How does Forster make use of irony and satire in A Passage to India?
Ans. A Passage to India is a criticism of the British imperialistic
rule in India. E.M. Forster is one of those writers who challenge the
complacent imperial assumption of the British ruling class that it
rules India for India’s own good. Instead, Forster sees the British rule
as a corrupting influence on both the rulers and the ruled. While
focussing on the evil of imperialism, Forster takes recourse to
humour, irony and satire which lie scattered all through the book.
The use of humour tinged with a mild satire may be noted in the
first chapter when the omniscient narrator describes
very chandrapore which seems to be divided into two towns: the English
Civil Station and the native section, the one having nothing to do
with the other. The Civil Station “shares nothing with the city except
the overarching sky”. Again the porti•ayal of Prof. Godbole is an
excellent example of Forster’s gift of humour. In a vision Godbole
sees a wasp with a human figure—that of Mrs. Moore—and loves both
equally, though being a human being, he cannot love a lifeless stone.
The description of the agony and discomfiture of the Collector of
Chandrapore, Mr. Turton, on coming to know of the incident at the
caves are in a satirical vein which has a touch of Forster’s pleasant
humour. There is a mild satirical tone in the outburst of Mr. Turton,
“New-comers set our tradition aside, and in an instant what you see
happens; the work of years is undone”.
However, Forster’s tone of satire tinged with irony becomes a bit
pungent while he portrays the character of Ronny Heaslop, the
magistrate of Chandrapore city. During his conversation with his
mother, Mrs. Moore, Ronny says, “we are out here to do justice and
keep peace”, and again he say, “we’re not pleasant in India, and we
don’t intend to be pleasant. We’ve something more important to do”.
The ‘Bridge Party’ is a brilliant example of Forster’s satire on the
English bureaucrats in India. He sensibly and boldly attacks the
“exalted and self-sublimated” cadre of British officials, the so-called
I.C.S. officers. He makes the ‘Bridge Party’ at the European club
appear very funny and ridiculous. Thus, the ‘Bridge Party’ is
completely a failure.
Further, the trial of Dr. Aziz is the finest and sharpest of satirical
hits which Forster has aimed at the self-cultivated superiority of the
British officials. The English with a sense of pride and self-assurance
occupy the platform in the court. But they are compelled to get down
when the defence lawyer objects to their audacity for occupying the
sits in the platform. This trial episode provides a brilliant example of
the climax of Forster’s satirical humour.
Thus, we can conclude saying that through a successful use of
and humour, Forster in A Passage to India questions the of the British to be in India.
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