By E. M. Forster (1879-1970)
A Study Guide
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2009
.......A Passage to India is a novel of cultural, social, psychological, and religious conflict arising mainly from clashes between India's native population and British imperialist occupiers.
time is the early twentieth century, probably about 1920. The novel begins
in Chandrapore, a fictional Indian city along the Ganges River. Forster
appears to have modeled Chandrapore after Bankipur, a community near the
city of Patna in the state of Bihar in northeastern India. The narrator
says Chandrapore “presents nothing extraordinary" and “trails for a couple
of miles along the [river] bank, scarcely distinguishable from the rubbish
it deposits so freely." Other scenes in India take place (1) aboard a train
traveling from Chandrapore to the Marabar Caves, a distance of twenty miles;
(2) at a picnic site in front of the caves, (3) inside the caves; (4) on
a train traveling from Chandrapore to Bombay (Mumbai), and (5) in the city
of Mau, several hundred miles west of Chandrapore.
.......European interest in India began when the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama arrived there in 1498. In 1600, England chartered the East India Company to exploit Asian resources and within decades established trading posts in key Indian cities. Over the next two-and-a-half centuries, Britain expanded its economic interest in India. In 1858, Britain transferred control of the Indian subcontinent from the East India Company to the British government. The British overlords directly imposed their will and their ways on three-fifths of the populace in what became known as "British India" and indirectly on two-fifths of the populace in autonomous native states. Consequently, Britons dominated the economic, political, and social life of the country. To be sure, the British made improvements, constructing roads, railways, and telegraph lines and providing educational and economic advancements. Some Indians even grew wealthy. Generally, however, the Indians were poor second-class citizens, especially in British India. The British got the best jobs, held the top government posts, and exploited the natural resources. They also erected social barriers between themselves and the natives and brought in missionaries to proselytize. All the while, Indian resentment of the English was building. In the early twentieth century, when Forster wrote A Passage to India, this resentment continued to increase. Between 1920 and 1924, when Forster was completing the novel, Mahatma Gandhi was active in his campaign of passive resistance to British rule. Indians by the millions joined his crusade, conducting boycotts and peaceful protests in the streets. In March 1922, Gandhi defended his campaign in a courtroom after he was arrested. He said, in part:
Little do town-dwellers know how the semi-starved masses of Indians are slowly sinking to lifelessness. Little do they know that their miserable comfort represents the brokerage they get for the work they do for the foreign exploiter, that the profits and the brokerage are sucked from the masses. Little do they realize that the government established by law in British India is carried on for this exploitation of the masses. No sophistry, no jugglery in figures can explain away the evidence the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye. I have no doubt whatsoever that both England and the town-dwellers of India will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity which is perhaps unequalled in history. The law itself in this country has been used to serve the foreign exploiter. My experience of political cases in India leads me to the conclusion that in nine out of every ten the condemned men were totally innocent. Their crime consisted in love of their country. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, justice has been denied to Indians as against Europeans in the courts of India. This is not an exaggerated picture. It is the experience of almost every Indian who has had anything to do with such cases. In my opinion the administration of the law is thus prostituted consciously or unconsciously for the benefit of the exploiter.Point of View
.......E. M. Forster tells the story in omniscient third-person point of view, enabling the narrator to reveal the thoughts of the characters. In Chapter 23, the narrator also uses second-person point of view when he addresses the reader directly while discussing the effect of the cave on Mrs. Moore: "Visions are supposed to entail profundity, but— Wait till you get one, dear reader!"
by Michael J. Cummings.© 2009
.......It is the early 1920s in India. In the city of Chandrapore on the Ganges River, a young Muslim (Forster uses the word Moslem) surgeon named Aziz and his uncle, Hamidullah, await dinner at Hamidullah's house with their friend, Mahmoud Ali, while bemoaning the condescending treatment they receive from the British. Ali maintains it is impossible to become an Englishman's friend. Hamidullah says it is possible—but only in England.
