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MonkeyNotes-A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
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Themes

A Passage to India addresses the complexity of the idea of "passage," which has several meanings in the book. There is the actual physical passage between Europe and India - the Suez Canal, which had been opened in 1903, approximately 20 years before the time of the novel. It is this passage that Adela took to India. Her journey was more than a physical passage, for she was travelling east to Ronny, who was to become her husband. During the course of the novel, Forster portrays her passage away from Ronny and India and back to England. At the time of her passage from India, she is a sad and disillusioned woman who regrets her stay in the East. The most striking passage in the book is the one to understanding and friendship. Aziz, untypical of most Indians, reaches out to both Mrs. Moore and Fielding to understand and befriend them. Both respond positively and benefit from Aziz's company.

A Passage to India is neither a historical novel nor ultimately a political novel about India, but the reader feels both aspects ever- present in the book. Forster's love affair with India began with his visit there in 1912, and he started writing A Passage to India upon his return. He worked on the novel for several years, publishing it in 1924. His fascination with India led him to study its history and follow its politics, which he continued until his death. In the novel, written and set after World War I, Forster successfully captures the deteriorating quality of British rule and the Indian push towards independence. But the rumblings of the struggle for Indian freedom are only the background of the novel. It is the personal and social interaction between the ruling class and the ruled that forms the core of the book. At the end of the book, Aziz declares that he and Fielding will become friends again when India is free; therefore, the book ends on a positive note of hope despite the tragedy.


Forster's cosmic vision is evident throughout the novel. He advocates universal love -- love that transcends politics, religion, nationalities, social rank, and age and that extends beyond human relationships to embrace all forms of life. Forster expresses this at the beginning of the novel, with Mrs. Moore's philosophy and at the end of the novel with Godbole's philosophy, both of which Aziz absorbs to some degree. Mrs. Moore knows that class and political distinctions can only be bridged by the spirit of love; she is disillusioned to realize that the Indians and British are incapable of accepting each other with a spirit of universal love. Ironically, in her death she has the greatest influence, for she becomes a symbol of motherly understanding. She becomes a mantra, a sacred chant, much like Godbole's chant about Krishna, the god of universal love.

The role of women is another theme of the novel, and Forster presents many separate points of view. Mr. Turton sees women as a bother and thinks ruling India would be a much cleaner exercise without any females present. Aziz sees women largely as something to idolize, as evidenced in his reaction to Mrs. Moore and to his dead wife. Ronny sees women as something to be used; he never loves Adela, but plans to marry her for convenience and personal comfort. Indian women are meant to serve their men, selflessly and without question. Ironically, the climax of the story revolves around Adela, a young British woman who claims she has been sexually assaulted by Aziz, an Indian. As a result of her powerful claim that makes her the center of attention, the British ruling officials go after Aziz with a vengeance to right the wrong against womanhood. When Adela admits in the trial that Aziz has not followed her into the caves, the British turn against her, for she no longer serves them any purpose; the other British women are the most unmerciful to her. The Indians hate her for what she has done to Aziz; the feelings of the Indian women are the most intense of all.

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