Comment on Forster’s art of characterization in A
Passage to India.
Ans. E.M. Forster has shown his mastery in the art of character
portrayal in A Passage to India. The novel contains a gallery Of
characters who are very much life-like and real. Here we see a variety
of characters such as English, Indians, (Hindu and Muslim) men and
women of different races, cultures, and professions.
A character is generally revealed through his actions, conversation, or behavior but
Forster adds to this method his own comments, description of his
appearance, or his moral traits, often in an ironic way. Again certain
aspects of one person are conveyed through the comments of other
persons in the story. He also makes use of psychological analysis of
his characters to expose their attitudes, sentiments, bent of mind, etc.
In A Passage to India, there are two general types of characters,
•the flat’ and ‘the round’. ‘Flat’ characters, sometimes called
caricatures or, types, are one dimensional, i.e. built around a single
idea or quality. A ‘flat’ character is best when he is comic. A ’round’
character, in contrast, is capable of change. He can cunningly surprise us. He is capable of change and development—within the
pages of a book, of course. A round character to Forster is much more
of an achievement than a flat one. In the novel, flat characters are
illustrated by Professor Godbole and Mrs. Turton. Ronny Heaslop is
essentially, but not entirely flat. Round characters include Aziz, Mrs.
Moore, Adela Quested, Cyril Fielding, and Hamidullah.
Now we may take up two characters from the novel—Aziz and
Ronny Heaslop and examine how far they belong to Forster’s system
of classification of characters. Dr. Aziz is perhaps the best example of
a ’round’ character; his warmth and vitality make the reader feel that
he is a living person. Forster has been warmly praised by the critics
for this excellent description of a member of a race differing from his
own. It is a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal. Aziz is a man of
passion, whose emotional gamut ranges from great heights -to the
depths of despair. A Muslim, he feels strongly tied to his ancestors,
the society in which he lives, and the future in which his children will
live. Thus Aziz with his virtues and contradictions appears in the
novel as a very credible human being.
Ronny Heaslop, the magistrate of Chandrapore city, on the other
hand, is a flat character possessing traits that are static and
unchanging. One may say that Ronny, the public school product, is a
type of Anglo-Indian at its most trivial. Though a newcomer to India,
he has already been spoiled by the Anglo-Indian class in India.
Anxious to please his superiors, he has adopted their ways and
attitudes, blindly accepting their version of India and the Indians as
the gospel truth.
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