.......Hamidullah had studied in England at Cambridge. On his vacations, a clergyman and his wife—the Rev. and Mrs. Bannister—invited him into their home and treated him as a member of the family. He became close to their little boy, Hugh. Now, years later, Hugh works in the leather trade in India, but Hamidullah does not attempt to contact him for fear that he has become just another haughty Englishman. Before dinner, Aziz goes to the kitchen with Hamidullah to visit Hamidullah's wife. She asks Aziz when he is going to remarry, as she is wont to do whenever she sees him.
.......“Once is enough," Aziz tells her politely, although he is a bit irritated.
.......Hamidullah asks her to stop pressing Aziz on the subject.
.......Aziz has three children—two little boys and a little girl, who stay with the mother of Aziz's late wife. He supports the children generously while living a spartan life himself.
.......During the meal, a message arrives for Aziz: He must go at once to the home of Major Callendar, the region's Civil Surgeon and Aziz's superior. Annoyed, Aziz leaves, wondering whether there is a real medical emergency or whether Callendar has called him just to demonstrate his authority. While Aziz is riding his bicycle to Callendar's, a tire goes flat. Because there is no time to repair the tire, he leaves the bicycle at the house of a friend. Precious minutes pass while he hails a tonga (a small horse-drawn carriage that serves as a taxi) for the rest of the trip. When he arrives at Callendar's, a servant says the major went out but left no message instructing Aziz what to do. Meanwhile, Mrs. Callendar and her friend, Mrs. Lesley, leave the residence and take the tonga without asking Aziz. The entire experience further annoys Aziz with the Callendars in particular and the British in general.
.......On his way home, Aziz stops in the courtyard of an old mosque to spend a quiet moment pondering the majesty of the building and the religion it represents. After several minutes, an elderly Englishwoman enters. Angrily, Aziz shouts that she cannot enter a holy place without first removing her shoes. The woman, who has a kind face, says she has already done so. Aziz apologizes profusely.
.......“May I know your name?"
.......“Mrs. Moore," she says. She was attending a play at a nearby club for Englishmen. Because she had already seen the play in London and because it was so hot indoors, she decided to get a breath of air. They strike up a conversation.
.......Aziz correctly guesses that she only recently arrived in India. When she asks how he knew, he tells her that her attitude toward him was the clue. (Apparently, the longer Englishmen stay in India, the more they look down upon the natives—or so Aziz believes.) Mrs. Moore says she came to India to see her son, Ronny Heaslop, the City Magistrate. His surname differs from hers, she says, because he is the product of her first marriage. After her first husband died, she remarried, becoming Mrs. Moore, and gave birth to two more children, Ralph and Stella. Aziz tells her that he also has three children—Ahmed and Karim, both boys, and Jamila, a girl.
.......Aziz offers to show her some morning the place where he works, Minto Hospital, but she tells him that Major Callendar and his wife have already taken her through it. When she reveals that she does not like Mrs. Callendar, Aziz tells her that both Callendars treat him poorly. Mrs. Moore listens attentively and sympathetically. Aziz is pleased.
.......When Mrs. Moore returns to the club, Aziz escorts her. At the club's entrance gate, she says she would invite him inside but cannot because she is not a member. Aziz replies that even if she were a member, he could not accept her offer. The club forbids Indians from entering even as guests.
.......Inside the club, Mrs. Moore goes to the billiard room, where a young woman named Adela Quested tells her, “I want to see the real India," a desire that Mrs. Moore shares. Miss Quested, a schoolmistress, is Mrs. Moore's traveling companion and the girlfriend of Heaslop, who expects to marry her. However, Adela has not yet decided whether to go through with the marriage. After the play ends, Heaslop—who had served as stage manager for the production—enters the billiard room to see Adela and his mother. When Adela repeats her request to see the real India, he asks a gentleman passing by, “Fielding, how does one see the real India?"
.......“Try seeing Indians," he says. The gentleman is Cyril Fielding, the principal at Government College, an institution for Indians. Unlike Heaslop, the Callendars, and almost every other Englishman in government service, Fielding does not look down on the Indians.
.......When Adela expresses a wish to do as Fielding suggested, other ladies gather around to express surprise that an Englishwoman actually wants to meet the natives. One woman says that when she was a nurse to Indians before her marriage, she remained "sternly aloof from them."
......."Even from one's patients?" Adela asks.
