A Passage to India Questions and Answers
by E. M. Forster

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Which three parts of A Passage to India serve to create an aesthetic unity?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The tripartite structure of the novel mirrors the rising/falling pattern of events. Initially, in the first section—"Mosque"—everything seems benign. Although there are enormous cultural differences between the native Indians and their British colonial overlords, the two groups seem to rub along quite well under the circumstances. The emphasis in this section of the book is on educated Muslim gentlemen such as Aziz, men who represent the values of mutual tolerance and respect.

The tone shifts noticeably in the next section, "The Caves," as indeed does the weather. The onset of the intense summer heat brings to the boil the many unresolved tensions between the indigenous people and the British colonialists. Violence and chaos reign in this section of the book, threatening to destroy the delicate foundations of civilized life.

Some measure of order is restored, however, in the book's final section, "The Temple." Here, the world-renouncing values of Hinduism—as symbolized by the temple—reassert themselves once more, heralded by the welcome arrival of the rainy season, which breathes new life into a land scarred by ugliness and hate during the boiling hot summer.

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The tripartite structure of A Passage to India accomplishes a number of objectives that unify the novel. Each of the three sections functions in at least four ways:

The first division, "Mosque," is set in the spring (cool weather) and focuses primarily on the Muslim characters. The atmosphere is calm with an emphasis on reason. Consider the conversation among Aziz and his friends at the dinner party.

Part II, "Caves," takes place in the heat of summer, and emotions are high. Behavior is irrational as the British make bizarre accusations against Aziz.

In the third section, "Temple," the focus is on rebirth and rejuvenation in the rainy fall season as the Hindus celebrate love and the birth of Krishna. Conflict is mostly resolved.

Forster covers three seasons with different kinds of weather, the three main groups in India at the time, and three kinds of behavior with the structure of his novel. This approach provides a unified balance to his treatment of setting, characters, and ideas.

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