Discuss Forster’s use of symbolism in A Passage to India.
Ans. A Passage to India contains different types of symbols. The principal symbols are the mosque, the caves, and the temple. The subsidiary symbols are the ceremonies connected with the birth anniversary of Sri Krishna, the figure of Mrs. Moore, the punkah wallah, the image of the wasp, and the collision of boats. In the first part of the novel, we are brought to a mosque where an English old woman and a young Indian meet together. Being ill-treated by the Anglo-Indians, Aziz, the Muslim doctor enters the mosque to get peace of mind.
Similarly, Mrs. Moore, bored by the dull entertainment at the British club has escaped into the mosque. Thus both of them have entered the mosque to seek shelter from the
oppressive surroundings. After the conversation, Mrs. Moore finds that Aziz is a warm and sensitive man and ultimately an understanding of each other occurs. This understanding of the heart, in other words, friendship is the dominant urge at this stage and expresses most general meaning of the mosque symbol of the novel. The ‘Mosque’ with its serene beauty, its combination of light and shade represents a belief in the oneness of God as well as the oneness of India, and therefore, comes to symbolize a possibility of understanding and
friendship between people of different races and colors.
But this friendship established between the East and the West, as represented by the friendship between Aziz and Mrs. Moore, is undercut by the ironic message of the ‘Bridge Party’ which proves to be a failure. In the second part of the novel, the Marabar Caves stand for chaos, darkness, mystery, and evils. The dark and empty caves reveal the hollowness of life and the vacuum produces an echo that is frightening. The echo suggests unity but it is a unity that does not have any qualities of love, goodness, and understanding. It negates all The ‘Temple’, the last section containing the essence of the novel, stands for love, harmony and happiness.
It opens with Godbole presiding over a festival—the celebration of the birth of Sri Krishna in a temple at Mau during the monsoons. Amid all the noise and confusion of celebration the god is born, symbolically, and love, celebrated. In celebrating the birth of the god, the Hindus led by the wise Brahmin Godbole, assume that all creation is one and shares in joy. It is a vision of God as a Universal Friend who embraces all the people and things of this earth in His divine love. To sum up, A Passage to India is a complex work of art based on the evil of the British imperialistic rule in India. In it the symbol of the novel. In fact, the use of powerful symbols has added dignity to the Novel.
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