How does E.M. Forster portray the English in India is his novel A Passage to India? [NU. 1994]
Are the English justified in feeling superior to the natives of India? Explain with reference to A Passage to India. [NU. 2003]
Or, Comment on the British Raj in India in A Passage to India. [NU. 2013, 2016]
Ans. The situation of the British Raj in India gave Forster an excellent opportunity to make certain points about the difficult relations of man with his fellows, and about the incomprehensible universe in which we live. The fact that the British and the Indians are of different races, as well as, more important, the fact that one nation has rather arbitrarily assumed control over the other, enabled Forster easily and realistically to outline his central ideas about human isolation and lack of connection. E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India is regarded as a piece of anti-imperialist propaganda: a polemic against the British rule in India.
Forster’s condemnation of the British rule in India rests on a deep humanist belief in the ‘sanctity of personal relationship’. Forster was pained to see that close personal relationships that ought to have existed between the Indians and the British rulers were corrupted by the imperial rule due to its cruel division of humanity into the rulers and the ruled, white and coloured. We see in the very first chapter of the novel that Chandrapore is two towns, the English Civil Station and the native section, the one having nothing to do with the other: the Civil Station “shares nothing with the city except the over arching that separates the rulers from the ruled. The ruling Anglo-Indian think of their rule as a burden nobly borne by them in order to civilize the native barbarians.
Again the Anglo-Indians are fearful of the primitive Indians and that is why they always feel the need of sticking together, of keeping in step with others in order not to fall behind the herd. This herd- feeling is visible at the ‘Bridge Party’, arranged in honour of the new comers, Mrs. Moore, and Adela Quested, and again at the court during the trial of Dr. Aziz.
Forster in his novel highlights the corruptions and bribery of the British bureaucrats in India. On coming to India, they imbibed many of the faults of the Indians. Bribery was an infectious disease in India and many of the English high officials succumbed to it. And the wives of the British bureaucrats also take bribe in a true Indian fashion as exemplified by Mrs. Turton. An Indian serving in an office was, sometimes, harassed and humiliated by his British boss as we see in the case of Major Callendar and Dr. Aziz. Dr. Aziz had been asked by Major Callendar to come to his house but the Major had left for the club without waiting for him. When Dr. Aziz reached the Major’s bungalow, he was further humiliated by Mrs. Callendar who drove off in his tonga without taking his permission.
To sum up, Forster’s attitude to the British Raj in India is that the English do not care to understand the true nature of India and the Indians and that is why their rule is unsuccessful.
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