Realistic Elements in the Novel A Passage To India

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      True to Life Presentation. Those of us who were born before 1920 when Mahatma Gandhi had started his struggle for India's independence do admit that the picture of the Indian scene as presented in the novel is, on the whole. Fairly realistic and historically accurate A Passage to India is moderately faithful to the actual situation of those bygone days. Accuracy of facts without any bias or prejudice either way, combined with a moral sympathy for the aspirations of the Indians in their noble task of winning freedom make this novel worthy of being studied carefully by the new generation of Indians so as to be fairly acquainted with all necessary details. The trend of the story also has a reader appeal though there are certain loose threads which the final section has not been capable of picking and tying up properly.

      How far the Story is Convincing. Though it is incomprehensible and some what puzzling in regard to certain situations, the novel, as it is given to us, cannot, however, be accused of containing impossible and improbable incidents. The arrogance of the English officials, their ill-treatment of the subordinate officers of native origin, their show of sympathy by means of "Bridge Parties" which, as desired by the sponsors, failed to achieve anything worthwhile, getting excited over trivial incidents against the English people and other events are credible and convincing.

      Some Improbabilities. There are some improbabilities in the novel. Miss Quested is described to us as one enjoying the picnic to the caves, and suddenly we are informed that the police inspector was waiting to arrest Dr. Aziz on a charge of molesting her. 'The justification of her funny behavior by describing it as hallucination may not convince many. Mrs. Moore is described as losing her sense of reality after the visit to the caves. She becomes apathetic and indifferent to Miss Quested, the fiancee of her own son, all of a sudden. This is also something that all people cannot believe quickly. To explain it away by means of spiritual trances and mystical experiences is also difficult to digest in the ordinary course. The collapse of the personal friendship of Aziz and Fielding as a result of a mere rumor is also highly improbable. The author himself has credited his hero with some large-heartedness which is not very likely to fail him against the onslaught of a mere rumor. But here, too, we may need some justification ultimately.

      Undeveloped Heart and Undeveloped Mind. Forster's contention was that Anglo-Indians had undeveloped hearts and the native Indians had undeveloped minds. The behavior of a majority of the people concerned was, of course, such as to give credence; to this view. There are exceptions to this general fact. The picture of the native people, their herd instinct and mass religious celebrations cannot be called unrealistic though there are exaggerations and derisive remarks too. Forster's description of all types of people, their manners and modes of behavior is really faithful.

      Dr. Aziz: A Realistic Portrait. The hero is described as an overzealous Muslim. As a widower he might have deviated from the path of sexual virtue as evidenced by his correspondence with some people of Calcutta. This is a realistic picture of a man of robust health peculiarly placed in a fix, because, if he married, his children would not have been properly treated by the stepmother. He is a bit critical of Hindus like all Muslims of those days in undivided India. Forster has succeeded superbly in his portrayal of Aziz.

      Fielding Portrayed Convincingly. There were many British educationists and public men at that time who openly sympathized with the Indian struggle for Independence. C.F. Andrews was one such. It is likely that Forster has described Fielding with C.F. Andrews in view. He is not like his compatriots who could be generally described as racially prejudiced. His open friendship with Indians became the cause of his own estrangement with the English people. His support to Aziz at the time of the crisis and his importunity to Aziz not to press the claim for compensation from Miss Quested can be mentioned as examples of his impartial treatment of people misjudged by others. He is not happy with his marriage with Stella. He gets the reader's sympathy for his unhappy experiences in the two personal relationships (i e. with Aziz and with Stella) despite his humanistic virtues, sane integrity and rationalistic candor.

      Conclusion. Some biased critics have remarked that Forster was over-critical in his portrayal of the Anglo-Indians. Many Englishmen were annoyed and even offended with Forster for writing such a book. But impartial people never take such criticism seriously. A Passage to India is a superbly realistic novel with some unrealisation flashes here and there. The novel reflects the courageous vision of an unembarrassed and unprejudiced observer of the Indian National Scene. Where he deviated from facts and succumbed to exaggerations, the reasons are not to be sought very far. One reason may be that he was carried off his mental balance through an over-dependence on fictitious rumors set afloat by the rulers then.

University Questions

Critically examine Forster's accuracy in the portrayal of life in the India of the 1920's in A Passage to India.
Write a note on the realism in the treatment of life and character in A Passage to India.
Would you consider A Passage to India as a realistic novel? Give illustrations.
How far would you consider A Passage to India as a passage to India's people, religion, culture and archetypes?

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