The Clash of Cultures and Races in "A Passage to India"

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The clash of cultures and races in "A Passage to India"

A Passage to India, published in 1924, was E. M. Forster's first novel in fourteen years, and the last novel he wrote. Forster began writing A Passage to India in 1913, just after his first visit to India. The novel was not revised and completed, until the end of his second stay in India, in 1921, when he served as secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas State Senior. Novel examines the racial misunderstandings and cultural hypocrisies that characterized the complex interactions between Indians and the English toward the end of the British occupation of India. It is also about the necessity of friendship, and about the difficulty of establishing friendship across cultural boundaries. On a more symbolic level, the novel also addresses questions of faith, in a social and religious conventions.

The story begins when Two englishwomen, the young Miss Adela Quested and the elderly Mrs. Moore, travel to India. Adela expects to become engaged to Mrs. Moore’s son, Ronny, a British magistrate in the Indian city of Chandrapore. Adela and Mrs. Moore each hope to see the real India during their visit, rather than cultural institutions imported by the British. At the same time, Aziz, a young Muslim doctor in India, is increasingly frustrated by the poor treatment he receives at the hands of the English. In the opening scene, Dr. Aziz is involved in a discussion about whether or not it is possible for an Indian to be friends with an Englishman. The conversation is interrupted by a message from the Civil Surgeon, Major Callendar, who requests Dr. Aziz's immediate assistance. When he arrived at place he was told that the Civil Surgeon is out. On his way back home, Aziz stops in a mosque to rest and meets Mrs. Moore. He is delighted by her kind behavior and accompanies her back to the Chandrapore Club. Aziz is moved and surprised that an English person would treat him like a friend.

The Collector, Mr. Turton, makes plans to throw a Bridge Party — a party to bridge the gulf between East and West. But the event is not a great success and Adela thinks her countrymen mad for inviting guests and then not receiving them amiably. At the event, Adela meets Cyril Fielding, the principal of the government college in Chandrapore. Fielding, impressed with Adela’s open friendliness to the Indians, invites her and Mrs. Moore to tea with him and the Hindu professor Godbole. At Adela’s request, Fielding invites Aziz to tea as well. At the tea, Aziz and Fielding immediately become friendly, and the afternoon is pleasant until Ronny Heaslop arrives and interrupts the party. Later that evening, Adela tells Ronny that she has decided not to marry him. But that night, the two are in a car accident together, and the excitement of the event causes Adela to change her mind about the marriage. Not long afterward, Dr. Aziz invites Adela and Mrs. Moore to visit the nearby Marabar Caves. An elephant transports the party into the hills and a picnic breakfast awaits Aziz's guests when they reach their goal near the caves. However, things begin to change when they visit the first cave. Mrs. Moore nearly faints when she feels herself crammed in the dark and loses sight of Adela and Dr. Aziz. She feels something strike her face and hears a terrifying echo. The echo lingers in Mrs. Moore's mind and begins "in some indescribable way to undermine her hold on life." She suddenly realizes that she no longer wants to communicate with her children, Aziz, God, or anyone else and sinks into a state of apathy and cynicism.

Meanwhile, Aziz and Adela are en route to visit more of the caves. Adela, suddenly realizing that she does not love Ronny, asks Aziz whether he has more than one wife—a question he considers offensive. Aziz storms off into a cave, and when he returns, Adela is gone.

Thinking that she has merely gone off to meet Ronny, Aziz returns to the camp and learns that Adela has unexpectedly driven away. The...
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