.......Mary Turton, the wife of the governor of Chandrapore, Harry Turton (known as the Collector because part of his job is to collect taxes), interrupts, saying, "Why the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die."
.......Mr. Turton then says, "Do you really want to meet the Aryan brother, Miss Quested? That can be easily fixed up?" He says he can arrange for her to see any type she would like, noting that “I didn't realize [the local Indians] would amuse you."
The Bridge Party
says she wishes to see “those Indians whom you come across socially—as
your friends." Turton replies that he does not socialize with Indians,
then excuses himself and leaves. However, he does arrange a social event
at which Adela and Mrs. Moore can meet natives. He calls it a "bridge party"—that
is, a party designed to bridge the gap between Englishmen and Indians.
Among the Indians who accept an invitation to the party is the Nawab Bahadur,
a wealthy landowner and philanthropist from Dilkusha (twenty-five miles
away) who maintains cordial relations with the English. (Nawab is
an honorary title bestowed on Bahadur by the British. It can mean governor,
viceroy, or simply nobleman of exalted status.) Although one Indian, Ram
Chand, criticizes Bahadur for deciding to attend, other Indians follow
his example and go to the party. Aziz and a coworker, the elderly Dr. Panna
Lal, a Hindu, plan to go together in the latter's tum-tum (horse-drawn
eventually makes good his promise to take Adela to the caves. He also invites
Mrs. Moore, Fielding, and Godbole and arranges for his cousin, Mohammed
Latif, and hired servants to go along . Early in the morning on the day
of their departure from the train station, Aziz, Latif, and his servants
are waiting on the platform when Mrs. Moore and Adela arrive with their
servant, Antony. Aziz says Antony is unnecessary, an observation that pleases
Adela, who does not like the servant. When she dismisses Antony, he insists
on remaining, saying Heaslop ordered him to remain with the ladies during
the trip. Aziz calls on Mohammed Latif for help, and he bribes Antony to
leave. Meanwhile, Fielding and Godbole are nowhere to be seen, and the
train pulls out without them. As it leaves the station, Aziz spies them
at a railroad crossing. The gate is down. It is too late for them to hop
"If she had said, 'Do you worship one god or several?' he would not have objected. But to ask an educated Indian Moslem how many wives he has—appalling, hideous! He was in trouble how to conceal his confusion. 'One, one in my own particular case,' he sputtered. . . . Quite a number of caves were at the top of the track, and thinking, 'Damn the English even at their best,' he plunged into one of them to recover his balance. She followed at her leisure, quite unconscious that she had said the wrong thing, and not seeing him, she also went into a cave, thinking with half her mind 'sight-seeing bores me,' and wondering with the other half about marriage.".......Aziz smokes a cigarette as he thinks up an excuse for why he had suddenly disappeared. When he emerges, he cannot find Miss Quested. He scolds and slaps his guide for not keeping an eye on her and frantically begins searching for her, thinking, “This is the end of my career, my guest is lost." In a moment, however, he sees her down below in a car with a woman driver. Relieved, he concludes that she simply decided on a whim to go with the woman for a drive. On his way back down, he notices Adela's binoculars lying just inside the entrance to a cave. The strap is torn in half. Thinking she must have accidentally dropped them, he picks them up, puts them in a pocket, and returns to the picnic site. When he arrives, he is overjoyed to see that his good friend Fielding is there. Fielding explains that Nancy Derek had driven him to the cave site after hearing that he had missed the train. He indicates that she is the driver of the car Adela had entered.
.......All seems well again for Aziz. But all is not well.
.......After he and the others return to Chandrapore, police arrest him on a charge that the Superintendent of Police, Mr. McBryde, later explains to Fielding: "He followed [Adela Quested] into [a] cave and made insulting advances. She hit at him with her field-glasses; he pulled at them and the strap broke, and that is how she got away."
.......Adela, distraught, is recovering in the McBryde home, where Miss Derek and Mrs. McBryde remove cactus needles that became embedded in her flesh as she ran down from the caves through cactus fields.
