Discuss the ways of presenting the indigenous people of India in A Passage to India.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Indigenous people in A Passage to India are presented as unable to effectively live under British rule.

Indigenous people in A Passage to India find it difficult to live under British ways of life.  Forster shows that the British control of India took away from indigenous people's ability to live free of interference.  We can see this in a couple of characters:

  • Dr. Aziz. He is presented as one who is eager to please the British, but is constantly rejected by them.  His identity is that of an Indian who wants to be accepted by the British.  After the accusation and trial, Aziz realizes that, as an Indian, he will never be accepted by the British.
  • The Nawab Bahadur. He does favors for the English, and is forced to live a life on their terms. When Aziz is tried, he is unable to continue this and rejects the ideas of seeking to please the British.
  • Mahmoud Ali/Hamidullah. Indians who are against the British. They are indigenous people who recognize that a choice must be made:  India or the British.
  • Professor Godbole. A professor of Hindu studies whose spirituality is not compatible with the British way of thinking.  In a world of people believing in only one path, Professor Godbole's spirituality is complex and contains multiple layers to it.

In these instances, indigenous people are shown as being "different" than what the British expected when they settled in India.  Indigenous people like these are presented as struggling to find happiness under British rule.  They are shown to be "outsiders" to the British, who are "insiders" because they hold the power in India. Forster presents indigenous people in this manner to make a statement.  He wishes to say that colonial control of India cannot be permanent if so many indigenous people are unable to find a way to effectively live their lives.

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