Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Chandrapore Old, remote Hindu city with filthy alleyways and mean streets that is divided into three parts: old Chandrapore on the Ganges River; inland Maidan on higher ground, and the Civil Station on the second hill. Although it is located on the river, Chandrapore has no riverfront and no bathing steps. Nothing distinguishes Chandrapore except for its proximity to the Marabar Caves. It is home for the Indians.
Maidan. Central section of Chandrapore that contains the hospital in which Dr. Aziz practices medicine and which is the section in which most Europeans live, in houses near the railway station. Maidan has an oval parade field on which polo is played and where soldiers practice.
Civil Station. Section of Chandrapore made up of British civil offices and residences. It is a city of gardens, forests, birds, and streets laid out and named for generals. If not charming, it is functional, with houses for the officials, a grocery store, a cemetery, the Chandrapore Club, Government College, and the official offices. The police station and courthouse are located in the Civil Station. The police station is where Aziz is incarcerated after he is accused of an attack on Adela. The court is the formal courtroom for legal proceedings and is composed of several platforms for various service persons and magistrates who function in the courtroom.
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Although the action of A Passage to India takes place entirely in India, it should be remembered that Forster was a British writer, and that most of his readers were British. Thus, the work reflects not only the contemporary India, which is its overt subject, but also England and the milieu in which Forster lived and wrote. Moreover, although Forster published the book in 1924 during the reign of King George V (r. 1910-36), he is commonly regarded as an Edwardian novelist. Forster's first four novels were written in the first decade of the twentieth century, during the reign of King Edward VII (r. 1901-10), and his values and outlook were developed during this period, before World War I. Thus, like Forster's earlier books, A Passage to India is commonly regarded as an Edwardian book (an Edwardian novel of manners, at that), even though it was not written during the Edwardian period.
Between the time Forster first visited India and began writing this novel (1912-13) and the time he finished it (1924). Britain had undergone the traumatic experience of World War I. Britain and her allies won the war, but more than 750,000 British soldiers were killed, along with another quarter of a million soldiers from other parts of the British Empire; another two million British and Empire soldiers were wounded, many of them severely. These losses affected people's attitudes toward tradition and authority. The self-confidence...
(The entire section is 1196 words.)
Part I, Chapters I – III: Questions and Answers
1. Where are the Marabar Caves in relation to Chandrapore?
2. What does Hamidullah believe about the possibility of friendship with the English in India?
3. Why do Mrs. Turton and Mrs. Lesley not ask Aziz if they may take the tonga?
4. Why does Aziz find it possible to talk freely to Mrs. Moore? What is her attitude toward the Indians?
5. What is Ronny Heaslop’s reaction when he discovers his mother has been talking to Dr. Aziz?
6. What does Mr. Turton mean when he says that Heaslop’s a sahib?
7. What kind of a “bridge-party” does Mr. Turton intend to give?
8. Why do the Englishwomen feel it is necessary to keep a distance from the Indians?
9. How does Fielding’s attitude differ from that of his fellow Anglo-Indians?
10. Why does Aziz resent Major Callendar?
1. The Marabar Caves are 20 miles from Chandrapore, set in the Marabar Hills, which can be seen from the city.
2. Hamidullah believes that it may be possible to have a friendship with the English in India under certain conditions.
3. Mrs. Turton and Mrs. Lesley, like most other Anglo-Indians, are used to ignoring native Indians and their rights or interests. They turn their heads away from Aziz as if he did not exist.
4. He finds her sensitive to the feelings of others. Mrs. Moore is surprised and...
(The entire section is 415 words.)
Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Questions and Answers
1. Why do the other Indians allow Nawab Bahadur to convince them to go to the party?
2. What information does Mrs. Turton give Mrs. Moore about the rank of Englishwomen in India in relation to Indian women?
3. Why does Mrs. Turton know only the imperative forms of Urdu?
4. What does Heaslop believe is the purpose of the English in India?
5. What does Mrs. Moore believe their purpose is?
6. Why doesn’t Aziz go to the party?
7. What proves Major Callendar’s ignorance of Indian life?
8. Why is it offensive to Dr. Panna Lal when Aziz hits the Brahminy bull with his polo mallet?
9. In what ways are Aziz and Heaslop similar in their attitudes toward work?
10. What are Aziz’s feelings as he gazes at the photograph of his dead wife?
1. As a wealthy landowner, the Nawab has more prestige than the others and is considered a leader.
2. Mrs. Turton tells Mrs. Moore that she—and by implication, any Englishwoman—is superior in rank to any Indian woman except one or two of the Ranis, who are equal in rank to the Anglo-Indians.
3. Mrs. Turton is accustomed to speaking the language only to servants and has never bothered to study it for any other purpose.
4. He feels the English are in India to do justice and keep the peace. He believes he is in India “to work and hold...
(The entire section is 414 words.)
