Analysis of the Novel’s Title – A Passage to India
A Passage to India explores several aspects of the Indian subcontinent apart from its culture, regions and the British Raj. It takes an angle at the contemporary events of British ruled India. From Mosque to Caves and temples, the three parts have a special significance in the context of the Indian culture. It is divided along several lines of religion and caste. Mosque takes a look at the Islamic part of India and sees that the emotions are there in a muddle. Again caves take us to the Marabars where everything looks hollow and indefinite. Among its various scenes while India shines like a jewel, chaos and disorder are also evident. The characters both British and Indian see that India does not have a definite shape and you can never realise it in its complete form. It begins from Chandrapore and takes us to Mau through the Marabar caves. Mrs Moore gets to see some other parts of India through the window of her train. She resents she could not get to see more than the Marabar caves because of the heat but then those who have seen more than her have also found it unclear and a difficult jumble. Forster calls it a muddle.
In Fielding’s words, “A mystery is only a high-sounding term for a muddle. No advantage in stirring it up, in either case. Aziz and I know well that India’s a muddle.” (Chapter VII, AP2I).
Forster’s words sound right for if you want to stir India, it stirs you instead. It happens with Mrs Moore and with Adela and even Ronny and Fielding have not remained untouched. All have seen just one aspect of that shiny jewel which has several. Stella at the end finds some fulfilment here. Her problems find a solution in India and her mood has grown stable here. Fielding has noticed it early and so he respects the natives. Aziz remains caught in the muddle and at last becomes one with it.
The title A Passage too India makes it sound like a cultural odyssey which it is but the novel shows more than that. It takes a look at how Indians affect and are affected. They can be wise and unwise at the same time and you cannot expect them to remain as they are. It is difficult to please them and can grow displeased when you least expect it. The novel leaves India as it is and does not try to make it sound like a magnificent Eastern story because British Raj is a horror and has affected India in ways it must not.
The novel becomes engaging and interesting for its plentiful use of dialogues. Forster gives it a touch of humour to lessen the pain otherwise the British rule has created only distortions. Aziz thinks that Hindus are slack and still there is an undeclared partnership between him and Godbole. Godbole treats Aziz as a guest. All these characters show various facets of India and Forster helps us cover the entire journey from the Mosque to the Caves where from the weather and temperature keep changing. Nature is a central attraction in the novel and Forster shows that British Raj is trying to pull India away from its roots. Readers also get a better view of the Indian geographical and cultural landscape and how it changes colour within just some hundred miles.
Mrs Moore too feels caught in this muddle and Adela finds herself rejected by it. Fielding and Stella are absorbed in it and they both find happiness and stability, Aziz is being carried y the wind from here to there and from Chandrapore to Mau his life has been through a difficult transition. At the end Forster gives us a picture of India that is colourful, humorous, adorable, pure and yet difficult like a restive and stubborn child. A Passage to India gives readers a peep into the oriental mindset and how the British oppression has affected it. Forster lived in India from 1912 to 1913 and the novel came out in 1924. People have kept thinking over what took him so long to produce one of his finest works. The answer is clear from the novel that Forster gave India much philosophical and critical thought before trying to paint a picture of it.
A Passage to India (Archive.org)