When reading the novel A Passage to India or watching the film of the same name, the characters a reader or viewer remembers are Aziz, Adela, Ronny, Mrs. Moore, and many more. There is one character within the story that fails to receive the credit that is due to her: India herself. Throughout the entire novel, E. M. Forster provides thoughts and words for India, though she cannot truly speak. David Lean also attempts to create a separate persona for India in his film. The two of them, in their unique ways, managed to create an extra character with its own personality and motivations.
Forster’s novel creates in many ways a patient, but intimidating India. He says at one moment in the novel, “The inarticulate world is closer at hand and readier to resume control as soon as men are tired” (114). This begins to paint a picture of India’s personality as one that is resentful of those who have come and taken control of her land. She waits patiently for those who have invaded her territory to dissolve into dust like those before them. She has survived countless invasions and uprisings, and will still be there when men are gone.
India’s age is a common topic for Forster in his novel. He speaks of her presence since the beginning of time:
In the days of the prehistoric ocean the southern part of the peninsula existed, and the high places of Dravidia have been land since land began, and have seen on the one side the sinking of a continent that joined them to Africa, and on the other the upheaval of the Himalayas from a sea. (123)
India has been present in the world since before the mountains and oceans surrounding it. Forster also gives the impression that India is a physical body that has eyes, making it capable of seeing these events occurring. This description establishes India as an ageless and omniscient, always overlooking the insignificant mortals.
This omniscience is mentioned by Forster later in the novel during the adventure to the Marabar caves:
India knows of their trouble. She knows of the whole world’s trouble, to its uttermost depth. She calls “Come” through her hundred mouths, through objects ridiculous and august. But come to what? She has never defined. She is not a promise, only and appeal. (136)
Even though India is but a small part of the world, she knows what is happening elsewhere. She can see into the minds and hearts of all of the men in the world without leaving her home. She even has a voice, which she uses to call people to her so that they can break the monotony of her existence. Forster very clearly gives India thoughts, ideas, and desires, making her seem as though she is truly human.
The voice of India is heard once again when Mrs. Moore is returning to England.
The feet of the horses moved her on, and presently the boat sailed and thousands of coconut palms appeared all round the anchorage and climbed the hills to wave her farewell. “So you thought an echo was India; you took the Marabar caves as...