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A Passage to India
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"It is impossible here," an Indian character tells his friend, Dr. Aziz, early in the novel.
"They come out intending to be gentlemen, and are told it will not do.... Why, I remember when Turton came out first. It was in another part of the Province. You fellows will not believe me, but I have driven with Turton in his carriage--Turton! Oh yes, we were once quite intimate. He has shown me his stamp collection.Written while England was still firmly in control of India, Forster's novel follows the fortunes of three English newcomers to India--Miss Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Cyril Fielding--and the Indian, Dr. Aziz, with whom they cross destinies. The idea of true friendship between the races was a radical one in Forster's time, and he makes it abundantly clear that it was not one that either side welcomed. If Aziz's friend, Hamidullah, believed it impossible, the British representatives of the Raj were equally discouraging.
"He would expect you to steal it now. Turton! But red-nosed boy will be far worse than Turton!
"I do not think so. They all become exactly the same, not worse, not better. I give any Englishman two years, be he Turton or Burton. It is only the difference of a letter. And I give any Englishwoman six months. All are exactly alike."
"Why, the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die," said Mrs. Callendar.Despite their countrymen's disapproval, Miss Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Mr. Fielding are all eager to meet Indians, and in Dr. Aziz they find a perfect companion: educated, westernized, and open-minded. Slowly, the friendships ripen, especially between Aziz and Fielding. Having created the possibility of esteem based on trust and mutual affection, Forster then subjects it to the crucible of racial hatred: during a visit to the famed Marabar caves, Miss Quested accuses Dr. Aziz of sexually assaulting her, then later recants during the frenzied trial that follows. Under such circumstances, affection proves to be a very fragile commodity indeed.
"How if he went to heaven?" asked Mrs. Moore, with a gentle but crooked smile.
"He can go where he likes as long as he doesn't come near me. They give me the creeps."
Arguably Forster's greatest novel, A Passage to India limns a troubling portrait of colonialism at its worst, and is remarkable for the complexity of its characters. Here the personal becomes the political and in the breach between Aziz and his English "friends," Forster foreshadows the eventual end of the Raj. --Alix Wilber
From School Library Journal
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
Top Customer Reviews
At the Marabar caves, an incident occurs (or does not occur) to Ms. Quested that alters all of the characters and their town inextricably. There is a trial and a bit of a mystery, but the focus is always on the characters and their conflicts. In particular, the tension between the English and the people of India is beautifully portrayed. The characters are multi-dimensional, as are their motives, which makes for a fascinating read. I found the book to be quite moving and sad - a true classic.
The book revolves around what may be termed the secret understanding of the heart. This is an understanding of people, their feelings and their interaction with other humans.
In a story which is not primarily political, Forster makes a political comment on what was happening in India at that time.
The issue of the Marabar caves is not really an issue at all because even Forster says that it doesn't really matter what if anything happened in the caves, because it is the repercussions of what did of didn't happen that are important. I believe that the expedition into the Marabar caves merely amplified the emotions already inherent in the characters, for example Adela Quested tells us that she felt unwell since the teaparty with Fielding which took place long before the journey to the caves.
Forster also presents us with well rounded characters except in the case of the Anglo-Indians, who are presented as tyrannical oppressors, and yet even they aren't all bad as they stand for values like honour and chivalry. What really annoys me about the Anglo-Indians is their high and mighty attitude, and pompous ways.
I feel Forster uses character like Fielding, Moore, Godbole and Aziz to show us about true humanity.
He doesn't pretend to understand India, it is a 'muddle' but through India he brings universal quandries and boundries to light.
I recommend you read and reread this book as it is undoubtedly one of the best in english literature.
If you love novels of character and theme, you will love and remember this painstakingly written novel of bigotry and colonialism before Indian independence. The concept which clothes the story: the Caucasian, very proper, very British Miss Quested accuses the Indian, Dr. Aziz, of physical assault in a cave. The facts of the event were literally invisible. The balance of the novel is a clash of cultures, biases and characters, all of which conspire to express "reality."
Forster is methodical in way he prepares his readers for the Event and its aftermath. He writes with the precision of a literary surgeon just as he did in A ROOM WITH A VIEW and HOWARD'S END.
If you'd like explore Forster's writing, this is a fine place to start. Give it a little work and it won't let you down. The author was one of the great masters of the English language and an outspoken adversary of bigotry. Most of us have experienced bias at least once or twice in our lives. For that reason alone, I'd try it.
Forster is also the great exemplar of the modern novel. Few were as consistently aware of form. Few had the ability to infuse raw emotion into such civilized prose.
Go for it.
Was Miss Quested attacked by Dr. Aziz in the caves? This question becomes the central issue which propels the plot and lays bare the hostility and polarizing feelings of superiority and inferiority prevalent at the time. The reader is swept into the life of Dr. Aziz as more misunderstandings cause a permanent rift with his dearest friend and gives him a genuine hatred of the English. While the pompous Heslop contends his countrymen are in India to do justice and keep the peace, the appalling behavior on both sides explodes at a trial and lingers long after.
Forster is adept at not taking sides, at showing both the British as well as the Indian side of the issues. In his fair and balanced telling, the reader can alternately sympathize with Dr. Aziz or Miss Quested. Neither wins when the truth is revealed and both are forever scarred by the incident in the Marabar caves.
In 1984, David Lean brought this drama to the big screen and, in my opinion, actually improved on the source material by making the characters more sympathetic and capturing visually the beauty of India. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested atop an elephant riding to the Marabar caves is a breath-taking scene and one any viewer will long remember.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The basis of the story is clear -- the natural tensions of India under British rule. I found much of the reading difficult because of unfamiliarity with India's geography and... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Riverside Reader
An in-depth analysis of how cultural differences might divide us despite of our best intentions. A passionating journey into some of the many souls of India.Published 25 days ago by Giovanni Saponara Teutonico
Instant delivery along with able to read it quickly it's a nice storyPublished 27 days ago by shanoon
Late to read this amazing book. It deserves every accolade it has received for many years. It is curiously currant in it's subject considering it's publication date.Published 1 month ago by Jean gould
Seeing the book today and the movie years ago helped me flesh out the story. The Jungle Book is in movie theaters as I write, from Kipling would have run with the British colonial... Read morePublished 2 months ago by TimP
A great classic, well worth re-reading it. A view of India that hasn't lost any of its pertinence.Published 2 months ago by Client d'Amazon
I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle and balancing dialogues, systematically reminding me and visualising the Indian head movements, and the British classy standardisations. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Erik Versavel