Themes of The Novel A Passage To India

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      The title of this novel has been borrowed from Whitman's poem A Passage to India. E.M. Forster's A Passage to India, is sometimes called a political novel because it deals with the conflict between the English ruler and the subject Indians. The British did not understand the setting in which they found themselves. They ruled over India with force, through every kind of means, foul or fair. Suppression, cruelty and humiliation were the methods which they used for keeping themselves entrenched on the saddle.

      The background of mutual distrust and hatred provides a clue to the basic theme of the novel. A Passage to India is not a political novel as such. As a matter of fact, the politics involved does provide an atmosphere of chicanery, violence and misunderstanding but the basic theme of the novel is not the description of fraud and force but the need for universal love which transcends race, religion, and politics and which is not connected with the struggle against the British rule. Forster treats the theme in A passage to India on historical and prophetic levels. On the historical level, a passage is taken by two English ladies to understand India. After meeting Aziz, Mrs. Moore felt that a sudden kinship with the heavenly bodies had passed into her and out like water through a tank, leaving a strange freshness behind.

Love a Cosmic Notion

      Love is a cosmic notion which extends beyond human relations. It embraces all forms of life. A critic remarked "only through imaginative perception of beauty and through love we can understand other people and the universe in which we live". At the close of chapter three, Mrs. Moore felt a surge of love for the wasp she had found on her clothes peg. This spontaneous love, after her quarrel with her son Ronny over Aziz, is in contrast with Ronny's narrow outlook.

      Mrs. Moore's love had crossed the barrier of race and class. She tried to show how divisions between people could be ended by the cultivation of love. But the question arises, can love always win the battle? How Weak is the foundation, on which Mrs. Moore's and Adela's passage to India rests. She (Moore) failed to accomplish what she wanted. In the face of such diverse customs, cultures and religions, Mrs. Moore, and Adela found it difficult to retain their belief in an ordered world based on reason and Christian faith. Mrs. Moore did not attend Aziz's trial. She was entirely depressed and disillusioned at the time of her departure from India. If we consider her role in the book on the basis of her personal beliefs, she becomes the goddess of love for the Indians. At the time of Aziz's trial the crowd outside the court cried "Esmiss Esmoore." Two tombs were built in her honor and people came to lay flowers on them. She became a symbol of love and kept influencing the events even after her death. She told her son to be pleasant to Indians, as the Indians were also created by God and inhabited the same earth. Fielding also realized that British Raj did not need power but goodwill and only goodwill.

Mrs. Moore and Hinduism

      Mrs. Moore was attracted towards Hinduism because it taught universal love to human beings. This religion stressed that service to others was the real religion. Religion for her was a part of her life. Her son Ronny respects religion as long as it did not interfere in his work. Beyond that he did not recognize the value of religion. Religion for him was nothing but a bundle of dry rituals and lifeless rites.

Love Does not Always Triumph

      Love does not always triumph. The failure of love runs throughout the action. Ronny's attempts to fall in love with Adela failed. The attempts of the Britishers to build a "Bridge" between the different races also failed. The friendship between Aziz and Fielding was the only hope that love between the two might bridge the gap. Towards the end when Aziz found that Fielding had fully identified himself with the British imperialists, he told him that no friendship was possible between the ruler and the ruled. Marabar Caves, signifying pre-historic India amidst chaos, reduced kindness and love to nothing.

No Final Despair

      In spite of everything, Forster does not envisage final despair over the human conditions. Ugliness, and beauty, love and hatred were to be accepted as they were. Let us quote T.S. Eliot who wrote the same thing in another context. The spiritual voyager must "be able to see beneath beauty and ugliness, to see the boredom and the horror, and the glory".

      In the third part Hinduism accepts the muddle and the chaos which lies at the heart of the universe. But this chaos is to be embraced in a more inclusive vision of kindness, joy and harmony. Forster's optimism breaks through at the very end, with the words, not now, not yet, hope is postponed, not abandoned.

      The theme of separateness has already been discussed in the chapter twenty-one.


What is the theme of the novel A Passage to India?
Is E.M. Forster preoccupied with the political problem in his novel A Passage to India?
Is the racial problem the main theme of the novel A Passage to India?

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