A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster

A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster
Narrated by Sam Dastor
Contains light spoilers.

With a backdrop of British Colonial India, A Passage to India is the story of Dr. Aziz, a Muslim Indian physician who is sympathetic and welcoming of the Brits. The story begins with Dr. Aziz meeting an elderly lady who is visiting her son with Miss Quested, a flighty, priggish young woman who wants to meet a “real Indian.” Dr. Aziz, in welcoming exuberance, gives a polite but insincere invitation to his house and is shocked when Miss Quested takes him up on the offer. Embarrassed by his home, Dr. Aziz instead suggests that he host a trip to the Marabar caves. But in those caves, Miss Quested gets lost, and in her fear thinks that Dr. Aziz has accosted her, when he is actually in another cave looking for her. 

A Passage to India was a fantastic book on so many levels. With Miss Quested’s ill-advised acceptance of Dr. Aziz’s invitation (among many other ill-advised behaviors from the ladies), it highlights the differences between Indian culture and British culture. Dr. Aziz is overly accommodating, and the stand-offish British are entirely unaware of his putting himself out–they take all his welcoming exuberance quite literally. 

The characterization was also quite deep. For instance, it showed Miss Quested’s priggishness by her wish to see a “real Indian,” her pronounced reserve by her interactions with her potential fiance, and her openness to suggestion by her continued accusations of Dr. Aziz (which she seemed unsure of, but which were egged on by others of the British community). 

The writing style was sleek and symbolic. For instance at one point, before any of the horrifying incidents unfold, Mrs. Moore sees a wasp which reminds her vaguely of Indian culture. This wasp foreshadows the horrible events that follow. 

And most importantly, the A Passage to India outlined the failings of British colonialism, the blindness and priggishness of the British impressions of Indian people, and the resulting hostilities. 

I loved this book. This is my first Forster book that I’ve read, and it will most certainly not be my last. 


10 thoughts on “A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster

  1. This is one of my all time favourite books & probably my favourite Forster (although I do love A Room With a View too & I have a soft spot for Maurice).

    Living on another country that was colonised by the Btitish it is so frustrating reading how they never learnt from the experiences and kept making the same mistakes with the local indigenous populations creating long lasting problems that we all live with the consequences still hundreds of years later. It's soooooo very frustrating (with hindsight of course) & Forster manages to convey the issues at play for both sides in this book. You see that both were acting within the 'norm' for people born into the positions they were.

    Glad you enjoyed it so much.

    Like

  2. I loved this book.

    All the aspects that you mention make it well worth reading.

    I was particularly impressed by the metaphysical – existentialist musing that Forster engages in.

    Like

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