The early years of the twentieth century saw the rise of the novel as a popular genre in the literature of the war-struck Edwardian England. Novelists like Joseph Conrad, E.M.Forster, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence gave the form new dimensions. Among these writers E.M. Forster made a mark in the literature of his age through his last novel A Passage to India (1924), which was entirely different from Forster's other novels in that it dealt with the political occupation of India by the British, a colonial domination that ended soon after the publication of this novel. Forster, a liberal and humanist in outlook, emphasised the importance of love and understanding at the personal level in this novel.
Edward Morgan Forster was born in London in 1879 and was educated at Tonbridge in Kent and King's College in Cambridge. He travelled much and visited Italy, Greece, Germany and India. His first novel was Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905). He became part of the reputed Bloomsbury group which included famous writers and thinkers like Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey. He also wrote The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908), Howards End (1910) and Maurice (a novel dealing with homosexuality in 1914 but not published until 1971, a year after his death
A Passage to India was the direct outcome of his own experiences in India as secretary and companion to the Maharaja of Dewas Senior. Though Kipling had already treated the India of the Raj in his Kim, it was Forster who gave a sympathetic portrait of India under the foreign rule. "The novel offers a distinctly less generous and complacent picture of the Raj and its servants than had Kipling" (Sanders, page 490). The novel's title was taken from Walt Whitman from his celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal as bringing together East and West. But Forster echoed Kipling's belief in the incompatibility of the two cultures- that East is East and West is West and the twain shall never meet.
The novel dealt with the misunderstandings between the English and the Indians in the British India of 1910-20. The British East India Company, who had come to India in 1600, established themselves as the rulers of India. Though the natives revolted against the foreign rule as during the Revolt of 1857, they were suppressed and India was made a colony of the British Empire in 1858. A bureaucratic colonial system was established in India known as the British Raj with Queen Victoria as the Empress of India. The British Raj divided India into British India under the control of the British government and independent Indian states ruled by the Indian princes. The growth of nationalism made the Hindus and Muslims unite in a campaign of non-cooperation against the British Government. With the First World War the power of Britain as an imperial nation decreased and led to the dissolution of the British Raj in India.
In A Passage to India Forster explored various themes like friendship...