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A Passage To India SAC
‘A Passage to India’ deals with multiple concepts concerning the contact between East and West, prejudices, stereotypes and friendships. According to reviewer Edward Arnold, Forster’s imagination and humour allows the text to be understood as a novel lacking any sympathy for either British or Indian side ‘the prejudices and limitations of the writer exposed’. Arnold is supportive of Forster’s writing, referring to his novel in a tone of admiration and encouragement. The text’s focus on relationships between Anglo Indian’s and the natives highlight the common colonial mistake of assuming hostility between themselves and the ‘lower’ race of the country that is being invaded. Arnold considers Forster’s concentration on the interracial friendship between Dr. Aziz and Mr. Fielding to be ‘from the depths of racial personality’. He considers the close contact between both cultures to be as ‘ close as blood itself allows’ suggesting that there is no hostility for one another’s background, hence alluding to Forster’s underlying message of humanity and tolerance. Though the review acknowledges Forster’s unbiased perception upon different cultures, particularly his own, it fails to include the ultimate breakdown between the main relationship of the story due to the vast differences of the English and the Indians. While Forster is supportive of Aziz and Fielding’s friendship, he also provides a realistic understanding that there are ‘worlds beyond which they could never touch’ and accepts the unavoidable distinctions between both cultures.
Forster’s narration of the story adopts an outsider’s perspective of India and its relations with the British. However, at times his attitude towards the English positions his writing to be pro-Indian, hence causing his narration to be an unreliable account of events. Alternatively, the reviewer appraises Forster’s ‘involuntary fairness’ observing the novel’s general lack of prejudiced judgments. The extensive description present in Forster’s story aesthetically creates a setting for the events to take place and educates the reader of India’s cultural background, perhaps though a romanticised image due to the author’s admiration of the Indian way of life. Arnold observes Forster’s writing in high regard, exploring the characters’ self development ‘mainly in their conversation’, highlighting the book’s dense dialogue. Forster writes nostalgically, in a sense where he has ‘been examined by India’ therefore, his characters all assume a strong emotional bond to the country, whether it be Aziz as a native or Mrs. Moore as a foreigner. Arnold identifies Forster’s writing as humourous though not satirical and maintains that none of the characters are being caricatured, but ‘simply enjoyed’. It is debatable nonetheless, as to whether Forster intends to make individuals a ‘target of wit’ particularly from Aziz’s point of view who felt ‘the English are (were) a comic institution’ and ‘enjoyed being misunderstood by them’. Further, Dr. Aziz is often portrayed as a bumbling fool desperate to impress the English going as far to say that his ‘life is accomplished’ in having Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore as his guests. Forster also conveys the English in a shallow manner, creating bridge parties to ‘bridge the gap’ between Indians and English, though doing nothing of the sort.
Arnold’s assessment of the text evaluates the ‘channels of human intercourse’ between the East and West, focusing on the English and Indian races and their ability to hold a functional relationship without resulting in ‘disaster’. The reviewer observes that the novel is ‘that of close contact’ between Dr. Aziz and Mr. Fielding, judging that the underlying values of the text are of friendship and interracial tolerance. This interpretation is nevertheless a Western view of Forster’s intention for the messages conveyed to his audience. Alternately, the book also alludes to the matter of self preservation, developed in the character of Aziz, who initially falls at the feet of the English and does nothing but try to impress them, though following the ‘Marabar case’ he discovers a newfound respect for himself and ‘for my (his) own people henceforward’. Mr. Fielding also braves the wrath of his own race to stand up for what he believes in, though originally wanting to ‘slink through India unlabelled’. Finally, Mrs. Moore never doubts the good heartedness of the Indians despite the constant propaganda that is fed to her from Ronny and the rest of the English community, always maintaining that ‘god has put us on earth to pleasant to each other’. Forster’s novel explores the nature and integrity of human beings and the effect their surroundings have on their choices. While the novel equally awards both races with a hero and a non-believer, Forster sympathises with the Oriental culture and conveys their society with more tolerance and open mindedness than the British. Arnold merits Forster’s writing with ‘a fatality of fairness’ mentioning that he ‘leans...toward his own race’ with an ‘acute sense’ of their difficulties, however he neglects to mention that the entire story is set with a compassion for the East, a result of Forster’s intimacy with an Indian and their acceptance of his homosexuality, one that was not tolerated by his own people.
The reviewer claims that ‘the action of the story is provided by outsiders’ alluding to Forster’s attempt to understand his own nationality. Arnold mentions that both Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore have some sort of sympathy ‘for the country and its people’ solidifying Forster’s belief that the British are not all racially prejudiced and proves that his novel is part of an effort to identify with his own background. Arnold also notes that Forster has ‘reached the stage in his development’ where he writes with a ‘concious virtue’ comparing him to other writers who have taken a deliberate stand point, for or against one race. He contends that the book is written with ‘imagination’ referring to the ‘echoes in the Marabar caves’ which oppress both Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore. Forster’s imaginative creativity adds meaning to the caves and the expedition where the excitement of the novel begins, thus attaching the characters with an emotional bond to India and its landmarks. Forster also mentions the echoes of the caves in relation to Mrs. Moore’s internal strife and ultimate death on her journey back to England. Finally, the debate as to whether Miss Quested suffered a hallucination or was in fact assaulted is accompanied by her symptom of ‘hear(ing) an echo’ which mysteriously leaves her when she admits that her accusation against Aziz was wrong. Forster’s imaginative description adds to Arnold’s statement that the author is ‘no longer examining life’ but being examined by it.
Arnold’s evaluation of the novel worships Forster’s writing and dwells on the conundrum of interracial friendships. The review accurately distinguishes between Forster’s ideas and those of other writers before him, to the point where he is congratulated on his writing and subsequent themes that are explored in the novel. Forster writes with an intention to adopt a neutral opinion of the Indians and the English, however at times slips up and like his character, Fielding, he betrays his nationality for the unadulterated lifestyle of the East that Forster so lovingly portrays.
Posted on 05/10/2011 at 12:00:00 AM