Plot Construction: of The Novel A Passage To India

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      "A novel is based on a story which is a narrative of events arranged in time sequence", so, says Forster in his book, Aspects of the Novel.

      There should be some suspense in the story to prepare the reader to move on with the movement of the story. A reader must be always asking the question, "what next"? It is this question that keeps his interest in the story alive till the end. If this question disappears, along with it the reader loses his interest and throws away the book never to read it again.

      Dr. Bhupal Singh says; "The plot of A Passage To India is simple". This statement must not be taken at its face value that the novel has no mystery. It merely means that it is easy to understand the novel. The novel tells a good mystery-story. The central part of the story - the Marabar Caves - is both a muddle and a mystery leading to unforeseen developments.

Main Plot

      Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested came to Chandrapore to meet Ronny Heaslop and to see India. Both the ladies found that neither the Anglo Indian officials nor the servants of the Anglo-Indians represented India. They wanted to explore the real India. Mrs. Moore soon formed friendship with a Moslem doctor, Aziz, assistant to the Civil Surgeon, Major Calendar. Aziz was a cultured and sensitive soul. He invited both the ladies along with Fielding and Godbole to a picnic at the Marabar Caves. Miss Adela Quested accused Aziz of criminal assault. Dr. Aziz was arrested. It was not clear what actually happened. But the author made it plain that Dr. Aziz was innocent. The incident roused the bitterest of racial feelings. The supposed assault was taken by the Anglo-Indians as a big challenge to their honor. Fielding and Mrs. Moore were the only sane Englishmen who were open to reason. The trial took place under a Hindu magistrate. Miss Adela Quested heroically, and to the chagrin of her community, admitted that probably she had made a mistake. Aziz was acquitted. Adela Quested was deserted by her community, displayed the worst passions in the heat of the moment; no less unseemly was the behavior of the Indians who welcomed the decision as their personal victory. Aziz left the government service, became anti-British and went to the service of a Hindu King and concluded that no friendship could be lasting between the Englishmen and the Indians. This is the gist of the plot.

      The first two sections are packed with action. The author has paid sufficient attention to the weaving of the plot. There is an artistic concentration on action. A series of connected events and incidents are well-knit to form a well constructed plot. The story unfolds with the romantic and the realistic touches, interspersed with moral seriousness which takes the form of direct philosophical comments. This does not obstruct the flow of the narrative, rather gives an impression that there is something larger than life. The object of the writer is not only to entertain the readers but is also to make them think. The blend of social comedy and moral seriousness makes it more than a story

Climax and Denouement

      The story is divided into three parts. Mosque, Caves and Temple. These parts may be unequal in length but not in importance. The first section which is introductory is well connected with the second, leading to a climax and the second is well connected with the third leading to denouement.

Importance of the Third Part

      The story appears to be ending in the second section after Aziz's trial and Adela's return to England. The third section may look like an unnecessary addition. But Forster himself remarked, that it was architecturally necessary. "I needed a lump, or a Hindu Temple if you like a mountain standing up. It is well placed and it gathers up some strings". But there ought to be more after it. "The lump, sticks out a little too much" If it is recollected that Forster's objective is not merely to tell a story but to drive home a lesson, the last section (Temple) would not seem to be superfluous. It is this last section that completes the circle and preaches a moral that love in the form of Shri Krishna is the only hope of unity. Without the third part, the story would have been complete but not the purpose of the novel.