Part I, Chapter VII: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Aziz go biking in English dress rather than a fez?
2. Why is Aziz offended by Fielding’s response to his remark about Post-Impressionism?
3. What is Fielding’s definition of the difference between a mystery and a muddle?
4. Why does Aziz invite the party to the Marabar Caves?
5. Why does Heaslop tell Fielding he shouldn’t have left Miss Quested alone with Aziz and Professor Godbole?
6. What is Aziz’s description of Deccani Brahmins?
7. What does Professor Godbole say about the Marabar Caves?
8. Why does Miss Quested feel she should have told Heaslop about her decision not to settle in India before telling the others?
9. Why is everyone irritable as they say good-bye?
10. Does Shri Krishna answer the yearning call of the milk-maidens in Professor Godbole’s song or in any other one?
1. Aziz has discovered that he is often stopped by the police if he is wearing native dress, in this case, a fez.
2. Aziz believes—wrongly—that Fielding is implying that a native could know nothing about such topics as Post-Impressionism.
3. Fielding believes that a mystery is “only a high-sounding term for a muddle.”
4. Aziz is horrified at the thought of the others seeing his miserable one-room shanty. He invites them to the caves in order to distract them...
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Part I, Chapter VIII: Questions and Answers
1. Why didn’t Heaslop pay attention to Aziz’s previous announcement that Miss Quested would not stay in India?
2. Why is Miss Quested ashamed of Heaslop’s behavior at the tea party?
3. Why does the chauffeur take the Marabar Road rather than the Gangavati?
4. Why is Mr. Harris self-conscious when he is together with Indians and Anglo-Indians?
5. In what way is Miss Derek condescending to Heaslop?
6. What is Miss Quested’s reaction to this condescension?
7. What is the Nawab Bahadur’s mental picture of the Maharani? What is his opinion of superstition at this point?
8. Why does Miss Quested feel humiliated after she agrees to marry Heaslop?
9. What makes the Nawab Bahadur a “show Indian”?
10. Why is Heaslop concerned about the approach of the Mohurram festival?
1. It has never occurred to Heaslop that an Indian might convey something important between two English people.
2. She feels he has been gross and spoiled both the conversation and the song, the latter by walking away in the middle of it. She also dimly realizes that she is really irritated with herself and is taking it out on him.
3. Heaslop changes the instructions that the Nawab has given the chauffeur. He says that Gangavati Road is under repair. They end up on Marabar Road.
4. Mr. Harris is...
(The entire section is 378 words.)
Part I, Chapters IX – XI: Questions and Answers
1. Why is Rafi called “the Sherlock Holmes of Chandrapore”? Is he an accurate detective?
2. How do Aziz’s visitors react to the poem he recites?
3. Why does Fielding’s remark about atheism lead the Indians to ask him why the English are justified in holding India?
4. What is the reply Fielding could have made and doesn’t? Why not?
5. Why are the Indians unable to understand the terms in which Fielding is talking?
6. Why had Aziz ordered his servant not to bring Fielding’s horse when the other visitors left?
7. What is the corollary that Aziz adds to his remark that all men are brothers?
8. On what grounds do the Hindus and Muslims begin to quarrel?
9. How does Fielding feel about intimacy?
10. Why does Aziz think that Fielding is unwise?
1. Rafi claims to know everyone’s secrets, but most of the rumors he purveys turn out to be inaccurate.
2. Although Hamidullah is the only one beside Aziz who is a reader of poetry, the rest are touched by it; they appreciate its pathos and it voices their loneliness.
3. The Indians take it for granted that authority should be rooted in spiritual qualities. On hearing that most educated English people are atheists, they naturally question the grounds for English rule of “spiritual” India.
4. The standard British...
(The entire section is 382 words.)
Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Questions and Answers
1. What do visitors usually feel about their experience of the Marabar Caves? Why do they find it difficult to discuss them?
2. What do the walls of the circular chamber look like when a match is lit inside?
3. What version of Miss Quested’s remark in the Club reaches Aziz?
4. In what ways does Aziz rely on his friends’ help to organize the expedition?
5. Why does Aziz suggest the women send their servant back? Why do they agree?
6. Why do Fielding and Godbole miss the train?
7. What is Mrs. Moore’s opinion of marriage?
8. What mistake does Aziz make in overrating hospitality?
9. How does Aziz characterize the three Moghul Emperors he mentions, and why does he prefer Babur to Alamgir?
10. What causes Mrs. Moore to fall into a state of despair?
1. Visitors tend to be unsure whether or not they have had an interesting experience, or whether they have had an experience at all. It is the monotony of the caves, their lack of ornamentation, that makes them difficult to describe.
