Liberal Humanist Tradition: in A Passage To India

Also Read

      Liberal Humanism—What is it? Altruism or desire to help all without any selfish interest has been praised and advocated by all great thinkers ever since the advent of human beings and that has been the cardinal point in every religious group anywhere in the world. Cooperation and collaboration are the two main pillars on which human society can stabilize itself. Man must go far ahead of the animal kingdom if he wants to be really proud of being a man. General progress and welfare of the society, collective enterprise and humanitarian activities, all these together constitute what is generally termed liberal humanistic tradition. Forster subscribes to these views as evidenced by his writings. He never ceases to attack the manners and morals of those who are against their views. Class consciousness, regimentation, the monolithic structure of British Imperialism and its widespread machinery-all these are criticized by him in his writings. Soldiers and officials are satirized by him. He was not a blind follower of any of the denominations of the Christian religion. Many times he has made hostile comments on the activities of the clergy. Religion in its widest sense he does not object to, despite the fact that any amount of religious mysticism cannot ultimately solve human problems and miseries.

      Votary of Individual Liberty. Forster had a passionate devotion to individual liberty and therefore was firmly against Fascism and Communism. Regimentation and patty slogan mongering came under his mistrust and, therefore, vehement criticism. He considered liberalism and freedom as identical.

      Sanctity of Personal Relationships. Forster has clearly expressed his humanistic views and tendency in his collections of essays entitled Abinger Hawest (1936) and Two Cheers for Democracy (1951). A champion of the individual, he believed in and advocated enthusiastically the sanctity of personal relationships considering them even superior to patriotic feelings towards the motherland. Like Keats, he valued the holiness of the affections of the loving heart.

      Democratic Ideals and Moral Earnestness. He was not against nationalism or patriotic feelings. Love of the fatherland and pride for the cultural inheritance from ancestors should not override democratic ideals and universal brotherhood. He was dead against hero-worship however great the idol may be. "They produce a desert of uniformity around them and often a pool of blood too." He encouraged ideas of philanthropic benevolence, freedom of speech and rights of the individual. He had blood relationship with great men and women of piety, integrity, public service and benevolent activities. He might have rejected religious dogmas and unrealistic moral codes of some of the religious sects but never doubted the sincerity of those people. He wanted all people to be true to themselves and their convictions. No one should allow his own mind to come muddled.

      Humanistic Outlook and Sympathy for Indian Aspiration for Freedom. A Passage to India is a work of art, a novel meant to be read and enjoyed. It is not a political pamphlet or ethical treatise. Hence overt remarks about humanism and allied ideas need not be expected in it. But where is the author who can help project his pet ideas unconsciously in his literary work? The novel does not conceal a gentle undercurrent of liberal and humanistic views running all through it. In the tussle between imperialist diehards and freedom moving nationalists, Forster could not resist the temptation of criticizing the bureaucrats and sympathizing with the lovers of freedom. While admiring the efficiency of the Anglo-Indian officials of Chandrapore, he never hesitates to disapprove of their policies and to decry their haughtiness and arrogance, their racial aloofness and snobbery. He makes Ronny remark that it was not the duty of the English officials to be pleasant in their behavior towards the Indians. The author ridicules the indecent haste that the Collector and others evince in making arrangements for the "Trial" of Dr. Aziz on the basis of a verbal charge of a visiting English lady. The wife of the Collector remarks that every Indian should be made to crawl on the ground at the sight of an English woman. Evidently Forster might have recalled what General O'Dyer did at Jallianwalla Bagh.

      Happy Combination. Forster did want a happy personal relationship between Indians and Englishmen. It was for this purpose that he introduced the attempt at friendship by Dr. Aziz and Fielding which of course failed for various reasons. Mrs. Moore too failed although she left certain indelible impressions in the minds of Aziz and Godbole and also, probably, Miss Quested.

      Humanism of Fielding. The College Principal represents Forster in the novel. His approach to life is extremely humanistic and liberal. Rational in his views and sweetly reasonable in his argument, Fielding is completely free from racial prejudices. He is convinced of the innocence of Dr. Aziz despite Adela's accusation. Hence he stands by Aziz, even risking the displeasure of his compatriots. He has atheistic views and so does not relish Hindu mysticism and religious ceremonies. He considers himself a holy man without the holiness. In spite of his atheistic tendencies, he respects the religious beliefs of his friends. In spite of his endeavors, however, his humanistic philosophy failed to bear much fruit on the Indian soil.

      Religious Ideas. Though agnostic, Forster was considerate to the religion of his protagonist, whether Islam or Hinduism. He is sufficiently responsive to Hindu mysticism and the doctrine of Universal Love which does not exclude the animal kingdom or even inanimate objects.

Previous Post Next Post