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The major theme of the novel is the damage caused by the British attitude of hatred and superiority towards the Indians. Forster is clearly critical of the small-minded British colonial powers, who lack trust and understanding of the natives. At the same time he is sympathetic with those Indians, like Aziz, who make sincere efforts towards the British and are treated terribly for their trouble. The novel centers on the difficulty of trust in cross-cultural relations.
The word "Passage" has special significance in the novel. First, it refers to the physical passage between India and England; the Suez Canal, which opened in 1902, made it possible for the English to make their geographic passage to India in about six to eight weeks, considerably less time than previously possible. The second and more significant passage concerns a journey to friendship and loyalty between people from differing cultures. Foster explores whether individuals can really make their own evaluations of each other in a society that imposes overwhelming and destructive prejudices, like the British colonialists. He questions if there can be a "passage" between cultures shared by bonds of friendship. Unfortunately, the novel shows the difficulties of such a passage. Mr. Fielding and Mrs. Moore, and to some extent Adela, are British individuals who try to befriend the Indians; however, they are sharply pitted against the other British, who do not think that it is possible to bridge racial differences. On a superficial level, therefore, this novel is about the passage to India by two women, Mrs. Moore and Adela, who come to India with an honest and innocent wish to see and understand; what they find is a society that is hostile to British/Indian friendships.
The minor theme, closely related to and supporting the major theme, is that love is the key to establishing true human relationships. Throughout the novel, different kinds of relationships are explored -- between mother and son, between a young man and woman who are engaged, between Hindus and Muslims, among Hindus themselves, between the British and the Indians, and among the British themselves. Forster's answer to a peaceful and happy existence is universal love - not only between human beings but also between human beings and all other living things in the universe.
The mood of the novel is serious and analytical, with bits of comic relief, often at the expense of native characters. There is also a sense of despondency, suspense, and foreboding. The story is really about bad communication between two cultures, and both a desire for and a fear of a connection between them.