2. In the light of a match, the walls look like a mirror inlaid with beautiful colors.
3. According to the version that reaches Aziz, the ladies have been waiting for his invitation to the caves and are deeply offended because it has not arrived.
4. Aziz asks Fielding to invite the ladies...
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Adela not want to break her engagement to Heaslop, even though she has realized that they don’t love each other?
2. What train of thought leads her to ask Aziz how many wives he has? Why is Aziz shocked by it? Is she aware of his shock?
3. Why does Aziz strike the guide?
4. What is Aziz’s reaction when he hears that Miss Quested and Miss Derek have driven back to Chandrapore?
5. What causes the awkwardness between Mrs. Moore and Fielding? How does Aziz feel about it?
6. Why does Aziz conceal the truth about what happened in the caves?
7. Why does Mrs. Moore feel apathetic and cynical?
8. Why is Fielding annoyed with Miss Derek and Miss Quested?
9. Why does Fielding prevent Aziz from escaping arrest?
10. What forms of madness does Fielding perceive after the arrest? Does he understand madness?
1. Miss Quested reflects that marriage does not seem to depend on love. There is also the probability that breaking the engagement would cause her social embarrassment.
2. Adela has been musing about love and marriage herself, so it is natural for her to ask Aziz if he is married. It occurs to her that Muslims may have more than one wife, she then asks Aziz how many he has. For Aziz, having more than one wife is an old-fashioned custom of which he, as a modern Muslim, is ashamed....
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Questions and Answers
1. Why is Fielding’s first request to see Aziz denied?
2. Why is Mr. McBryde triumphant when he finds a picture of a woman among the contents of Aziz’s drawer?
3. What change has occurred in the Anglo-Indian women’s feelings toward Miss Quested?
4. What are Mr. Turton’s emotions as he speaks to the Anglo-Indians at the Club? Is he entirely ruled by his emotions at this time?
5. Why does Major Callendar feel guilty? How does he deal with his guilt?
6. What rumors does Major Callendar relay about Aziz? Are these rumors generally believed?
7. Why does Callendar’s first attack on Fielding fail to mature?
8. Why do the Anglo-Indians rise to their feet when Heaslop enters? Why doesn’t Fielding rise with the others?
9. Why does Fielding resign from the Club? Why does Mr. Turton call him weak?
10. Why does Fielding classify his rudeness to Heaslop as a tactical and moral error?
1. Fielding has revealed that the collector is against him, so McBryde feels both justified and supported in denying the request. McBryde also feels strongly that Anglo-Indians must stick together. In his eyes, by maintaining Aziz’s innocence, Fielding is acting like a traitor.
2. The case McBryde is building against Aziz in his mind involves a picture of someone who is obsessed with sex. He’s already found...
(The entire section is 535 words.)
Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Miss Quested long to see Mrs. Moore?
2. What does her response to Fielding’s letter suggest about her inner state?
3. What do Mrs. Moore’s words and actions indicate when Adela arrives at the bungalow?
4. What are Heaslop’s unspoken opinions of his mother?
5. Why does Heaslop ask Miss Quested not to speak of Aziz’s innocence again?
6. What does Mrs. Moore mean by saying, “There are different ways of evil, and I prefer mine to yours”? What is Mrs. Moore’s way of evil?
7. Why does Mrs. Moore believe Aziz is innocent? What do Heaslop and Miss Quested think of her belief?
8. Why does Heaslop suddenly want to send his mother away from India?
9. Why does Lady Mellanby offer to let her share her private cabin?
10. What is the significance of Mrs. Moore’s remark, “there are worse evils than love”?
1. Miss Quested feels that her friendship with Mrs. Moore is deep and real. No one else understands her.
2. Her distracted response to Fielding’s letter indicates that she is not able to face the question of Aziz’s guilt or innocence.
3. Mrs. Moore doesn’t rise to greet her. She seems uninterested in Adela and indifferent to her plea for friendship. Her words are ominous rather than reassuring.
4. Heaslop believes that others do not know his...
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Part II, Chapter XXIV: Questions and Answers
1. What are the ominous signs of unrest that precede the trial?
2. Why is Miss Quested sure she will get her verdict?
3. What point does Miss Quested not want to tell the truth about?
4. Why does Heaslop support Mr. Das in asking the Europeans to step down?
5. Why does Mahmoud Ali leave the court?
6. How does Heaslop react to hearing his mother turned into a Hindu goddess?
7. When McBryde states that Miss Quested entered the cave alone and then Aziz followed her in, what reply does he expect? Why does he expect this answer?
8. Why does Mr. Das insist on addressing Miss Quested himself? Is this in keeping with his previous behavior?
9. Why does Major Callendar want to stop the proceedings?
10. What is Aziz’s reaction to the verdict?
1. A stone thrown at the Turtons’ car, a group of threatening students, strikes by Sweepers, and a hunger strike by Muslim women indicate that trouble is brewing.
