Structural Pattern of the Novel A Passage To India

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      Introduction. There are three sections in the novel A Passage to India, namely 'Mosque', 'Caves' and 'Temple'. According to Forster's "Author's Notes" these sections are intended to represent the three well defined seasons of India, namely, the winter with its mild temperate climate when the atmosphere is cold and devoid of tension, the summer with its scorching heat when the atmosphere is excessively tormenting and the monsoon with its torrential rain when the atmosphere gets cleared up and the dust settles down.

      Plot versus Story. Story is a mere sequence of events and plot is the same controlled by logical reasoning. The story that the author wants to tell the readers is the clash of two distinct cultural units as developed by a series of events, some of them premeditated and well planned but many of them unexpected casual occurrences giving surprising twists to the events. The most important theme is the stiff resistance offered by the Indians urged by nationalistic views, patriotism and desire to gain freedom, against the minions of British Imperialism as exemplified by the Anglo-Indian bureaucrats supported by their sycophants.

      In order to control the events according to logical set up of reasoning pattern, the author has recourse to the accusation of Adela that Dr. Aziz attempted to molest her in the caves. This leads to his arrest and the arrangement for his trial, There is a subordinate theme closely connected with the main one and that is what is usually mentioned by the critics as "Personal relationship". The chief of them is that of Fielding and Dr. Aziz which has its own vicissitudes - sometimes a happy union, often sad separation, a fusible coalition of interests giving place to marked cleavage with adequate interplay of love, hate, sympathy and lack of ardour. There are other subsidiary themes also and the author has interwoven all of them together in layer over layer with remarkable skill.

      The Significance of the Three Sections. We can easily perceive the logic and rhythm underlying the three sections. In the first section 'Mosque' there is the casual encounter of Mrs. Moore and Dr. Aziz which initially generates suspicion in the mind of the latter but soon turns into a feeling of polite respect. The Occident and the Orient meet and a deep and fairly permanent bond is evolved. In the second section 'Caves', there is the hysterical gimmick of Miss Quested with a potentiality for mischief all due to her hallucination. Its logical consequence was a misunderstanding culminating into an estrangement of the protagonists of the views of the East and the West. The caves had an adverse influence on Mrs. Moore too, who experienced horror there and consequently lapsed into a lethargy and despair losing all interest in Ronny's affairs, or the hostilities between Indians and the English. In the third and final section 'Temple' there is a sort of spiritual fulfillment when the characters concerned, whether occidental or oriental, Hindu or Muslim, experience a transcendental vision with an affinity arising from fraternity. The different elements thus brought together ultimately separate from one another, causing a limitation in the spiritual fulfillment of short duration. The final attempt at a reaffirmation of happy relationship had to be postponed to a more propitious occasion when the enslaved land was destined to breathe the fresh and fragrant air of freedom.

      The Wasp Image. In the earlier part Mrs. Moore sees a wasp perched on a peg where she wanted to hang up her cloak. She had a feeling of sympathetic love even for that tiny creature. The missionary has a doubt whether wasps can assert their claim for the mercy of the Lord. The benevolent Lord must be impartial towards all his progeny irrespective of its species and this idea is hinted at by Godbole while in a spirit of ecstasy. The wasp has a symbolic meaning and it indicates that there is no limit for the love of man towards the creations of the Lord nor for God's love for all living beings as well as lifeless units too.

      Symbolic Meaning of the Three Titles. The "Mosque" can be symbolically understood to represent the sense of brotherhood, the keynote of Islam. It gives us the hope that a personal friendship between two representatives of different cultures is possible. The negative significance of the "Mosque" is that all lukewarm efforts and experiments like the "Bridge party" are bound to fail. The "Caves" represents spiritual wasteland implying a collapse of human relationships as indicated through the events narrated. It unhappily portrayed a world devoid of the touch of divinity, spiritual joy and universal love. The 'Temple' symbolically signifies a harmonious reconciliation of all fissiparous units with the tendency for fission.

      Religious Themes and Mundane Atmosphere. The curious behavior of Miss Quested in accusing Dr. Aziz, doubting afterward whether she had commixed any mistake or not and finally recanting everything despite the possibility of being a victim of the annoyed hostility of her own people — this curious behavior and its mystery has to be solved and the author has been successful in it. The description of Gokul Ashtami celebration is utilized by Forster to give depth and significant meaning to the workings of intangible forces influencing the worldly undertaking of human beings.

      Reader Response. The success or failure of a novel depends on the fact whether reader interest is sustained throughout or not. In this respect A Passage to India is a highly interesting novel. The reader gets emotionally entangled with the characters portrayed and the episodes narrated. The book sustains the absorbing interest of readers of diverse backgrounds.

      The Element of Mystery. In life there is no charm at all if there is no mystery attached to it. Unexpected events add best to life. All events cannot be explained by rational processes of discussion and debate. Forster created elements of mystery in the events that happened in Marabar caves. This element of mystery is an integral part of the novel. Its design depends upon this for its success. The mysterious Marabar caves do have a lasting and profound influence on almost all the characters in the story in one way or the other.

      Some Incongruity. There is an apparent incongruity in the long description of the Hindu festival of Gokul Ashtami. It is irrelevant in the eyes of certain critics. What it signifies cannot be easily guessed or fully comprehended. Like a coda in a musical composition it is formally distinct from the main theme. Forster himself felt so, and he somehow justifies it by saying: "It was architecturally necessary. I needed a lump or a Hindu Temple if you like-a mountain standing up." That the lump did stick out a little too much is universally known. Some critics defend it as a means to reaffirm what is affirmed at the outset and negated afterward. The theme of the Temple is intended as one that completes the rhythm Forster had in mind.

University Questions

Write a note on the structural pattern of A Passage to India.
Discuss the plot construction of A Passage to India.
Discuss the structure of A Passage to India in terms of its "pattern" and "rhythm".
The three part structure of A Passage to India is tentative. Discuss.

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