.......There is widespread interest in the case. The English think Aziz is certainly guilty. The Indians think the charges are an attempt to embarrass them. Of all the Britons in the community, only Fielding actively supports Aziz, believing that the doctor is incapable of assaulting a woman. Meanwhile, Adela tells Heaslop that she may be wrong about Aziz, but he tells her she is "over-tired". When she again expresses doubt about what she thought happened in the cave, he tells her, "I don't quite know what you're saying, and I don't think you do." Eventually, he persuades her that she was right to make the charge.
.......Mrs. Moore tacitly supports Aziz, but she idly sits by, having never quite recovered from her unsettling experience in the cave. The narrator says "something very old and very small"—something that existed before time and space—"had spoken" to her in the cave. She decides to leave India, to put behind her the whole confusing muddle. However, all the ships at her point of embarkation, Bombay, are booked full. Hearing of her plight, Lady Mellanby, the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of the state in which Chandrapore is located, comes to her rescue. Lady Mellanby herself will be sailing to England in her own reserved cabin, and she offers to share it with Mrs. Moore. It is a generous gesture made by a woman known for her generosity, and Mrs. Moore accepts it. After traveling by train across India to Bombay, she boards the ship and travels in style. But the sound of the caves still echoes in her mind.
seven-thirty on the morning when the trial is to begin, Adela is at the
Turton residence preparing for her ordeal. Heaslop is with her. Adela,
quite upset, tells him that she brings him “nothing but trouble" and says
that perhaps they should not be married after all. He dismisses her comment;
for in her suffering, he admires her more than ever. Adela also worries
that she will break down under the questioning of Mr. Amritrao, a renowned
Oxford-educated Indian attorney brought in to help Mahmoud Ali defend Aziz.
The Nawab Bahadur, convinced of Aziz's innocence, will be paying the doctor's
and his Indian supporters celebrate. However, a mob of them roves the streets
seeking vengeance. "Down with the Collector, down with the Superintendent
of Police," shouts Mahmoud Ali. Moments later, he says, "Down with the
Civil Surgeon . . . rescue Nurredin." Ali then explains that he overheard
Major Callendar bragging about torturing Nurredin, the grandson of the
Nawab Bahadur, at Minto Hospital, although Bahadur himself doubts that
such is the case. (Nurredin had been injured in a car accident several
days before and taken to the hospital for treatment.) When Ali says Callendar
called Nurredin a "nigger" and put pepper on his wounds, the mob marches
on the hospital. Dr. Panna Lal is already there. To save himself from the
crowd, he profusely apologizes, admitting that he was wrong to agree to
testify against Aziz.
The Title and General Theme
M. Forster took the title of the novel from American author Walt Whitman's
poem “Passage to India," published in 1871. The word passage refers
to the Suez Canal, the 121-mile-waterway that connects the Mediterranean
Sea to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. When the canal opened on November
17, 1869, ships from England and other European countries could reach the
Orient without sailing around Africa. Whitman's poem celebrates the canal
as a great engineering achievement. More important, though, it hails the
canal as a means to improve communication between East and West and thereby
foster cultural, spiritual, and social interaction benefiting everyone.
(Whitman's poem also hails the 1866 completion of the transatlantic cable
between North America and Europe and the 1869 completion of the transcontinental
railroad between the eastern and western United States.)
The Evils of British Imperialism in India
.......The majority of Indians suffer humiliation and injustice under British rule. Major Callendar, the chief surgeon at Minto Hospital, and Mrs. Turton, the wife of the governor of Chandrapore, are among the most bigoted of the British occupiers. The British get the best jobs and hold the best government posts. Moreover, they treat the Indians as racially and culturally inferior and exclude them from their social circles.
.......In separating themselves from the Indians socially, the British limit their opportunities to learn about Indian customs, religions, traditions, and so on. Consequently, many of them regard India as a "mystery" and a "muddle," in the words of the narrator. This attitude leads to misunderstandings and heightened tension between the English and the Indians. For example, Adela Quested unwittingly insults Dr. Aziz when she asks him whether he has more than one wife. She is unaware that such a question is out of bounds for an educated Muslim. British ignorance of the Indian ethos and psyche also leads to absurd generalizations, one of which is that dark-complexioned people lust after whites. It also leads to wrongful judgments on a personal level, such as Ronny Heaslop's unfounded assertion that Aziz is a "bounder" (scoundrel, cad, opportunist).