2. She has been surrounded by Anglo-Indians who have assured her that anything else is unthinkable.
3. She intends to tell the truth; the difficulty is that, like Aziz earlier, she is determined not to admit to the conversation they had just before entering the caves. She is embarrassed at having blundered, and now speculates that the question about marriage may have inflamed him and...
(The entire section is 384 words.)
Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Questions and Answers
1. What rumor has been circulating about Miss Quested’s recantation?
2. Why does Aziz feel that Fielding has deserted him?
3. What rumor does Mahmoud Ali start about Nureddin?
4. How does Dr. Panna Lal avert disaster?
5. What is the theme of the Nawab Bahadur’s speech? What is ironic about his change of title?
6. What are the four possibilities Fielding suggests to account for Miss Quested’s behavior? Does she seem to favor any one of them over the others?
7. What does Hamidullah mean by saying, “A great deal has been broken, more than will ever be mended”?
8. Why isn’t Hamidullah impressed by Miss Quested’s honesty in admitting her mistake?
9. Why does Heaslop at first remain outside on Fielding’s verandah?
10. Why is Fielding horrified at Amritrao’s suggestion that Miss Fielding pay 20,000 rupees in compensation?
1. The mob believes that she did not in fact recant, but was struck down by divine power for giving false testimony.
2. In aiding Miss Quested instead of remaining with his friend, Fielding seems to have gone over to the “other side.”
3. He claims that he heard Major Callendar call Nureddin a “nigger” and boast of putting pepper rather than antiseptic on his wounds.
4. He publicly asks Aziz to forgive him; then he clowns,...
(The entire section is 402 words.)
Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Aziz say that he should have become anti-British much sooner?
2. What does Fielding try to explain about Miss Quested? On what grounds does he ask Aziz to spare her from paying excess costs?
3. Why is Fielding offended by Aziz’s suggested letter of apology?
4. Why does Ronny Heaslop continue to inwardly criticize Mrs. Moore after her death?
5. Why is the letter that Fielding helps Miss Quested write a failure?
6. Why does Heaslop break off the engagement?
7. How does Miss Quested feel about her broken engagement? Why didn’t she break it herself?
8. Why does Miss Quested feel that she will be all right in England?
9. Why do both Fielding and Miss Quested feel an odd sense of dissatisfaction even while they are agreeing about various topics?
10. What does the missionary’s remark about a turn and a return mean to Adela Quested?
1. If Aziz had become anti-British sooner, he never would have invited the women to the Marabar Caves and thus never been imprisoned and tried.
2. Fielding points out that she is genuine and brave. She spoke out and said that she was wrong even though surrounded by Anglo-Indian friends. He appeals to Aziz to be merciful.
3. He says that it hurts him. Possibly, he is both hurt by the insult to Miss Quested and saddened to see his friend...
(The entire section is 401 words.)
Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Questions and Answers
1. How do Aziz and Mr. Das feel about each other during their outwardly friendly conversation?
2. Why does Aziz resolve to leave British India and to go live in a Hindu state?
3. What is the “naughty rumor” Mohammed Latif is spreading?
4. Does Hamidullah insist that his wife keep purdah, or is it her choice?
5. What is Fielding’s reaction when Aziz tells him about the rumor that Mohammed Latif is spreading?
6. Why does Aziz claim to have remembered a previous dinner engagement with Mr. Das?
7. According to Fielding, why is it difficult for Indians to write poetry?
8. Why is Aziz, who is not a mercenary man, haunted by the thought of the 20,000 rupees he did not claim from Miss Quested?
9. What is Aziz’s most extreme fantasy about Fielding and Miss Quested, the one he comes to accept as fact?
10. Why does Fielding feel a sense of disloyalty while he is appreciating the beauty of Venice?
1. Aziz wishes that Hindus did not remind him of cow-dung, while Mr. Das thinks to himself that some Muslims are very violent.
2. He wants to escape from British India and believes once outside it, he will be able to write poetry again.
3. Mohammed Latif claims to have heard that Fielding is having an affair with Miss Quested.
4. Although the Muslim women claimed that they...
(The entire section is 385 words.)
Part III, Chapter XXXIIIQuestions and Answers
1. How much time has passed since Fielding left India?
2. What is Professor Godbole’s title in Mau?
3. What is the expression on the faces of the worshippers when they see the image of Shri Krishna?
4. Why are Godbole’s musicians unperturbed by the Europeanized band?
5. Does Professor Godbole make an effort to remember Mrs. Moore for a particular reason?
6. Who is the ruler of the State of Mau? What is his role in the festival?
7. According to legend, at what time was Shri Krishna born?
8. Who are the two physicians who take care of the Rajah?
9. What games are played after the Rajah has been carried away?
10. What are Professor Godbole’s thoughts after the festival?
1. Two years.
2. He is the minister of education.
3. Their faces wear a beautiful and radiant expression, an impersonal beauty that makes them all resemble each other.
4. They are in a state beyond competition.
5. No. She simply floats into his head, along with other memories.
6. The Hindu Rajah. He must say, “I name this child Shri Krishna,” and put it into the cradle.
7. Krishna was born at midnight.
8. A Hindu physician and Dr. Aziz.
9. Children are carried around and treated like gods. Later, a large jar is hung and hit with sticks...
(The entire section is 262 words.)
Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Questions and Answers
1. Is Aziz tolerated in this Hindu state? What is the most important distinction there?
2. Why doesn’t Aziz know that Fielding has married Mrs. Moore’s daughter?
3. How has Aziz’s life changed since he left Chandrapore?
4. Who is Colonel Maggs? Why is he unable to influence the Rajah against Aziz?
5. Why does Aziz tear up Fielding’s note?
6. Why is the news of the Rajah’s death concealed?
7. Who is and who is not stung inside the Shrine of the Head?
8. What conditions at the Guest House cause Fielding to complain?
9. What reveals Aziz’s mistake about Fielding’s marriage?
10. What is Aziz’s reaction?
1. Aziz is tolerated in this Hindu state, where the greatest division is between Brahmin and non-Brahmin, the highest caste Hindus and the lower castes.
2. When the letter arrived in Chandrapore, Aziz read only the first lines, then tossed it to Mahmoud Ali to answer. Aziz tore up all of Fielding’s other letters.
3. Aziz now lives with a woman and has his children with him. He runs the small hospital himself, instead of working under an Anglo-Indian.
4. Colonel Maggs is the political agent. It seems that the British Viceroy has changed policy and the Hindu rulers are aware that the political agent no longer has much power over them.
(The entire section is 306 words.)
Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Questions and Answers
1. Why doesn’t the usual dramatic performance depicting the life of Krishna take place?
2. Why is it difficult for Aziz to understand the atmosphere that surrounds the festival?
3. Why does Aziz intend to bring the ointment back with him after treating Ralph? Why does he change his mind?
4. What is the Sweeper’s band? What is its function in the festival?
5. Who are the letters from and what do they say?
6. Why is Aziz rough with Ralph at first? When and why does his attitude change?
7. Why is Aziz puzzled by his gratitude toward Mrs. Moore?
8. What is the place that Ralph directs Aziz toward in the boat?
9. What are the “syllables of salvation” Aziz hears when the chant changes?
10. What upsets the two boats?
1. It is traditionally performed in front of the Rajah, who is dead.
2. As a Muslim, Aziz does not participate. He is also aware of the suspicion and selfishness that characterize Mau for most of the year, and does not understand how these could have been suspended.
3. Aziz changes his mind when he begins to see Ralph as Mrs. Moore’s son. He wants to give him a present in acknowledgment, and the ointment is the only one available.
4. The Sweepers are Untouchables, the lowest caste in India. This is a moment reserved for the despised and rejected....
(The entire section is 377 words.)
Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Questions and Answers
1. Why do Fielding and the others have to leave Mau so soon?
2. Why hasn’t Professor Godbole shown Fielding around the high school?
3. In what sense has Fielding’s visit been a failure? In what sense has it been a success?
4. What does Aziz say in his letter to Miss Quested?
5. Why does Fielding want Aziz to talk to Stella or to Ralph?
6. What question does Fielding ask himself when he reflects on the events surrounding the trial?
7. Why does Fielding persist in questioning Aziz about the Krishna festival?
8. What is Aziz’s visionary experience?
9. During their playful quarrel, Fielding makes fun of Aziz. What does he choose to ridicule about Aziz?
10. What is Fielding’s position now on British rule in India? What is Aziz’s position?
1. The State is officially in mourning, now that the Rajah’s death has been announced.
2. The school has been converted into a granary, and Godbole is embarrassed to admit it.
3. In terms of his official mission, the visit is a failure because he has not been able to inspect the school. In personal terms, it is a success because of the resumption of a friendship with Aziz.
4. Aziz tells her that thanks to her, he is able to live happily in Mau with his children instead of in jail.
5. Fielding knows that Ralph...
(The entire section is 386 words.)
Point of View
A Passage to India is written in the third person, with an impersonal narrative voice. This technique makes the narrative seem traditional and straightforward, especially when compared to the more obviously experimental narrative techniques that were being used at the time by such novelists as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. The narrator here is apparently omniscient, telling the reader much about India at the same time as describing the situations in which the various characters find themselves. At the same time, however, the narrative withholds a full explanation of certain events, most notably the misadventures that befall Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested at the Marabar Caves. Indeed, in recounting these details, the narrator is ambiguous rather than omniscient. A degree of ambiguity also surrounds the depiction of certain characters. Often, relatively minor characters (such as Mr. Turton, Mrs. Callendar, Mahmoud Ali, and the Nawab Bahadur) will appear in a scene without much introduction Forster seems to take their presence for granted. This technique mimics the way that people might come and go in real life. Forster also assumes that the reader will have some knowledge of the social nuances of British India.