Unity of Design

      The three parts are to be accepted as a part or the same design. The first part 'Mosque' gives the background, unfolding the plot and introducing the characters. The background is of India under the British yoke. The relations between the rulers and the ruled are based on mutual suspicion and mistrust. Aziz and Mahmoud Ali feel that they are purposely insulted by the British officials daily on one pretext or the other. Mr. and Mrs. Turton, Mr. and Mrs. McBryde, Ronny Heaslop and Miss Derek constitute a group typical of the Anglo-Indian community; Aziz, Hamidullah, Mahmoud Ali, Godbole and Nawab Bahadur form the other group representing the Indians. Between these opposing groups stand a third group, of Fielding, Adela and Lady Moore. The third group, because of its foreign outlook and background produces all the complications in the plot. Mrs. Moore and Miss Adela Quested antagonized the Anglo-Indian community through their sympathetic and open mixing with the Indians. They violated the most accepted rule of the official community that Indians were always and at all costs to be kept at a safe distance. This attitude leads to complications in the plot.

      Mrs. Moore and Aziz met at a mosque and came closer. Adela met many Indians at the Bridge Party. Fielding invited both the ladies to his house at a party where Indians were also to be invited. It was there that a picnic to the Marabar Caves was planned. Ronny Heaslop introduced bitterness at Fielding's and drove away with both the ladies on the pretext of watching a polo match. From here begins the conflict between Ronny and Adela Quested. The engagement was broken and revived after an incident in the Nawab Sahib's car.

      To test the strength of relationship between the Indians and the Englishmen, an expedition to the Marabar Caves was arranged. Dr. Aziz, Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, Prof Godbole and Fielding were to attend it. Godbole and Fielding miss the train. Aziz, Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested made the trip that became the cause of the big trouble. Mrs. Moore could not stand the stench of the cave. The echo in the very first cave 'Bourn' terrified her. She never thereafter recovered from the shock till her death on the sea. Aziz was arrested. Fielding stood by his friend to the annoyance of his community. Adela withdrew the charge as she was not sure what actually happened. Aziz was set free. Adela's engagement with Ronny was broken and she left for England. The experiment at the Mosque met a dismal failure in a cave. Aziz became staunchly anti-English.

Purposeful

      The story seems to come to an end here. It is, however, continued or in the words of some critics, dragged on forcibly in the third part called Temple’ to give purposeful finale to the whole design. Godbole, Aziz and Fielding were brought together again in the Hindu State of Mau. Godbole was the Minister of Education. Fielding was the Inspector of Schools in British India. Dr. Aziz was the head of the health services of the State. Fielding had married Stella, Mrs. Moore's daughter, who, like her mother, was inclined towards Hindu philosophy. Though almost all misunderstandings between Fielding and Aziz were sought to be removed, yet the big question of racialism still persisted. Dr. Aziz, who spoke for Forster stated plainly that no true friendship between the Indians and the Englishmen could be lasting, as long as the Englishmen were the masters. The only solution was to end the British Raj. Aziz and Fielding separated symbolically.

      Though the story ends in the second section, yet the problem of human relationship is not solved. Mosque held the promise; Caves showed failure of the attempt to connect the East and the West because it was prompted by the head and not the heart; the Temple symbolizes reconciliation through love. It draws Godbole, Aziz, Fielding, Stella and Ralph together. The union was temporary but it suggested the way of union through universal love. It could not be achieved quickly. Aziz and Fielding separate symbolically. Forster himself stated that the third part, 'Temple', was architecturally necessary. He also admitted that there ought to be more after it.

Compactness

      Whatever the criticism, the plot on the whole seems to be compact. There is nothing irrelevant or unnecessary. Even the smallest detail promotes the action, develops the character, produces the necessary atmosphere and fulfills the purpose of the novel. The concentration on the main theme is well maintained to achieve the desired purpose. All the strings are gathered at the end to give the final touch.

UNIVERSITY QUESTIONS

Analyze the plot of E.M. Forster's A Passage to India.
Or
Write a note on the plot construction of A Passage to India.
Or
Write a critical note on Forster's art of plot construction in A Passage to India. Is the section entitled 'Temple' necessary?
Or
"The structure of the novel does not consist simply of an arrangement of events. Behind that structure there is another, an arrangement of the novel's meaning". Show how this meaning is brought out in the third section of A Passage to India?

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