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What is the relationship between comic and cosmic in relation to A Passage to India?

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samanta187 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted May 7, 2013 at 7:27 PM via web

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What is the relationship between comic and cosmic in relation to A Passage to India?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:06 AM (Answer #1)

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There is a definite sense in which in this text there is equal presentation of material that could be considered comic as well as as cosmic. There is definitely lots of comic material in the collision between West and East as depicted in the attempts of the British to understand, or not understand, the Indians they live alongside and rule. Consider for example the Bridge Party that is organised apparently to help bring the two races closer together. In the end, it only serves to highlight the differences between the English and the Indians and make them more profound. The uneasy coexisence between these two races and the misunderstandings made, mostly on the part of the British, is something that dominates the novel.

However, what is also apparent is the very real sense in which Forster in this novel explores the cosmic. This sense of the divine is shown to transcend any individual religion and go beyond and above such limiting factors. Note for example what Mrs. Moore experiences as she goes into the cave:

The crush and the smells she could forget, but the echo began in some indescribable way to undermine her hold on life. Coming at a moment when she chanced to be fatigued, it had managed to murmur, "Pathos, piety, courage--they exist, but are identical, and so is filth. Everything exists, nothing has value." If one had spoken vileness in that place, or quoted lofty poetry, the comment would have been the same--"ou-boum."

As she enters the cave, the sounds that Mrs. Moore hears diminishes her world view and her beliefs about religion, the world and morals to nothingness. She loses "her hold on life" and forces her to question the meaning in what she thought she believed. As this comes just after her championing of Christian values to Ronny, it is clear that Forster is juxtaposing these two experiences to highlight the sense of the cosmic in this text and the way that it challenges narrow notions of God and religion. Both humour and an overarching sense of the divine are therefore explored.

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