A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

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Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

When A Passage to India was published in 1924, E.M. Forster was already a well-known and highly respected novelist. However, he had not published a novel for fourteen years (Howards End, 1910, was his previous book). Upon its publication, A Passage to India was reviewed widely in British newspapers and literary journals, as well as in American magazines. Most of these early reviews were very favorable and helped to ensure the book's success.

Among the first reviewers of A Passage to India in Britain and America were the English novelists Rose Macaulay (Daily News, June 4, 1924) and L.P. Hartley (The Spectator, June 28, 1924); the British writer and publisher Leonard Woolf (The Nation and Atheneum, June 14, 1924); and the Scottish poet Edwin Muir (The Nation, October 8, 1924). All of these reviews were positive; in fact, these writers believed that A Passage to India was the best novel that Forster had written. A review in the London Times Literary Supplement concluded that Forster "portrays the super-sensitiveness, the impulsiveness, the charm and the weakness, of Mohammedan and Hindu India, in order to emphasize the honesty, the arrogance...and the moral tremors of the governing caste." In the United States, Robert Morss Lovett wrote a favorable review in The New Republic (August 16, 1924). However, E.A. Home in The New Statesman in London criticized Forster for his unsympathetic portrayal of the book's Anglo-Indian (British) characters and pointed out some inaccuracies in Forster's depiction of India.

Two of Forster's distinguished contemporaries expressed differing views of A Passage to India in personal remarks. The celebrated military hero T.E. Lawrence—Lawrence of Arabia—told Forster that A Passage to India was "universal- the bitter hopeless picture a cloud might have painted, of man in India." However, the novelist D.H. Lawrence (no relation to T.E. Lawrence) commented that the book was filled with "people, people, and nothing but people."

In the decades since its publication, A Passage to India has continued to receive close and respectful attention from many distinguished scholars...

(The entire section is 503 words.)