E. M. Forster
Edward Morgan Forster was born in London in 1879, was educated at Tonbridge School and King’s College, Cambridge. He traveled in Italy and in Greece with his mother and, in 1921, he went to India for the second time, completing his work “A Passage to India”. This novel was his last creation, but he didn’t let the intellectual life, indeed he supported the campaign against censorship and appeared as a witness for the defense in the trial of the publishers of D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. He died in 1970.
A Passage to India
A Passage to India offers a clear representation of Indian society under colonialist rule. The protagonist is a young Muslim doctor, Aziz, whose is accused of assaulting a young English woman on a tour of the Marabar caves. The text is divided into three parts that corresponded to the three season of Indian weather: Mosque (cool weather), Caves (hot weather) and Temples (rains weather). At the beginning of novel, Aziz meets Mrs. Moore, her son Ronny, end Adela Quested, Ronny’s girlfriends. The latter, who is a inexperience young woman, declares that she wants to see the real India. So the protagonist organizes a trip to the cave, but an incident occurs (exactly what happens is never fully explained) which results in Adela claiming that Aziz has sexually assaulted her. These accusations against Aziz produces a racial antagonism, and the protagonist is supported only by his friend Mr Fielding who believes in his innocence. At the end the girls realized that the incident was a misunderstanding and withdraw the accusation in court. The Aziz’s name is cleared, but his faith in English justice id shattered. In the third part the protagonist, who lives in an isolated village, away from English influence, leads a speech with his friend Fielding, affirming that they can never be friend until the British have been forced out of India and Indian rule has been established.
Features and themes
A “Passage to India” is a novel about human relationships, in particular between people from different cultures. The period in which is set is the time of the British domination. Forster is extremely critical and realistic about the injustice orders by British rules and their consequences. Forster underlines white people’s ignorance and insensitivity for the Indian culture. Behind a smile, in fact, they hide the disdain for the Indians and they try to impose their own culture on a country which is not theirs, except Fielding and Mrs. Moore. The novel is therefore based to racial discrimination, which describes and analyses the complexities of the colonial situation. However it is quite modern in the way it deals with the colonial theme. The narrator is omniscient and the point of views change throughout the novel.
A pessimistic outlook
The novel is considered from a particular point of view as pessimistic, because showing that social, racial, class and cultural barriers cannot be completely overcome. It explores the clash between the British rulers Western and Eastern cultures in India, underlined with the episode of the Marabar caves, that remains a mystery. It doesn’t provide an explanation, Forster excludes completely the possibility of reconciliation.