A Passage to India

by E. M. Forster
Start Free Trial

How is Mr. Turton depicted in A Passage to India, and what is his significance in the novel?

Mr. Turton is depicted as a staunch upholder of the Raj, the British rule of India. At the same time, he's presented as someone who does things by the book and strives to ensure that his subordinates do not persecute the indigenous population. His significance in the novel is that he symbolizes the civilized façade with which the British have cloaked their empire.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Passage to India, Mr. Turton is the head of the British civil administration in Chandrapore. He's generally regarded as being a very efficient and hard-working official, a man completely dedicated to his work.

What makes Turton especially effective in his role is that he is a firm believer in the imperial project. Many of his fellow colonial civil servants may be completely cynical about the Raj, the British rule of India, but not Turton. He's a true believer, convinced that Britain is engaged in a noble civilizing mission on the Indian subcontinent.

At the same time, Mr. Turton is also keen to make sure that everything is done by the book. This means, among other things, ensuring that his subordinates don't persecute the indigenous population. Turton may share the prejudice of his fellow countrymen that Indians are intellectually and racially inferior, but that doesn't mean that he's prepared to authorize acts of barbarism against them.

To a considerable extent, Mr. Turton acts as a symbol of British rule in India. Beneath the civilized veneer, beneath the avowed aim of bringing the benefits of Western civilization to the poor, benighted natives, there beats a heart full to the brim with racial prejudice.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team