Last Updated 27 May 2020

A Passage to India: A Few Observations

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Edward Morgan Forster, a liberal humanist in his outlook ,shows in his novel A Passage to India the British imposing their order on this kaleidoscope of India .

He also suggests  that theirs is an order that is unnatural , lacking in imaginative understanding of the Indian context. In their dealings with the Indians , the British as a class ,operate only at the level of political and social duty. In other words their relationships with the Indians are those of the political and social roles they play. Ronny Heaslop puts the case of the British rulers when he says, “We are out here to do justice and keep the peace..We are not pleasant in India and we don’t intend to be pleasant.

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We’ve something more important to do.”In so far as the fact goes , this is a convincing description of the venal and shifty ways of Indians in their contacts with the British.But all these flaws, Forster takes pains to show are the effects of the humiliating and undignified rule of the British over the Indians. Unlike other critics of British rule, Forster does not question the right of the British to be in India. His main objection is that it is an order of force and will , not of love and understanding.

 Mr. Fielding in many ways appears to resemble E.M.Forster.”The world he believed ,is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of goodwill plus culture and intelligence.”Dr. Aziz who has suffered numerous slights and humiliations from the British , now at last feels that Fielding is a true friend of the Indians: “No Englishman understands us except Mr. Fielding.”

 The very first scene , where Dr. Aziz throws down his bicycle and enters a bitterly jocular discussion of “Is it possible to be friends with an Englishman?”, presents him as an animated, warm, impulsive, moody and somewhat childlike ,careless and sensitive gentleman.

Sometimes he is kind, sometimes he is vindictive especially when he clamps brutal and revengeful demands upon hapless Adela after his release. Aziz, in MOSQUE section is somewhat conservative about his views on Islam.Lionel Trilling is right to say of him, “For good or bad he is human.”

Adela Quested , right from the beginning ,is intelligent, intellectual, eager to understand new things and experiences:”She goes on,”Fielding says, “as if she’s at a lecture—trying hard to understand India and life and occasionally taking a note.”She cannot tolerate prejudice and borrowed opinions and feels indignant at the English for being so ruthless in their treatment with the native Indians. But Adela in her own opinion is as follows, “I can do his right and that right but when they are put together they come wrong.That’s the defect of my character.”

 E.M.Forster has manifold messages to disseminate, but the main is to deal with the Indians in an amiable humanistic way.

  The significance of the title of the first section is that like the ambience in the sanctum sanctorum [Mosque]it imbues the dialectic of positive affirmation.

 

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