutual respect, courtesy, and intelligence. Fielding is not afraid to ally himself with “the enemy.” He honors his friendship with Aziz over any alliance with members of his own race. This disruption of allegiances threatens the solidarity of the English colonial rule over India. Fielding’s alliance and loyalty to the Indians is seen when he takes the side of Aziz in the assault trial. Fielding is ridiculed when he publicly expresses his belief in Aziz’s innocence. He is seen as a traitor and is believed to have betrayed his people and his country. This betrayal is seen in Fielding’s conversation with McBryde where he proclaims his belief in Aziz’s innocence. McBryde tells him that he ought not to get himself involved in the situation despite what his conscious is telling him. “ I feel that things are rather unsatisfactory as well as most disastrous. We are heading for the most awful smash…” “ I say he’s innocent—”“Innocence or guilt, why mix yourself up? What’s the good?…We shall all have to hang together, old man I’m afraid.” (Forster 189)Whether Aziz is guilty or innocent is not the issue at hand. The true issue lies in proclaiming an Indian’s innocence. By doing so the British is doomed for corruption and upheaval by the Indians in the state. Throughout the novel, Mr. Fielding identity is not defined by the “group” that he his associated with but through his individuality and his ability to go against what is expected of him. By being able to set himself apart from the group Fielding does not struggle with double consciousness. By staying true to his beliefs and by not questioning his position in society he is able to identify himself solely as an individual and not as a member of a larger group. As Because he allied with the Indians, Fielding was cast out of the group and was finally able to seek refuge as an individual. W.E.B. Du Bois uses the term double consciousness to describe how one vies themselves through the eyes of another. Though E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India illustrates Du Bois notion of double consciousness through its depiction of Dr. Aziz, it also complicates it by creating a character that is truly self-conscious and aware of his identity. In his concept of double-conscious Du Bois does not leave room or account for this type of individual.WORKS CITED• Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Bedford Books, 1997. Print.• Forster, E.M. A Passage to India. New York, Harvest Books, 1965.