Write a brief note on narrative technique in A Passage to India

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A Passage to India
A Passage to India

Write a brief note on narrative technique in A Passage to India.

Ans. E.M. Forster uses a traditional method of telling his story in
A Passage to India. It is that of an omniscient narrator who
overviews the action, comments from any angle, and can enter the
mind of any character. This narrator has a distinctive voice. He is
humane, cultured, skeptical and ironic, but is also capable of
modulating his voice to capture a tone of lyrical aspiration and
wistful sadness. It is a voice, one imagines, not unlike E.M. Forster’s
own. A number of distinctive English, Anglo-Indian and Indian
voices are dramatized within it, but it is this voice that dominates and
prevails.
The omniscient narrator introduces and sets the tone for each
section. He shapes and controls the direction of the text, meditating
between the different racial groups and the interplay of different
kinds of language. For example, the opening chapter gives us an
overview of Chandrapore and its distinctive natural and social
geography. Chapter 2 takes us into the Indian quarters where we
listen to the colonizers discussing their masters. Then we move on to
the Civil Station, the mosque, and the club where we eavesdrop on the
prejudiced opinion of the Anglo-Indians. The short chapter 4 begins
by noting the Indian response to the invitations to the Bridge-Party
before the narrator pauses to gives us a more extended meditation on
the nature of invitations. By doing this, the narrator clearly
underlines one of the themes that is Central to the narrative.
The reader’s eye and imagination are taken from the deep human
division at ground level, through the predatory hierarchy of kites and
vulture to the ‘overarching sky’ introduced in chapter I, and then still
further, to earth abruptly in a shift that implies both
comic anticlimax and something sadder, the limitations of the human
spirit. Metaphysical speculation on a cosmic scale that exposes all
human pretension gives abruptly to the trivial social round once
again. In such a manner, the omniscient narrator is constantly
present in the text, observing, judging, and commenting on the
action, chapters 1, 4, 10, 12, 23 28, and 32 are almost entirely given
up to the narrator and his speculative moralizing, either directly in
the manner of an essayist, or obliquely through the thoughts of his
characters.
To sum up, it is the omniscient narrator who navigates the reader
through their own “Passage to India” seeking, but unable to decipher,
some of the contradictor:’ messages of India’shundred voices’,
unable to decide whether India is a muddle or a mystery. As the text
progresses, the comic mimicry, the deflating asides, begin to fade and
the tone of religious quest amplifies, but unlike his nineteenth-
century precursors, E.M. Forster’s controlling narrative voice does
not provide much reassurance, only tentative questions, “God is
love”. This is perhaps the final message of India.

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