The Difficulty of Achieving Unity Amid Diversity
**.......It is difficult in India to achieve unity and harmony amid cultural and religious diversity—unity here meaning equality, friendship, brotherhood. Forster begins developing this theme early in the novel, when Mahmoud Ali asserts that it is impossible for an Englishman and an Indian to become friends. Hamidullah counters that he did become friends with a British family while he was studying at Cambridge University in England. He qualifies his rebuttal, however, by saying that such an Indian-British friendship can happen only in England. After their arrival in India, Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested actively seek friendship with Indians. They succeed—for a while, at least. But their planned visit to the home of a Hindu family, the Bhattacharyas, falls through. Moreover, their genial relationship with Dr. Aziz ends after the visit to the Marabar Caves, where they hear diverse sounds echoed back as a single sound. (For information on the significance of the sound, see The Caves, The Cave Echo, The Echo as a Hindu Sound.) Adela then becomes Aziz's enemy after accusing him of sexual assault at the caves. Mrs. Moore remains his supporter in the days leading up to his trial, but she leaves India just when he needs her most. Cyril Fielding, the principal of Government College, befriends Indians throughout the novel. But his friendship with Aziz also suffers after a misunderstanding following the trial. The Nawab Bahadur, once on good terms with the British, sours toward them as a result of the trial.
.......Muslims and Hindus have always been—and continue to be—antagonists in India. In A Passage to India, the relationship between Dr. Aziz, a Muslim, and Dr. Panna Lal, a Hindu underscores the tension between Muslims and Hindus. Aziz and Lal despise each other, and Lal agrees to testify against Aziz at the trial. Throughout the novel, Aziz—though deeply insulted by British prejudice against Indians—frequently deprecates Hindus with unfounded generalizations in the same way that the British find fault with the native populace. Of the Bhattacharya family, he says, "Slack Hindus—they have no idea of society; I know them very well because of a doctor [Panna Lal] at the hospital. Such a slack, unpunctual fellow!" Aziz—and no doubt many other Indians—also object to Christian proselytizing, as a passage in Chapter 9 indicates. Aziz is lying sick in bed when
He could hear church bells as he drowsed, both from the civil station and from the missionaries out beyond the slaughter house—different bells and rung with different intent, for one set was calling firmly to Anglo-India [the British], and the other feebly to mankind. He did not object to the first set; the other he ignored, knowing their inefficiency. Old Mr. Gaylord and Young Mr. Sorley [Christian missionaries] made converts during a famine, because they distributed food; but when times improved they were naturally left alone again, and though surprised and aggrieved each time this happened, they never learnt wisdom.Hope
final section of the novel—which takes place in the Hindu city of Mau,
to which Aziz has relocated—offers hope for a better future. First, Muslim
Aziz receives help from Hindu Godbole. Muslims and Hindus are rivals, but
Aziz and Godbole demonstrate that traditional antagonists can get along
when they treat each other with respect and live together as equals. Second,
Aziz reconciles with Cyril Fielding and befriends Mrs. Moore's son, Ralph.
However, Aziz cautions Fielding that they will never have a lasting friendship
until the English leave India.
.......E. M. Forster modeled the fictional caves in A Passage to India on actual caves about twelve miles from the city of Gaya in the state of Bihar. However, the real caves are known as the Barabar Caves, not the Marabar Caves (Forster's fictional name for them). A Buddhist ruler of the second century BC, tolerant of other religions, ordered workers to hew the caves from rock faces as holy places for monks of the Ajivika religion. There are four Barabar caves. Their smooth interior walls sustain prolonged echoes.
.......In the first of the Marabar Caves, all sounds—sneezes, whistles, shouts—return the same echo: boum, or a variation of it such as ou-boum. This echo appears to mock the Hindu concept that the entire universe—and everything in it—consists of a single essence, Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmin or Brahma). Even the human soul, called atman by Hindus, is part of this essence. Thus, a whistle is a sneeze and a sneeze is a soul, since all are Brahman—that is, all are the same essence. The echo unnerves Mrs. Moore because she vaguely understands that it represents a force that reduces everything to sameness—a monotonous, empty sameness. Even biblical words that she had lived by become part of the Brahman and thus lose their meaning, as reported by the narrator in the last paragraph of Chapter 14. Mrs. Moore is attempting to write a letter to her children, Stella and Ralph, when ruminating over her experience in the cave.
