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A Passage to India

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Introduction

"East is east and West is west, and never the twain shall meet." The British poet Rudyard Kipling who was born in India in 1865 and lived there for several years as an adult, once wrote. This quote was written long before E.M Forester wrote the novel "A Passage to India" in 1924, but gives the understanding of the general theme of the novel. That the people of the east and west cultures will never be able to be one in unison or have an understanding for the other culture, nation and people. The novel "A Passage to India" explores the relations of two cultures people: the Indians and the English. "A Passage to India", begins and ends with a question - Can the English and Indian races be friends? and, at the end of the novel, the answer is evident, "No, not yet". The novel follows a doctor by the name of Dr. Aziz and the consequences he endures when he attempts to be decent to the English, his subsequent arrest, trial and final anti-English sentiments, is mainly constructed around this question. Throughout the novel the barriers to inter-racial friendship in a colonial context are explored, and personally experienced by Mr. Fielding and Aziz. The author Edward Morgan Forster's clearly emphasizes the monarchy of the personal and the individual, rather than the social and political relations. A slogan that was first used and coined in the 1960's can be used to create an understanding of this novel that "the personal is political, the political is personal". After reading the novel this slogan can be seen to apply perfectly for the novel as Aziz learns that politics and friendship do not intermingle between the native Indians and imperialist, colonist English. Throughout the novel A Passage to India we see a great culture clash between the Indians and English. The Indians have resentful feelings toward the British as they are in political and social power. The Indians are being looked down upon and reprimanded in their own homeland. The cause for this critical cultural clash can be seen as prejudgements /misconceptions between the cultures, the character and way that the English women portray themselves and the misinterpretation of language and communication. This leads to the tension and hostility felt throughout the novel, but even more so at the end of the novel.

Argument #1

In the novel A Passage to India we see Forester demonstrate many instances of misconceptions. The misconception is based on assumptions, preconceptions and racial prejudice. The English have been in power since the late 1800's and since then have formed strong racial/cultural prejudice, preconceptions and assumptions without getting to know the Indian culture firsthand and the same can be said about the Indians harboring misconceptions of the English. This is specifically shown when Dr. Aziz meets the British characters in the novel that will end up being very close, yet controversial friends. Upon his encountering Mrs. Moore at the Mosque, he sees a British woman and right away develops a series of misconceptions about her. He believes that she is like all other British women and do not respect the holy place of worship for Muslims.

'Madam, this is a mosque, you have no right here at all; you should have taken off your shoes; this is a holy place for Moslems.'

'I have taken them off.'

'You have?'

'I left them at the entrance.'

'Then I ask your pardon. I am truly sorry for speaking.'

'Yes, I was right, was I not? If I remove my shoes, I am allowed?'

'Of course, but so few ladies take the trouble, especially if thinking no one is there to see' (Forester 1924,18).

What Aziz finds is the unexpected fact that she is like Aziz in many ways, or as he describes her, "Oriental" (21). Dr. Aziz made the assumption that she was like all other "British women" that had the lack of respect for India's cultures and religion. This brings about tension throughout the play as Aziz has jus committed the act of generalizing a race. He believed that because Mrs. Moore was a British she would not have taken her shoes off. This may have very well offended the British Mrs. Moore. Forester in this scene shows us that not only are the English always bad and have prejudice but he shows us that the Indians also carry this quality. As a symbol of what is good in Western culture, Mrs. Moore explains nicely that she did in fact take her shoes off. Aziz senses the sincerity in her voice and apologizes at once. They speak for sometime and Dr. Aziz senses Mrs. Moore's effort to get to know him and his culture. From the beginning of this novel, Mrs. Moore demonstrates her sincerity to learning about the culture of India and she continues to express this fashion in her next encounter in the story. Yet shortly after seeing this side of the British woman, he again breaks his connection with her when she speaks of her son:

'And why ever do you come to Chandrapore?'

'To visit my son. He is the City Magistrate here.'

'Oh no, excuse me, that is quite impossible. Our City Magistrate's name is Mr. Heaslop. I know him intimately.'

'He's my son all the same,' she said smiling, (Forester 1924, 19).

It does not occur to Aziz that Mrs. Moore's son may be part of the Indian race. It is something that is not understandable at first. Ronny Heaslop is Anglo-Indian and has adapted to the country although he despises the Indian people their culture and thinks of them as lowly. He believes that he is saving the Indians from plight. Although Ronny Heaslop is a very selfish Anglo-Indian it does not occur to Aziz that a British women son could be Anglo-Indian. Once again we see Aziz's ignorance toward the English culture. This as well creates tension although Aziz is one of the friendliest and open to the Anglo-Indians he still has negative feelings about them. He has created this prejudgment that all because Mrs. Moore is a British it is impossible that she is visiting her son who is an Anglo-Indian. Because Aziz had preconceived ideas it was astonishing to him that Mrs. Moore was visiting not to see India but to visit a son who lived there.

"Forester uses chapter 2 and 3 to contrast Indian and English customs, attitudes and

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