Analysis of a Passage to India by Forster

Topics: India, Christianity, England Pages: 6 (1933 words) Published: August 12, 2012
Forster's novel A Passage to India portrays a colonial India under British rule, before its liberation. For convenience's sake, Western civilization has created an Other as counterpart to itself, and a set of characteristics to go with it. An "us versus them" attitude is exemplified in Forster's representation of The Other. Separation of the British and the Indian exists along cultural lines, specifically religious/spiritual differences. Savage or ungodly cultures were to be assimilated into or at the least governed by Christians, and converted. The separation between the English and the Indian occurs when the Christian assumes the Indians are an ungodly people, in need of spiritual salvation, a race below their own, and entirely unlike them. This was demonstrated historically by the dominance of supposedly inferior races by the Christians (English). Forster's Indians have a seemingly rugged outward appearance. They are a godless people insomuchas they do not believe in the Christian GOD, even though there are two religions, Hinduism and Muslimism, which thrive in India. This division of India's religions, as opposed to England's presumably unifying religion, separates England from India even moreso. Because the Indians do not believe in the Christian GOD, they are unrecognized as spiritual. Religion shapes, if not embodies characterization. The British are British because of their religion, i.e. Ronny Heaslop is who he is because he is a white Christian British male. How he is outwardly polished is a construct of his Christian upbringing. Ronny "approved of religion as long as it endorsed the National Anthem [of England]." (p. 65) His purpose, as was the purpose of English colonialists, was constructed by his Christian beliefs. If Ronny were not English (and for this paper's purposes, English is specifically and continually linked with Christianity) he would not exist as a character. He is almost a caricature of what is English, and is represented wholly by the standards and beliefs of that culture. In contrast, Aziz would not exists if he were not Indian, representing wholly the standards and beliefs of that culture. Forster implies that the division, the Other, is what makes an individual who they are. Spirituality is integral to that existence.

The Indian people are further represented in the English's eyes by the description of India itself. The city, presumably a mark of civilization, is a rotting, festering thing that no English colonialist would consider urbane;

... the city of Chandrapore represents nothing extraordinary. Edged rather than washed by the river Ganges, it trails for a couple of miles along the bank, scarcely distinguishable from the rubbish it deposits so freely... The streets are mean, the temples ineffective, and though a few fine houses exist they are hidden away in gardens or down alleys whose filth deters all by the invited guest. Chandrapore was never large or beautiful... nor was it ever democratic. The very wood seems made of mud, the inhabitants of mud moving... Houses do fall, people are drowned and left rotting... (p. 29)

Chandrapore is implicitly compared to London, who sits on the Themes (not the Ganges) and thrives, not "rots". The people of Chandrapore are made to seem a part of the city's structure. They are "mud moving". In essence, the people are the city, or conversely and for this paper's purpose, the city is the people. If London is civilization (beautiful and structured), then its inhabitants are the same. Chandrapore is ugly and chaotic. India is outwardly offensive and unpolished, visibly unspiritual and crude. The only part of India that is supposedly worthwhile, or "extraordinary" (p. 29) (according to the English) are the Marabar Caves. India itself is linked directly to Indian spirituality. This is seen in Aziz's attitude towards his country and his faith;

Here was Islam his own country, more than a faith, more than a battle-cry, more, much more......
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