E.M. Forster's 'A Passage to India'

The British Raj in India and Its Impact on the Friendship between Aziz and Fielding

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2007 17 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature


Table of Content

1 Introduction

2 The Basic Structure of the Novel

3 The British and Indians Encountering under the British Raj
3.1 The Treatment of the Indians by the British Colonizers
3.2 The Indians’ Reaction to the British Colonization

4 Dr. Aziz’s and Dr. Fielding’s Cross-cultural Friendship and Its Failure

5 Conclusion

6 Works Cited

1 Introduction

E.M. Forster’s last novel A Passage to India has been widely appreciated as his most brilliant, most successful, and most valuable work of art. It has received a high reputation as one of the greatest, but also “most puzzling,” (Allen, 934) modern masterpieces ever written. After its publication in 1924 “it was accorded instant recognition, as a fine novel and as a perceptive and sympathetic treatment of the problem of ‘Anglo-India’” (White, 641). In the novel Forster examines racial tensions between the British colonizers and the Indian people at the time of the British Raj and also the philosophical question about the nature of human relationships in general. Despite its great acclaim, it has also been highly criticized and its release gave rise to a political controversy about British imperialism because it was perceived as a clear offensive against the British imperialists. Some literary critics doubt the novel’s credibility since it allegedly depicts British officials behaving too cruelly and the relations between British and Indians as unrealistic (Macaulay, 188). Although most criticism focused on its political assumptions, and Forster himself intended to express his scepticism about British imperialism in India and its destroying impact on human personal relationships, it was not predominantly intended to be a political novel. However, “as a political novel it has had a notable success” (Rutherford, 2).

Forster’s central purpose is the same as in his preceding novel Howard’s End; he is concentrated on the issue of ‘connection,’ as well as on the desire to overcome gaps of social and racial segregation, and to unify the different races of the East and the West encountering on Indian territory (White, 644). Since “personal relationships were for Forster a fundamental value… from [which] he deduced the general need for tolerance, good temper, and sympathy” (Rutherford, 6); he maintained the basic assumptions of G.E. Moore’s liberal-humanitarian philosophy about the good human character and its longing for personal connection. In A Passage to India, especially in the depiction of the friendship between Dr. Aziz and Dr. Fielding, the longing for connection is not enough to resist racial tensions and misunderstandings. Consequently, their connection is destined to fail at the end of the novel. As a result, A Passage to India also deals with the question “whether or not it is possible to be friends with an Englishman” (Forster, 10), and with “colonization as frustrating any chance of friendship between the English and the Indians under the coloniser/colonised status quo” (Baker, 68-69) because it completely prevents the establishment of personal relationships under circumstances of occupation and suppression.

In the following discussion the relationship between the British conquerors and the Indians at the time of the British Raj will be analyzed. The relationship of the main characters Dr. Aziz and Dr. Fielding, their attempted friendship, and the cause of its failure will be the focal point of analysis. Finally, Forster’s assumption about human relationships under certain conditions, based on the relationship between Dr. Aziz and Mr. Fielding, will be deduced.

2 The Basic Structure of the Novel

The relationship between the Anglo-Indians and the Indian people, and their continuously growing conflict resulting from misunderstandings and differences in terms of race, culture, and religion are presented in the three overall parts of the novel: “Mosque”, “Caves”, and “Temple”. According to Gertrude White, this tripartite division can be compared with the Hegelian dialectical pattern of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis which provides the foundation for a comprehensive understanding of the novel’s overall “theme of fission and fusion; of separateness and of desired union” (644). In Part I, “Mosque”, the gulf between the English and the Indians is depicted in preparation for the climax; which is the conflict caused by the racial and cultural disparities which finally arises in Part II, “Caves,” because of the attempt to unite the two completely different cultures of the East and the West. The fatal and muddling events in the Marabar Caves that happen to Miss Quested and Aziz as well as to Mrs. Moore, eventually lead to the “utter rout of the forces of reconciliation, the complete triumph of hostility, evil, and negation” (White, 647). At this point, it becomes obvious that the obstacles to bridge the cultural gulf are too high to create a human relationship between the Anglo-Indians and the Indians based on mutual respect, faith, and sympathy. However, Part III, “Temple”, provides a synthesis or, in other words, a feasible solution in the Hindu religion to reconcile the evil and devastating events in the Marabar Caves. Hinduism respects every human being regardless to religion and culture and “its creed teaches that each particular part is a member of all other parts” (White, 651f.). Allen, however, rejects White’s assumption of the underlying Hegelian dialectical pattern as a way of interpretation. He assumes that the three parts of the novel represent the three Indian seasons and their impact on the characters and the incidents that happen in the respective part: the events in “Mosque” happen during cool spring, the case at the “Caves” during hot summer, and the actions in “Temple during the rainy monsoon season of the fall” (Allen, 936). Moreover, he indicates the significance of religion in every part of the novel: Islam in “Mosque” represented by Aziz, Western Christianity in “Caves” represented by Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested, and Hinduism in “Temple” represented by Professor Godbole. These three different religions play a role that articulate certain “attitudes towards life” as means of redemption and “expressions of varying types of culture and of individual character” (Allen, 938). As a consequence, they influence the characters’ dealings with interpersonal problems and also the events that take place throughout the novel.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
478 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
Cummins Memorial Theological Seminary – USA: East Tennessee State University, Johnson City - College of English
1,0 (A)
Forster Passage India



Title: E.M. Forster's 'A Passage to India'