Sep 28, 2020 in Literature

Theme of a Passage to India

A Passage to India is a mystical novel that addresses many themes that can be found in the real life. For instance, it discusses the issue of the friendship between the representatives of different nations, the concepts of power and justice, and criticizes the British government and it policies. The title of the paper has a symbolic meaning. In particular, a passage to India represents the establishment of the geographical connection between England and India with the opening of the Suez Canal. Besides this, the passage is a journey to the understanding and friendship between the representatives of the two different nations. However, there are many obstacles to the establishment of the friendly relationships between India and Britain. One of them is the British attitude towards the Indian population. Forster criticizes the British colonial power that often does not trust and understand the needs of the native population. Thus, one of the important themes of the novel is the destructive influence of the British colonial policy on the Indians. 

Indeed, the novel is a realistic documentation of the policies of the British colonial empire in India. It provides an overview of the justice system, describes the relationships between two nations, and underlines the economic importance of the colony to Britain. While Britain stated that its presence in India was aimed at the protecting of the population and ensuring its prosperity, the colonial government pursued the policy of exploiting the country and getting more wealth.


In general, the British rule is described as a racist institution that oppresses its colony. The civilizing mission of Britain that gives the country a right to dominate other nations is highlighted as a negative fact. In A Passage to India, the colonialists are depicted as a stronger race with the right to establish their authority over the locals. As a result of the colonial policy, the native population of India is considered to be weak and outcast. The British treat Indians as a different category of people. There is an idea that the Indians represent a mess of the religious diversity. At the same time, the British population can also be divided into categories depending on the religious factors or social class. As a result, there is no social integration between British and Indian societies. Moreover, Mr. Turton underlines that there would be “anything but disaster result when English people and Indians attempt to be intimate socially”. He believes, like many other British people, that the socialization of both nations will have only negative effects. 

According to Forster, Indians are even more sophisticated than the British. However, the colonial government and society fail to notice the nature of the Indians. On the contrary, under the influence of the colonial policy, the British have developed a negative racial attitude towards the local population. For example, British women are portrayed as highly racist, selfish, and superior. Throughout the novel, Miss Dereck demonstrates anger towards her employees. While the men differ from the women in their attitude to the native population, they remain unable to understand the Indians and are mainly concentrated on their work. In addition, they try to impose their rule and introduce their way of life and obedience. For instance, major Calledar tortured the young Indian by putting pepper on his face. At the same time, the major underlines that “a little roughness will not hurt the boy, he needs discipline”. Thus, the British population assumes that they have a right to demonstrate inhuman behavior towards the natives as they need to be educated. At the same time, the attitude of the British people makes the Indians feel insecure and worried. In particular, the natives claim that the British “hope to destroy us one by one; they shall fail”. As a result, the author underlines the difficulty of the relationships between two nations.  

The racism attitude can be clearly observed in the attitude of the British towards Aziz after the events in the cave. People express an opinion that Aziz may pretend to be a respectable and trustworthy member of the society in order to get a governmental position, however, he may be cruel to the society. As a result, the whole society starts to blame Indians stating that “when an Indian goes bad, he goes not only very bad, but very queer”. The native population is mistreated as criminals. As a result, the British in the novel agree that there should be unwritten rules determining the behavior regarding the natives. The Indians should follow these rules to protect the rights of the colonial empire. Thus, Forster one more time underlines the superior attitude of the British. The author also highlights the appliance of the double standards in the attitude towards the Indians. For instance, the British can treat Indians well in Britain, but when it comes to India they are immediately deprived of such attitude. It is determined by the fact that the Britain is believed to have a civilizing impact on the immigrants. At the same time, in India, the British fail to comprehend the religion and culture of the natives. 

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However, Forster’s concept of the nature of the British colonial rule was criticized by the scholars. For instance, the author does not address the possibility of the ending of the British rule in India. While Forster describes the British attitude towards the Indians, he suggests that the British people simply have to become kinder and more patient. There is no necessity for Britain to leave India. Moreover, the author is skeptical about the Indian independence. It is determined by the diversity of India. In particular, it is hard to imagine that the country with so many religious and social groups can be united under the rule of one government. 

Thus, while Forster criticizes the British rule in India, he does not entirely oppose it. For instance, the writer underlines that the Western civilization can offer many benefits for other societies. These may include the notion of civil rights, concepts of justice and judgment, and possibility to handle a conflict in a peaceful way. For instance, the British Empire can help to prevent the hostilities between Hindus and Moslems. At the same time, the author pays attention to the fact that the moral principles can get neglected in the corrupt institutions of the British Empire. In particular, the British idea of the colonial justice can be found in the approach of Ronny Heaslop when he says: “we’re out here to do justice and keep the peace; them’s my sentiments; India isn’t a drawingroom”. Justice is described as a means to keep peace in the country. In the case of India, Britain can bring peace to the mess of the religious and social diversity of the country. Thus, the native nation will be mistreated and controlled by the British people in order to establish order. The description of Aziz’s trial demonstrates how British institutions, such as the military or court system, have already been integrated into the justice. 

As a result, the author depicts the disastrous nature of the British colonial policy. In particular, it has not only led to the establishment of the British power in India and introduction of the colonial system of justice and judgment but oppressed the native population.  Besides this, the British policy had an impact on the relations between two nations. Forster characterized the attitude of the British people towards the controlled Indians as superior. This behavior of the British population is determined by the policy of the country in India. The Indians were not treated as equal but were often stigmatized as criminals who should follow certain unwritten rules in relations with the colonists. The same condition can be found in the modern world, as the developed nations always treat the developing countries as the source of their wealth and power. Thus, there is no necessity to understand the cultural and religious peculiarities of the developing world and socialize with its citizens.  


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