Forster's Philosophy of Life: in A Passage To India

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Forster's Humanitarianism

      Forster's earlier writings reveal that he had a very strong faith in humanitarianism. He has kept aloft the humanitarian ideal and has strongly denounced conventionality and orthodoxy. But this humanitarian feeling has shown a declining trend with the passage of time. In A Passage to India Forster seems to have lost his faith in human relations as sole remedy against human ills. His love for human beings is shaken though not lost. His love has become thinner with a tinge of good-humored distrust. We shall have to make a study of Fielding in this connection. Fielding was a sensible and good-natured man with a clear understanding of all the fundamental things of life. But he lacked in emotion or intimacy with other human beings. His affection for Aziz, though important, failed to remove the strain of misunderstanding between them. As regards Adela, he understood her, even respected her but did not sympathize with her, nor did he show affection for her. He called her a prig and did not consider her fit for marriage. Here he appears to be cynical or unduly proud. As a matter of fact, he looked upon human beings against a background of an immense void representing the past and the future, and as a consequence, life was reduced to insignificance. It may mean that goodness and kindness have limits. It points out the essential loneliness and isolation of the individual soul.

Life Complex

      The philosophy of life conveyed in A Passage to India is prosaic. Forster believed in no short-cuts. Life appeared to be complex and difficult. To cope with the problems of life, reason and sensibility were required.

No Friendship between the Exploiters and the Exploited

      The Englishmen ruled over India and considered themselves belonging to the superior race. They were successful in their mission and so they thought to take up the task of civilizing the black men. The British officials who had come to India were products of the public schools. They had come to India with developed physiques and mind but with undeveloped hearts. This undeveloped heart was responsible for all the arrogance and bigotry showed by the Anglo-Indians. In spite of the best efforts by Fielding, friendship between the masters and the slaves could not last for long. Friendship demanded equality which was absent in this case. Aziz realized this fact and told Fielding plainly that there could be no friendship between them as long as Fielding belonged to the ruling race.

Nationalism Versus Imperialism

      The arrogant attitude of the Imperialists towards their subjects was bound to produce nationalism. Aziz realizing that slavery was another name for humiliation and misery, turned into a staunch nationalist He abandoned British India and went to live in a Hindu state. He wanted to kick out each and every Britisher. He was quite hopeful that even if the present generation failed, the next generation would surely succeed in driving out the Britishers.

Sincerity and Goodness

      Sincerity and goodness reach the hearts. Mrs. Moore’s sincerity and goodness reached the heart of Aziz. Even after her death she went on influencing Aziz. Aziz forgave Adela and withdrew his claim for compensation of twenty thousand rupees when he was reminded that Mrs. Moore would have disapproved of it. He became a friend of Ralph Moore when the latter revealed his oriental mind to him in the course of a conversation.

Evil Triumphs but Temporarily

      The evil that was present in the world of A Passage to India was causing disaster and misery. All, at one stage or the other, had to experience suffering. But tribulations and sufferings cannot become a permanent feature. The dark forces appeared to be conquered, but actually this was not the reality. Dark night must be succeeded by a bright day. It was the good force of life that triumphed ultimately. In the third part of the novel, love triumphed and the dark echoes of the Marabar Caves were drowned. Reconciliation was also not permanent. In this changing world, nothing could be permanent or unchanging.

Religion No Answer to Human Problems

      Religion provides no answer to the hard problems of life. Islam may talk of friendship and peace but it cannot solve all the problems faced by a man Similarly, Christianity may talk much but it also does not give the right answer Hinduism for its message of universal love and all - inclusiveness may give hope but it also fails to solve all the problems. The inconclusiveness of the novel also suggests a point of view. A Passage to India concludes happily but without any solution. Old friends, Fielding and Aziz met again after a long time. They cleared the misunderstandings and were prepared for a new relationship. Aziz, however, discovered suddenly that their old friendship could not survive. Clearance of misunderstandings which may lead to revival of old friendship, conversely leads to its end. Aziz and Ralph Moore became friends but that friendship will also not prove lifelong. Does this life lead to anything? This question has been puzzling the scholars, the saints and the mystics. Does it lead no where?

      No modern English writer — not even those whose creative gifts and energies greatly surpass Forster's — has made these problems any clearer than Forster. And it may be argued that the intelligence of this kind poses problems, rather, than solves them. His insight and honesty has given him the right to use the answer that Ibsen once gave to his critics — "It is not my business to give you the right answers. My business is to ask you the right questions."


What is Forster's philosophy of life in A Passage to India?

Is Forster's philosophy of life akin to the Hindu philosophy of life? Comment in the light of your reading of A Passage to India.

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