At times, the narrative focus shifts from a depiction of external events and enters the consciousness of one character or another, almost without the reader noticing that such a shift has occurred. This...
(The entire section is 1885 words.)
Forster may have been the first (only, perhaps) novelist to treat mysterious India realistically—to uncover it, as it were—simply because he possessed a more than adequate degree of knowledge about the land and its people, and he nurtured a commitment toward what it represented. The key to understanding his technique in A Passage to India hinges on the understanding that Forster began the work after he returned from India in 1913, could (or would) not finish it, and set it aside for ten years until after he had returned from his second visit in 1922. Part of the problem, of course, may have been his preoccupation with the manuscript of Maurice, which he completed in 1913 (see separate entry), and the secondrate play, The Heart of Bosnia, which he finished in 1914. At any rate, during that interval, World War I had come and gone, and Forster, himself, had undergone significant personal experiences in India. Thus, in resuming the writing of A Passage to India, the writer does not emerge as the same Forster who, within the space of five years (1905-1910), wrote four major novels. Later, Forster would claim that in reworking and finishing A Passage to India, he would share "the desire on the part of writers—generally the most distinguished writers—to create something better than the bloodshed and the dullness which have been creeping together over the world." That statement, a fragment from a lecture delivered at Glasgow,...
(The entire section is 802 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
Although some literary critics regard A Passage to India as dated, the novel continues to present current ideas of clashes between cultures, with their attendant ethnic and racial prejudices. Further, the novel demonstrates how people of one race observe and react to other races. The discussions between Fielding and Aziz about the future of India transcend the problems of outdated colonialism and point directly to the concern about international relations at the turn of the twenty-first century—about the ability of nations to co-exist with one another and the need for major world powers to recognize the existence and the independence of underdeveloped nations. Whether, three-quarters of a century later, the Fieldings and the Azizes of the world can become friends is a contemporary topic.
1. Why, specifically, do Dr. Aziz and Professor Godbole develop an affinity for Mrs. Moore? Does that triangular relationship at all suggest the possibility for a solution to the conflict within British India? Why or why not? Does the initial meeting between Dr. Aziz and Mrs. Moore suggest a beginning, an end, or both?
2. Why is the memory of Mrs. Moore more important, more significant, than her actual presence? How is her memory related to the religious aspects of A Passage to India?
3. Discuss the mood of resentful despair that hovers over and throughout A Passage to India. How do the principal characters react to it? Which...
(The entire section is 572 words.)
There exists no doubt that one of E.M. Forster's primary concerns in A Passage to India focuses upon the realistic depiction of the social and political environments within colonial India. In so doing, he severely criticizes Anglo-Indian colonial society, maintaining strong doubts as to whether British and Indians can reconcile their wide cultural differences in temperament, social concepts, and religious viewpoints. Herein lies the tragedy of the piece, and seemingly neither group can do anything to prevent it. Prejudice and misunderstanding stand in the way of goodwill, and when such characters as Cyril Fielding and Dr. Aziz discuss the future of India, the latter declares that only when the British have been driven from the land can he and Fielding become true friends. For his part, Fielding approaches the problem on a more personal and less political level than Aziz: "he felt dubious and discontented . . . and wondered whether he was really and truly successful as a human being. After forty years' experience, he had learnt to manage his life and make the best of it on advanced European lines, and developed his personality, explored his limitations, controlled his passions—and he had done it all without becoming pedantic or worldly. A creditable achievement, but as the moment passed, he felt he ought to have been working at something else the whole time,—he didn't know at what, never would know, never could know, and that was why he felt sad." No where...
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Compare and Contrast
1910s-1920s: The British Empire stretches around the world. British-ruled territory in Asia includes present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Malaysia, and Singapore. Such present-day African countries as Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa are also part of the Empire, as are many Caribbean islands.
Today: Virtually all the former British colonies are independent nations. Many retain loose trade and cultural ties with Britain in an association called the Commonwealth of Nations. Hong Kong, one of the last remaining British crown colonies, returned to Chinese rule at midnight on June 30, 1997.
1910s-1920s: Britain is a major world power with a large industrial base and dominates international trade. Much of the raw material for Britain's manufacturers comes from India and other British colonies.
Today: Britain is a small nation with a largely service-based economy. It is a member of the European Union (formerly the European Economic Community), a close economic association of European nations. Britain trades widely with other European nations in the EU. After a period of economic change that saw the decline of traditional industries such as mining, manufacturing, and shipbuilding, Britain is now one of the most prosperous nations in Europe. Foreign-owned businesses operate successfully in Britain.