“[S]uddenly, 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. Then she was terrified over an area larger than usual; the universe, never comprehensible to her intellect, offered no repose to her soul . . . .".......Thereafter, her experience in the cave haunts her, and she becomes irritable and depressed. Like the biblical words, her life and everything she believes in lose their meaning. India had fascinated her when she arrived in the country; now it repels her. Its intriguing mystery has turned into the “muddle" spoken of by other Britons. No, she does not curse the country and its people as Major Callendar and Mrs. Turton do. Nor does she side with Adela against Aziz in the days leading up to the trial. But she can no longer tolerate India; it is too much for her. She decides to leave. She does not even stay to testify for Aziz. “Why should I be in the witness box?" she later says to her son Ronny. “I have nothing to do with your ludicrous law courts." The narrator then reports Heaslop's thoughts: “She was by no means the dear old lady outsiders supposed, and India had brought her out in the open."
.......Elderly and in declining health, oppressed by the Asian heat, she dies aboard the ship and becomes part of the vast emptiness of the Indian Ocean.
.......Like Mrs. Moore, Adela Quested is fascinated with India when she arrives in the country. But she worries that its unbridled diversity will turn her into just another cynical, disenchanted Anglo-Indian if she marries Ronny Heaslop and becomes a resident of India. However, she sees a glimmer of hope in Indian history, in particular in the person of the Mogul emperor Akbar (1542-1605), who reigned from 1556 until his death. To unify the populace, he instituted reforms that centralized government functions. And, though a Muslim, he promoted dialogue between people of all religions—Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, and so on—and even attempted to establish a new religion that combined elements of other religions.
.......When discussing Akbar with Aziz (Chapter 14), Adela says, “[W]asn't Akbar's new religion very fine? It was to embrace the whole of India." Aziz, acknowledging that Akbar was a great ruler, responds that Akbar's idea of a single Indian religion was wrong. “Nothing embraces the whole of India, nothing, nothing, and that was Akbar's mistake." Adela then says, “I hope you're not right. There will have to be something universal in this country—I don't say religion, for I'm not religious, but something, or how else are barriers to be broken down." She ends up saying that without a unifying force she would find it difficult as an Anglo-Indian to “avoid becoming like them [Mrs Turton and Mrs. Callendar]."
.......Later, when she enters one of the upper caves alone, she scratches a wall and hears the echo. It is at this moment, she later reports, that Aziz attacks her. She fights back with her field glasses, escapes the cave, races through a field of cactuses that tear her skin and embed needles in it, and returns with Miss Derek to Chandrapore. She is disoriented, in a state of shock. After her recovery, she repeatedly hears the echo. But unlike Mrs. Moore, she has no clue as to its meaning. When she asks the old woman what it means, Mrs. Moore replies, “If you don't know, you don't know; I can't tell you."
.......Unable to understand the sound, she becomes like the other English men and women who cannot understand Indians. She even begins to question her own perceptiveness and begins to realize that she has falsely accused Aziz. But Ronny and the others, who are using her as an instrument to punish the Indians, persuade her that she was right about Aziz. At the trial, however, she musters the courage to admit she was wrong and drops the charges. She too then leaves India.
.......The departure of Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore foreshadows the historical British exit from India in 1947, which Forster may have seen as inevitable.
Undoubtedly, the most memorable figure of speech in A Passage to India is onomatopoeia: the boum echo in the caves. It calls to mind the om sound chanted by Hindus and Buddhists. Of this sound, Encyclopaedia Britannica says,
The syllable Om is composed of the three sounds a-u-m (in Sanskrit, the vowels a and u coalesce to become o), which represent several important triads: the three worlds of earth, atmosphere, and heaven; the three major Hindu gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; and the three sacred Vedic scriptures, Rg, Yajur, and Sama. Thus Om mystically embodies the essence of the entire universe. It is uttered at the beginning and end of Hindu prayers, chants, and meditation and is freely used in Buddhist and Jaina ritual also. (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2001, Standard Edition CD-ROM)
climax of the novel occurs in the courtroom in Chandrapore when Adela Quested
says on the witness stand, “I'm afraid I have made a mistake." Her admission
frees Aziz but hardens the division between the Indians and the English.
