How reliable is Forster’s portrayal of Indian life in A
Passage to India?
“A passage to India gives an acceptable picture of the
Indians” do you agree?
Ans. Forster visited India for the first time in 1912-13, and in
1921 he again came to India and served as the private secretary to the
Rajah of Dewas State Senior for several months. These two visits
familiarized him with India to a comparatively unusual extent,
although his encounters were limited to Indians of certain social
groupings. His visits also demonstrated to him practically the
differences between the races and cultures. He left Dewas State
Senior at the end of 1921 with a feeling of annoyance as well as
friendship, and it is with the authority of experience that he writes
about Indians’ ways of life, and about the muddle and mysticism of
Indian in his famous novel, A Passage to India (1924).
Although the story of the novel contain some puzzling situations,
it gives us a realistic picture of the Indian life and cultures along with
the attitude of the Anglo-Indians towards the natives of India. The
curiosity of the two ladies who have newly arrived from England to
know the true India, the arrogance of the English officials, their ill
treatment of the subordinate officers of native origin, their shCW of
understanding by means of a ‘Bridge Party’, the hostility 02″ the
Indians against the English officials, Aziz’s liking for Mrs. Moore and
for Fielding, the tea-party offered by Fielding to cover up the failure
of the ‘Bridge-Party’, the expedition to the caves, the turmoil in the
city over the arrest of Aziz, Fielding’s marriage to Stella Moore, the
celebration of the Janmasthami at Mau, and many other incidents
and situations seem to-be perfectly credible and convincing.
Of course, it cannot be denied that there are some improbable
situations. We are told that Miss Quested goes to the Marabar Caves
to enjoy a picnic but suddenly we are informed that the police
Inspector is waiting for arresting Aziz on a charge of molesting her.
To ascribe Adela’s sudden funny behaviour to her hallucination is not
convincing. Mrs. Moore loses her sense of reality in the caves and
suddenly she becomes apathetic and indifferent to Miss Quested, the
fiancée of her son and to other dear and near ones. This is also
unbelievable. The collapse of the personal friendship between Aziz
and Fielding as a result of a mere rumour is highly improbable.
But the picture of Muslims, the Hindus, and the Anglo-Indians
that Forster gives in his novel is largely true, although in few cases
there are exaggerations and caricatures.
Further the portrayals of Aziz and Fielding are perfectly realistic.
Aziz is restless, friendly, volatile and vain. He is free and frank with
his Muslim friends, resentfully sensitive to English snobs and
passionately patriotic. Aziz resents the English because they despise
him; he despises the Hindus because they are Hindus and make him
think of cow-dung. Fielding, on the other hand, stands as a striking
contrast to his compatriots in Chandrapore. He has no racial hatred
and mixes freely with the Indians and by doing this he incus
displeasure of his own countrymen.
To conclude, A Passage to India is a fiction, a work of art and
therefore, it may have certain improbable or unrealistic events. The
novel yet it may be regarded as a valuable document displaying the
British rule in India and the corrupt influence of such a rule on both
the rulers and the ruled.
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