1910s-1920s: The population of Britain is comprised almost entirely...
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Glossary: Anglo-Indian Terminology
Glossary of Anglo-Indian Terminology
Anglo-Indian: An English person living in India, particularly one there for a considerable time.
Aryan Brother: Aryan originally referred to the eastern part of ancient Persia; also to the family of Indo-European languages and anyone descended from the ancient people who spoke one of them. The term “Aryan Brother” was an ironic and disparaging term Anglo-Indians applied to Indians.
babu, babuism: Originally a Hindu title of respect; among Anglo-Indians, used to refer to a native clerk or official who could write English; sometimes applied disparagingly to a Hindu with a superficial English education.
badmash: Delinquent, rogue.
bazaar: Originally, a market place consisting of ranges of shops or stalls where merchandise is offered for sale.
begum: A queen, princess, or lady of high rank in India.
bhang: Native name for a highly intoxicating Indian variety of common hemp, sometimes extended to refer to hashish.
Brahmin: Member of the highest or priestly cast.
Brahminy bull: A bull dedicated to Shiva and then set loose; a humped Indian ox.
caaba (more often Kaaba): Sacred edifice at Mecca containing the venerated “black stone,” the most sacred place in Islam.
chhatri (more often chatra): Silk umbrella like a little tent roof on a cane handle.
chit: Letter or note; order for a drink....
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Topics for Further Study
Research a specific aspect of life in British India in the early twentieth century. Possible aspects for study include, the British colonial administration; the legal system; the Hindu caste system; the Native States and their relation to British India; Hindu-Moslem relations; and the everyday lives of Anglo-Indian (British) families.
Identify some of the various ethnic groups within India. In what regions do these people live? What languages do they speak, what religions do they practice, and what are some of their customs7
Research Mohandas K. Gandhi and his philosophy of nonviolence and passive resistance. What were Gandhi's main beliefs and how did he practice them? What effect did his teachings and actions have?
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If one must, for whatever reasons, discuss the literary precedents of Forster's A Passage to India, one needs, quite frankly, to forget about India, for Forster's consideration of that land really rises above and beyond precedent. For example, there arises the immediate temptation to place A Passage to India beside the novel Kim (1901), by Forster's contemporary Rudyard Kipling (the two never met), but little will be gained from the exercise, other than the realization that both writers look at the same India through different colored glasses. Essentially, Kipling carries the flag, and Forster would have it hauled down. If not Kipling, why not Forster's closer contemporary, William Somerset Maugham, and one of that prolific writer's better productions, The Razor's Edge (1944; see separate entry)—or even one of his lesser by-products, the novel (1907) turned into play (1908), The Explorer? Within this context, Maugham will not do, simply because for him and his virtually all-male hero cast, India (or Tahiti or China or Africa or Burma or Samoa or Egypt) functions only as a backdrop against which his characters will act and talk. As an instinctive playwright, Maugham paints his scenery with bright colors, but rarely bothers to comment upon its significance. It has none.
At the same time, however, one cannot be too quick to withdraw Forster and A Passage to India from the company of Kipling and Maugham. There do...
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Although A Passage to India stands far and above Forster's earlier novels, echoes and reverberations from those works, although not always easily recognizable, do appear in the 1924 volume. A most obvious comparison can be drawn in the characters of Ruth Wilcox (Howards End, 1910; see separate entry) and Mrs. Moore. Both possess a spiritual strength that transcends the social and political problems that cloud, respectively, Howards End and Chandrapore. Both women enter their respective fictional environments with frail health that will contribute to their deaths before the novels close, yet they continue to live on. Ruth Wilcox's spirit prevails at Howards End, and Henry Wilcox attempts to keep it alive by marrying Margaret Schlegel. Adela Quested and certain of the native Indians recognize the absence of Mrs. Moore at Dr. Aziz's trial; they sense the presence of her spirit in the courtroom. In the same way, Professor Godbole, years after Mrs. Moore's death, recalls her memory and conjures forth the spirit of her Christianity and her loveliness. One could even support an argument for Adela Quested, with her physical plainness, missionary zeal, naive inquisitiveness, and penchant for error—but also with the intellectual precision to recognize weakness in others—walking on the same stage with Helen and Margaret Schlegel. Do not forget, also, that although Charles Wilcox and Ronald Heaslop march in different parades—one for the domination of business...
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Santha Rama Rau adapted A Passage to India for the stage, and that piece premiered in London on January 18, 1960, with Forster in attendance. After the performance, Forster came on stage for a short address, stating, "How good the actors were. And how pleased I was that there were so many of them. I am so used to seeing the sort of play which deals with one man and two women. They do not leave me with the feeling I have made a full theatrical meal." In its review of the play, the Times of London commented that Forster had written about the incompatibility of East and West. Forster thought that reaction to be absurd, since his focus in the novel had been upon the difficulty of living in the universe.