.......Using personification and other figures of speech, Forster turns nature into a character—sometimes a wary observer, sometimes a sinister presence, as in the following passages:
April, herald of horrors, is at hand. The sun was returning to his kingdom with power but without beauty—that was the sinister feature. If only there had been beauty! His cruelty would have been tolerable then. Through excess of light, he failed to triumph . . . ; in his yellowy-white overflow not only matter, but brightness itself lay drowned. He was not the unattainable friend, either of men or birds or other suns, he was not the eternal promise, the never-withdrawn suggestion that haunts our consciousness; he was merely a creature, like the rest, and so debarred of glory. (Chapter 10)Not infrequently, Forster personifies nature to highlight the mystery of India and the failure of the logical British mind to appreciate it. For example, in the following passage about India's remarkable “false sunrise," Adela Quested attempts to explain it scientifically, then ends up saying that she prefers sunrises in England.
[T]he sky to the left turned angry orange. Colour throbbed and mounted behind a pattern of trees, grew in intensity, was yet brighter, incredibly brighter, strained from without against the globe of air. They awaited the miracle. But the supreme moment, when night should have died and day lived, nothing occurred. It was as if virtue had failed in the celestial fount. The hues in the east decayed, the hills seemed dimmer though in fact better lit, and a profound disappointment entered with the morning breeze. Why, when the chamber was prepared, did the bridegroom not enter with trumpets and shawms, as humanity expects? The sun rose without splendour. He was presently observed trailing yellowish behind the trees, or against insipid sky, and touching the bodies already at work in the fields.The following metaphor-personification underscores the British inability to understand India. It also may be an oblique allusion to Indian disenchantment with Indian rule—the key words being stabbing and purple throat. Throughout history, purple—whose hues can extend to deep crimson—has been the preferred color for royal robes and other emblems of monarchical or imperial power.
They looked out at the palisade of cactuses stabbing the purple throat of the sky; they realized that they were thousands of miles from any scenery that they understood (Chapter 19).
elephant had knelt, grey and isolated, like another hill. (Chapter 14)
Simile and Alliteration
[T]he hot weather advanced, swelled like a monster at both ends, and left less and less room for the movements of mortals. (Chapter 22)
Simile, Alliteration, and Hyperbole
[The cave walls were] smoother than windless water. (Chapter 12)
Flames of suspicion leapt up in the breast of each man. (Chapter 9)
Metaphor and Alliteration
The young man had much to worry him—the heat, the local tension, the approaching visit of the Lieutenant-Governor, the problems of Adela—and threading them all together into a grotesque garland were these Indianizations of Mrs. Moore. (Chapter 30)
begum: In Muslim countries,
a title for a woman of nobility or elevated social rank; Muslim wife or
Study Questions and Essay Topics
is the most admirable character in the novel? Who is the least admirable?
Explain your answers.
Dr. Aziz3....In his attitude toward women, does Aziz exhibit any progressive views?
4....Does Ronny Heaslop have many good qualities?
5....Why does the Nawab Bahadur drop his honorary title?
6....Mrs. Moore's death should not come as a surprise to the careful reader. Cite several passages that foreshadow—or at least prepare the reader for—her death.
7....Read the opening paragraph of Chapter 33 (up to the paragraph that begins with "It was the turn of Professor Godbole's choir"). Which sentences in this paragraph repeat a motif that the narrator presented after Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore entered the first of the Marabar Caves? Are there any other examples of this motif in the novel?
8....In an essay, compare and contrast the plight of native-born Indians of the early twentieth century with the plight of American blacks in the same time period.
9....Write a short psychological profile of Dr. Aziz or Adela Quested.
10. To what extent did E.M. Forster base A Passage to India on his own visits to India?