Characterisation of The Novel A Passage To India

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      There are a couple of memorable characters in E.M. Forster's A Passage to India. All the important characters, but with the exception of Miss Adela Quested, exist in the novel in his or her own right. Miss Adela began promisingly but once the trial was over she began to fade out gradually. Her role seems to be simply to introduce the tension between the ruling British class and their subjects, the Indians. It was due to her accusation of Dr. Aziz that the tension was generated and the relationship of Fielding and Aziz was strained. Once the purpose had been served, she was quietly dropped by the author. But the same cannot be said of some of the other memorable characters who occupy an important place in the novel.

Dr. Aziz

      Dr. Aziz did not turn out to be a very convincing character. He was a young Muslim Doctor who worked in an English Hospital. He had a leisurely attitude towards life and yet he took Islam very seriously and wrote verses about it. But not a single line of his verse has been given to us throughout the book. This obviously seems to be inconsistent. Though Dr. Aziz is portrayed as an advanced English educated Muslim who is quite critical (though not always consistently) of the "Purdah" and some of the other traditional practices and customs, he is at heart a narrow minded and bigoted person.

Miss Adela Quested

      Though she is the least spectacular, Miss Adela Quested is one of the most convincing among all the characters in the novel. She was a young woman but a sexless prig who apparently had a scientific bent of mind. In Ronny Heaslop she had a matter of fact lover. It was hard to imagine her as a mother. It seemed there was something unnatural about her. She was more of a man than a woman. All her pretensions towards intellectuality, and goodwill towards the Indians was revealed when she accused Dr. Aziz of attempting to rape her when actually nothing of the sort had happened. She was mentally and physically so weak that the mysteriousness of the Marabar Caves overwhelmed her and led her to accuse Dr, Aziz falsely.


      Fielding is one of E.M. Forster's most successful character creations as also one of the most unexpected. In certain ways he is the author's mouthpiece in expressing a number of views on controversial subjects. He is an agnostic and a liberal, as also a cynic in respect to sexual morality, with a strong belief, however, in the value of the individual. On the whole his character is convincing but we are surprised to learn of his marriage to Stella, for it comes so suddenly and we never expected it. All along we have taken Fielding to be a complete cynic, especially with regard to marriage and when we come to know that he had married a girl of the temperament of Stella, we are shocked and disappointed in him. However, Fielding's character becomes consistent again later on when he says that he does not understand what his wife is craving for.

Mrs. Moore

      Mrs. Moore is perhaps one of the most memorable creations of E.M. Forster. She is gracious and very understanding. She had a genuine interest in the Indians and honestly wanted to understand them. Though she too was overawed by the Marabar Caves like Miss Adela Quested, she was quick to recover. So impressive and determined a lady she was that she compelled her fellow countrymen in India to invite the Indians to a tea party. When she first came to India and entered a Mosque, she was shouted at by Dr. Aziz to take off her shoes when actually she had already done so. But this grand lady did not take offence at this rude behavior. She understood that it was natural for a Muslim to warn a stranger and a foreigner of the customs of the place. In the end, she left such an impression upon Dr. Aziz that even after her death she was able to influence him. The Doctor did not take compensation from Miss Adela Quested only when he was reminded by Fielding that had Mrs. Moore been living, she would not have liked it.


      Godbole, the Hindu Professor, is presented to us as if he were a mystery or a puzzle. In fact, he is a flat character and a mouthpiece of the author to express his inadequate views on Hindu philosophy. His portrait is not free from ambiguity and equivocation. It is not clear whether the presentation of the Professor is simple and straightforward or whether he is ruthlessly satirized and exposed. As a matter of fact, the modern critics regard Prof. Godbole to be a clown.

Ronny, Turton, Callendar and McBryde

      On his first appearance Ronny is convincing but later on he loses his form and gradually fades away. Turton, the Collector, is not painted in a very bad light but Major Callendar and the Superintendent McBryde do not appear in a very favorable light. In fact, these two are more of caricatures or types than portraits.

Characterization is Individualised, Convincing and Spectacular

      Forster has very deftly combined the individual and characteristics in almost all the characters in A Passage to India so much so that even the minor characters have an exquisite sense of completeness. He is more of a psychologist than a portrait painter. The effect of environment on his characters is specially marked in his novels. He is aware that the atmosphere often distorts human relationships and makes people behave wildly and foolishly, who under normal circumstances would be more balanced and restrained. The characters like Callendars and Turtons and Ronny Heaslop have been so long in India that they have been completely transformed into what may be called "sun-dried bureaucrats". A few year's stay in India had made Ronny think poorly of the Indians and the constant reminder of his former self by the association of his mother and Miss Adela irritated him. He had forgotten his British manners and behaved in an unpardonable way to Aziz and Godbole at Fielding's tea party which, of course, scandalized the two freshly arrived ladies from England.


      Thus, we see that the characterization in A Passage to India is very intricate and subtle and related to the development of the plot. The charm of the novel comes from the subtle interplay of the emotions and idiosyncrasies of the various characters. The tension generated by the clash of the characters keeps our interest from waning.

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