In 1962 the stage version came to Broadway. John Maynard produced a television version for BBC-TV in 1968, and David Lean directed the 163-minute color motion picture adaptation of the novel for Columbia Pictures in 1984—the cast including Judy Davis as Adela Quested, Alec Guiness as Professor Godbole, Victor Bannerjee as Dr. Aziz, Peggy Ashcroft as Mrs. Moore, James Fox as Cyril Fielding, Nigel Havers as Ronny Heaslop, Richard Wilson as Turton, Antonia Pemberton as Mrs. Turton, Michael Culver as McBryde, and Art Malik as Mahoud Ali. The screenplay emphasizes the legal and racial aspects of the novel, with the supposed rape of Adela as the focal point.
Charles Mauron, with Forster's help, began a French translation of A Passage...
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A Passage to India was adapted as a film by David Lean, starring Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft, James Fox, and Alec Guinness (Columbia, 1984). It was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture; Ashcroft was named Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Mrs. Moore. Available from Columbia Tristar Home Video.
A Passage to India was adapted for the stage by Santha Rama Ran, produced in London, 1960; produced on Broadway, 1962; and adapted for television by John Maynard, BBC-TV, 1968.
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What Do I Read Next?
E. M. Forster's first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, was published in 1905. Set it Italy, it concerns the tragic relations between an English family and a young Italian man.
Forster's third novel, A Room With a View (1908), is also set in Italy. It too focuses on a clash of cultures, contrasting the conventional behavior of English characters with the more spontaneous life of the Italian characters.
Considered second only to A Passage to India among Forster's novels, Howards End (1910) is a subtle study of English class distinctions and the uneasy relationship between aesthetic and materialistic outlooks on life. An Edwardian novel of manners, it is the most "English" of Forster's novels. In it, Forster coined the motto that best expresses his view of how to live a full life: "Only connect." ("Only connect the prose and passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.")
Forster expressed his ideas about the novel as a literary genre in a series of lectures that he gave at Cambridge University in 1927. These lectures were collected and published in the same year under the title Aspects of the Novel. Forster mentions particular novels by important writers and discusses the qualities that make a good novel.
Forster gave a factual account of his travels in India in a nonfiction work, The Hill of Devi, published in 1953.
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bradbury, Malcolm, ed. E. M. Forster, “A Passage to India”: A Casebook. London: Macmillan, 1970. Nineteen essays about every aspect of the novel. Particularly interesting are an interview with Forster in which he discusses his writing of A Passage to India and a selection of early reviews and reactions to his novel.
Furbank, P. N. E. M. Forster: A Life. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. Provides many details about Forster’s travels in India. Explains Forster’s struggles to write his masterpiece and how he coped with its critical and financial success.
Godfrey, Denis. E. M. Forster’s Other Kingdom. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968. Focuses on the mystical themes in the novel. Shows how Mrs. Moore—a symbol of good—influences the other characters and the plot even after her death.
Herz, Judith Scherer. “A Passage to India”: Nation and Narration. New York: Twayne, 1993. Overview of the novel with a section explaining the historical background of the British Raj. Detailed discussion of Forster’s style and use of symbolism; also addresses the problem of narrative voice.
Shahane, V. A., ed. Perspectives on E. M. Forster’s “A Passage to India”: A Collection of Critical Essays. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968. Fourteen essays...
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Parminder, Bakshi. "The Politics of Desire: E.M. Forster's Encounters with India in A Passage to India": Theory and Practice Series, edited by Tony Davies and Nigel Wood, Open University Press, 1994, pp. 23-64.
Beer, J.B. The Achievement of E.M. Forster. London: Chatto & Windus, 1962.
Beer, J.B. and G.K. Das. E.M. Forster: A Human Exploration. London: The Macmillan Press, 1979.
Bemta, Parry, "The Politics of Representation in A Passage to India," in E.M. Forster: Contemporary Critical Essays, edited by Jeremy Tambling, MacMillan (London), 1994, pp. 133-50.
Crews, F.C. E.M. Forster: The Perils of Humanism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962.
Danièlou, Alain. The Myths and Gods of India. Rochester: Inner Traditions International, Ltd., 1985. (Originally published as Hindu Polytheism. New York: The Bollingen Foundation, 1964.)
Das, G.K. “A Passage to India: A Socio-Historical Study.” In A Passage to India: Essays in Interpretation. ed. John Beer. London: The Macmillan Press, 1985.
Das, G.K. E.M. Forster’s India. London: The Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1977.
Forster, E.M. Aspects of the Novel. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1927.
— — A Passage to India. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.
McDonell, Frederick P. E.M....
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