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A Passage to India ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (25)

Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore are good Brits in turn of the century India.  They have the best intentions and want to meet real Indians and see the real India.  When Dr. Aziz takes them to visit the Marabar Caves, they seem to be penetrating deep into the heart of India.  However, Miss Quested is overwhelmed by the caves & accuses Aziz of attacking her & for all their good intentions, they are shown to be just as incapable of understanding Indians as the worst of their fellow Brits.

This is certainly the best of Forster's novels.  The clash of cultures makes for interesting reading.  However, after a century of decolonization and independence, it's legitimate to ask whether places like India are better off today, as independent nations, than they were in 1900, as colonies.  Forster makes the point that the English will never understand the Indians & can never be friends with them, but will Hindus ever understand Moslems & can they ever be friends?  More importantly, even if the English never could befriend the Indians, wasn't their governance, at least, enlightened & constructive?
Whereas, the Hindus who feel actual hatred towards the Moslems (& vice versa) have governed in a backward and destructive manner?  Should ethnicity be the deciding factor in who governs a country or are governing principles (democracy, capitalism, religious tolerance) more important to the welfare of the population?

It seems to me that Forster & his ilk bet on ethnicity & events have shown them to be catastrophically mistaken.


Grade: (B)


E.M. Forster Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: E. M. Forster
    -ESSAY: ‘Recorded and honoured’: New light on E. M. Forster’s last love (Peter J. Conradi, June 2023, TLS)
    -ESSAY: “A Passage to India” on Its 100th Birthday (Sameer Pandya, March 27, 2024, LA Review of Books)

Book-related and General Links:
-E. M. FORSTER 1879-1970 (A future entry in Beachams' Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)
    -only connect (a web site dedicated to EM Forster)
    -A Passage through Forster: EM Forster: his life and works
    -ESSAY: Connecting with EM Forster (Sidney Perkowitz, The American Prospect)

If you liked A Passage to India, try:

Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer
    -Heat and Dust (1983 Booker Prize)(see review)

Mistry, Rohinton
    -Such a Long Journey (1992)

Seth, Vikram
    -A Suitable Boy : A Novel (1993)


he's (very) american.

no modern englishman ever talks about colonianism except to apologise

- english snob

- Oct-14-2003, 10:56


It sounds as if you are a stuck up english snob who believes in the false righteousness of the English Empire. It is the Indians right to falter and they have not done so. No society is perfect and there are always going to be tensions when you unte a diverse a country as India. Regarding the novel, Forster was trying to make a relevant point in the way India was governed. England disregarded the rights of the common Indian in his own country whether they were muslim or hindu. Your review is not only misguided but also confusing: your point is unclear and I am not quite sure whether you are remarking on the politics in the Indian Subcontinent or the book

- Helen Robinson

- Dec-14-2002, 12:58