November 25th, 2013
Racism in A Passage To India
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster is a novel published in 1924, a time when India had not yet won its independence from the British. Forster had visited India during this time, so a lot of the setting comes from firsthand experience, although he does make up the setting of the caves as well as the town names. During the time that this book was published, racism was a major problem in India and it is a major problem in the novel. India at this time was occupied by the British, and the natives there were treated terribly by the British men and women. The British men tended to be more professional, as some of them had worked with the Indians and knew enough about them to be professional with them. However, the women were terrible to them, as their only experience with Indians were when they were ordering their Indian servants around. For the British, the gender differences were much more pronounced than they were for the Indians. In British society in India, women were seen as the weaker and more delicate sex. Englishmen in India felt as if the Englishwomen there needed to be protected from the “Orientals”. For India, the women were treated more equally there, which was a type of culture shock for the British. In this novel, the racism is revealed right from the beginning, and leads to a trial that should not have been necessary, threatens friendships, and is even shown from the narrator’s point of view. In the nineteenth century, the British East India Company was one of the first huge businesses dealing with trades from country to country. This company slowly came into India, making relationships with the businesses and people there. They gave the Indians money to make tea, something that could be done best in India. They also built railroads to get the tea to the ports on the coast. This helped them have a lot of control over the economy there. They paid the Indians as little as possible, so soon the only occupations many Indians had was growing tea, and barely enough money to survive. They also had armed ships though, to fight off pirates and robbers. Soon they didn’t have the best intentions, and they were using these ships to attack other ships and steal their cargo. They also started taking over all these relationships in India, coming to rule over trading in the country. Not long after that they were ruling over the military and administration there, which is how British Imperialism came to India. By the time Forster made his way into India, English government officials ruled over sections of India, and then they reported back to Parliament. All of the English living in India tended to be very prejudiced towards the Indians, calling them natives, and dismissing them as less intelligent people who could not possibly be on the same level.
Author Edward Morgan Forster was born in January 1879, in London. He attended King’s College, and following his graduation he traveled all throughout Europe. Some of the countries he visited included Egypt, Germany, and India. His experiences in India definitely lay the framework for his future book. As many authors do, he uses a lot of real places in the setting of this story, although he does make up the Marabar Caves. Another inspiration for A Passage To India would probably be the young Indian Muslim he tutored, starting in 1906. It can be assumed that the relationship of Fielding and Aziz echoed the relationship of Forster and this young Indian. While in India Forster met a lot of Indians and Englishmen. He realized that he enjoyed spending time with the Indians much more than his time with the Englishmen, and he had a lot of problems with the racism that was caused by all of the misunderstandings between the two groups. Forster, a homosexual when a time where this was very unacceptable, definitely became sympathetic to the Indians. Homosexuality was not accepted in this time period, so...
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