A PASSAGE TO INDIA (published 1924)
LITERARY TREND AND AUTHOR CANON
E.M. Forster combines elements of realism and modernism in his approach to the novel. He is best known for his examinations of class difference and hypocrisy and his use of symbolic narratives and objects.
Realism in Forster’s novels:
- Realistic structure and composition of the novel;
- Traditional social and political novels;
- Depiction of the author’s contemporary society;
- The portrayal of British colonial bureaucrats and of Indian history and culture;
- Tensions between the Hindu and the Muslim characters;
- Depiction of racial stereotypes and of the patriarchal system in which society is organised.
Modernism in Forster’s novels:
- Modernist view of the world in the novels;
- Representation of the chaos of human experience;
- Use of recurring images and symbols;
- The impossibility of a singular definition of reality;
- Interweaving, complicated plots;
- Use of symbolic tales;
- Modernist patterns of imagery.
A PASSAGE TO INDIA (published 1924)
The novel depicts the complicated reality of India as a British colony, using a realist style, but rendering a modernist, complex state of mind and perception of the world.
- Chandrapore, India;
- Mau, India;
- The 1920s.
There are 2 main themes: Race and power.
- Race. Life in India is presented as separated along racial lines, with the white Europeans on one side, and the rest of the population on the other side. Indians are referred to as “Orientals”, an offensive, racial term, that applied to everyone else living East of Europe. They were considered unable to rule themselves, exotic, sensual, passive, and backward. The novel challenges the stereotype according to which Indians are weak, passive, and incapable of governing themselves.
- Power. The novel is a critique of the British Empire and of the assumption that people have the right to dominate another (under the pretence of civilization). The British Empire is portrayed as a fundamentally racist institution. The novel is ambivalent about Indian aspirations for independence, for it portrays the country as having so much religious and social diversity, that it would be very difficult to unify it under one government.
- Life, existence;
Dr. Aziz, an Indian doctor, gets to know and befriend a British Professor, Fielding, and two British women, Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested. He offers to take them to see the famous Marabar Caves. Once there, a strange and unexplained event occurs and Aziz winds up being accused of attacking Miss Quested. He is arrested and put on trial. The heightens all the conflicts between Indians and English and is especially scandalous because Fielding has taken the side of the Indians over the British. Eventually, Miss Quested is on the stand and takes back her accusation, causing widespread chaos in the streets. Miss Quested, Fielding, and Aziz all go their separate ways. Two years later, Fielding and Aziz are reunited only to conclude that as long as the English are still in India, the English and Indians cannot be friends.
Characters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the fragment itself.
- Dr. Aziz – an intelligent, emotional Indian doctor in Chandrapore. He attempts to befriend Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Cyril Fielding after they express interest in the “real” India. Later, Adela falsely accuses Aziz of attempted rape after an expedition to the Marabar Caves. The charges are dropped after Adela’s testimony at the trial. Aziz writes and recites poetry and has three children. His wife died several years before the beginning of the novel.
- Cyril Fielding – the principal of the government college near Chandrapore. He is an independent man with a more sympathetic attitude toward the Indians than most of the English. He believes that Indians should be educated to be individuals. He befriends Dr. Aziz and takes his side when he is falsely accused of attempting to rape Adela Quested.
- Miss Adela Quested – a young, intelligent, and inquisitive, and repressed Englishwoman. She travels to India with Mrs. Moore to decide if she would marry Mrs. Moore’s son, Ronny. Miss Quested arrives with a genuine desire to learn about the country and to get to know Indians. Later, she falsely accuses Aziz of attempting to rape her in Marabar Caves and causes social uproar with the trial and her testimony.
POINT OF VIEW
- 3rd person, omniscient narrator who passes from one character’s perspective to another’s. The narrator speaks with authority over the characters, explaining their psychology and cultural background in detail.
- Objective tone – it tends to present an unbiased view of the characters. In the trial scene, in which all characters are on the verge of hysteria, the objective tone ensures that the reader has a complex overview of the facts. The tone is also sympathetic especially towards the character’s questions in life.
- Sophisticated, poetic writing style;
- Figurative language;
- The language has the purpose of helping the reader make sense of the world around, although sometimes it seems incomprehensible;
- The language is aimed at directing the reader’s attention to the unfamiliar and strange.