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E.M Forster’s Novel A Passage To India

1237 words - 5 pages

Leonard Woolf considers E.M Forster’s novel A Passage to India to be a representation of ‘’the real life of politics in India, the intricacy of personal relations, the story itself, the muddle and the mystery of life’’ (Jay, 1998). Fosters novel has been the subject of literary criticism from many angles given the highly controversial subject matter which is called into question as to whether it is a genuine representation of India under colonisation written from an objective experience, and whether this attempt to represent India is successful or a failure. The question of how successful this representation of India and the British occupation of the country is will form the argument of this work. Forster makes it known to the readers of the novel that when he first began to compose A Passage to India he had felt that he did not know India well enough to continue in an accurate portrayal, therefore returned later to India before completing the novel. In the time of his second visit, Forster felt that he was able to understand the ways in which the Anglo-Indians behaved towards the natives and also that he became better acquainted with the Indian natives. This would suggest that his writing would be objective portraying both sides of the divide without prejudice towards either class.
A Passage to India is a portrayal of India during the control of the British Raj in the 1920’s. The narrative tells the story of a young British woman, Adela who falsely accuses an Indian Doctor, Aziz of attempted rape. When this progresses to a court, during the trial she withdraws her lawsuit and admits she was mistaken. As a result of her false accusation, the trial and the retraction of her charge there is a further and deeper divide created between the British Colonial rulers, the Anglo- Indians with the natives of India. Forster’s novel then echoes a poem published in 1889 written by Rudyard Kipling in which the line ‘’Oh East is East, and West is West; and never the twain shall meet’’ (Washington, 2007). The intention here is to explain that the British and Indian people embody two entirely different cultures and sets of beliefs with different religions, traditions and even superstitions which are not covered in depth by Foster in his novel. He does refer to India as a mystical place in relation to the Marabar Caves although this idea of the mystical place in relation to India is generally stereotypical. Postcolonial critic Susan Suteri says ‘’Forster’s emphasis is on the emptiness of India as a metaphor for something other than itself, a certain metaphysical posture that translates into an image of profound reality’’ (Beer, 1985). In relation to Suteri’s criticism it is clear in the novel that the place of India is shown as a ‘hollowed cave’ suggesting India to be a part of something more powerful. Furthermore the concept of superiority in the English characters is embodied within the rulers such as Ronny and the Turton’s. The stereotyping of Indians in...

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