The Theme of Separation in A Passage To India

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Theme of Separateness

      Passage to India is an elucidation on the note of separateness pervading the whole of the novel. There is separation of race from race, sex from sex, culture from culture, even of man from himself. Trilling remarked, "The theme of separateness, of fences and barriers the old theme of the pauline epistles, which runs through all Forster's novels, is in A Passage to India, hugely expanded and everywhere dominant".

      First of all we take up the separation between the Indians and the English. The beginning of the novel reveals the wide gulf existing between the white rulers and the brown Indian. The town of Chandrapore is divided into two parts, the English civil station and the native section. The civil station shares nothing with the city except the overhearing sky. The question that looms large on the native horizon is whether it is possible to be friends with an Englishman and Forster’s answer in the novel is "No", as long as the English are aristocratic and arrogant.

      The Bridge Party, to narrow the gulf between the Indians and the Englishmen, was bound to fail because the Englishmen were not prepared for it. After having invited the Indians to the party the Englishmen did not go to meet them. Turton, who called the meeting, had to go under the compulsive rule of hospitality. His wife was reluctant to go and see the veiled Indian women but she had to go because her husband wanted it. The Indians were humiliated and had formed a collective attitude of fear and hatred in response to the collective attitude of contempt shown by the Englishmen. Even liberal and sincere Englishmen like Mrs. Moore and Miss Adela failed to bring about the real understanding because of the ignorance and insensitiveness of other Englishmen.

Political and Social Background Creates a Gulf

      Another example of ruptured friendship is provided by Aziz and Fielding. Fielding was a sincere Englishman and was very earnest in arriving at permanent understanding with the impulsive and warm Aziz. The barrier that kept them apart was the political pressure of imperialism. Apart from this factor there are others too — differences of background and values. "Kindness, kindness and more kindness" as suggested by Aziz did not solve the problem: Fundamental differences in temperament, character and thinking sabotaged the process of understanding. Even in their first meeting the differences of language and background created difficulty. A pause in the wrong place, an intonation misunderstood, and a whole conversion went away. Aziz was rooted in culture of Islam whereas Fielding was liberal and unconventional. Goodwill and spontaneous affection brought them together in the initial stages but the undeveloped imagination of Fielding and Aziz's sensitiveness forebode ill for the future. Adela came between them. After Aziz's release from prison, Fielding insisted upon Aziz not to demand the unreasonable compensation from the lady. Aziz refused. It developed a sort of estrangement between the two. When they met in the last scene, the gulf was further widened. Aziz had turned a staunch nationalist and thought of driving out the Britishers. Fielding was supporting imperialism by serving the Education Department. He came to Mau to see whether the English medium school was established.

Differences between the Hindus and the Muslims

      Even though the Hindus and the Muslims suffered under the yoke of slavery, they could not assemble on the same platform. Both of them wanted independence but they differed on the question of succession. Aziz wanted his Afghan ancestors to conquer and rule India. To be more liberal, he wanted an assemblage of oriental statesmen to solve the tangle. Dr. Aziz wished that the Hindus did not remind him of cow dung. Mr. Das thought some of the Muslims to be very violent. There was a violent quarrel over the "Tazia". The Muslims cut the branch of the "peepul" tree because the "Tazia" could not pass on easily. The Hindus were agitated over the cutting of the sacred tree. Turton gave his verdict in favor of the Hindus.

      Mr. Bhattacharya failed to send his carriage to carry Mrs. Moore and Miss Adela Aziz criticized them severely by saying that the Hindus were untrustworthy and dirty. He felt that the Bhattacharya's did not send the carriage because they did not want the English ladies to see their dirty house. All Hindus were dirty and the source of infection.

      Godbole could not see anyone eating beef. Aziz could tolerate beef but not ham. Such were the insurmountable fundamental differences between the two sections of the Indian community.

Differences between Adela, Ronny, Aziz and Mrs. Moore

      Ronny and Adela could not be united sexually. They broke their engagement, decided to be re-engaged and separate for ever in the end.

Adela and Aziz entered the picnic spot hand in hand. Aziz could not bear an English woman's question as to how many wives he had. He was shocked, dropped her hand and entered a cave. The cave separated them forever and turned them into enemies.

      Lady Moore was separated from her son who had become a 'pacca sahib'. She wanted him to show affection to all and to be pleasant to the Indians. He did not accept the proposal. She refused to oblige him at the time of the trial of Aziz. So he sent her out of India. This was their last meeting as Mrs. Moore died on the way. She was separated not only from her son, but also from all the other people.

Gulf between Man and Nature

      These gaps between man and man were not enough. Men have also been shown to be separate from other creations. Surely, an advanced English missionary conceded that God would extend his invitation to the animals like monkeys and even jackals. However, he was less sure about wasps and could not find divine unity among things like oranges, cactuses, crystals and mud or the bacteria in his head. And yet this forced exclusion seemed to Mrs. Moore childish, because men, after all, were only a small part of creation.

      Hinduism in the last chapter seems to provide the solution. The arbitrary barriers, between different individuals appeared to sink in the face of a massive synthesis—Krishna Janmashtami which is the occasion when Aziz became friendly with Fielding once again, forgave Adela and met the son of Mrs. Moore and formed friendship with him, giving up his hatred. The English and the Muslim, friend and enemy met in the flooded river, in a flow of Hindu love. All separations appeared to be melting away. Despite everything, the theme of separateness persists, neither mosque, nor cave, nor the temple, nor the soil of India could end it. There was something in the Indian earth that kept races apart.

      India, to Forster, was the very place of division. It was a place where diversity was the rule; a place where the very landscape was alien and hostile to the human spirit. "It was as if irritation exuded from the very soil". The hot weather directed men to adjust themselves. It was here that nature dominated and man was a helpless victim to the continent of Circe. As Nirad Chaudhry puts it. "The mud huts of Chandrapore in the midst of vegetation, pointed to the dominance of nature. The Marabar Caves are symptomatic of anarchism that reduces man to a speck on the vast vault of the sky". McConkey is of the opinion that India is more than a foreign land which the English may leave at their wish; it is the contemporary condition - the separation between all mankind and all earth.


Discuss the theme of separateness in A Passage to India.
"Nature and landscape, 'as depicted in A Passage to India stress the theme of separation in the novel". Do you agree with this statement? Discuss, with special reference to the meeting of Aziz and Fielding at the "Shrmes of the Body and the Head" at Mau?

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