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Colonial attitudes in "A Passage to India" by E. M. Forster.

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Introduction

Colonial Attitudes in "A Passage to India" by E. M. Forster E. M. Forster critiques the colonial mentality in such a way in A Passage to India - the individual characters that constitute the system of colonialism in India are magnified and set as an example of this system. However, a magnifying lens often catches the light and reflects a ghostlike image of the observer over what is observed. So too does Forster's own prejudices and beliefs, rooted in the system of colonialism, appear omnipresent throughout the novel. While making a strong argument against colonialism, Forster is constantly reproducing a notion of the "other," the non-English, non-Western, the non-Forster that compromises the integrity of his novel. Forster's creation of the other begins with his perspectives of the physical India. "There is something hostile in the soil. It either yields, and the foot sinks into a depression, or else it is unexpectedly rigid and sharp, pressing stones or crystals against the tread" (Forster, A Passage to India, 16). By describing the land as hostile, Forster creates an antagonistic India, unfriendly to both native and foreigner. ...read more.

Middle

"...and Fielding often attempted analogies between this peninsula and that other, smaller and more exquisitely shaped, that stretches into the classic waters of the Mediterranean" (65). Reversing the metaphor Forster used previously, English rule settles everything. The Indian city can do little, only feeble outbursts of beauty. But when the English choose, glory can run into the Chandrapore economy or a benediction such as a Bridge Party is manufactured. The English can do this because they are so strong and enormous. "The sun never sets on the British Empire" and the English draw strength from this fact. The size is formed by the bent over forms of its subjected lands and peoples. While such an interpretation is directly opposed to Forster's message, he lays the foundation for such an interpretation with his physical descriptions and analogies. Of course, this is a small phrase and such elaboration may seem ludicrous. However, this phrase is repeated in sentiment throughout the novel. If the English are perceived as proper and the norm, the Indians, who are not English, must be improper and odd. ...read more.

Conclusion

Aziz's alienation and degradation is symptomatic of the alienation and degradation all Indians face in the novel, on both levels of plot and the level of reader/author discourse. Indians are physically weak in the novel. "Round they ran, weedy and knock-kneed - the local physique was wretched..." (59). Even the most educated of the Indians have "inferior and rough" intellects (114). They are incompetent and ridiculous at work, like "gardeners who were screaming at the birds" (74). With repeated descriptions of Indians, the reader wonders if colonialism should exist, if only to protect the average Indian from his own ignorance. After all, "There is no stay in your native. He blazes up over a minor point, and has nothing left for the crisis" (252). Forster also resorts to colonialism's dehumanization of subjected races. The Indians are often compared with animals. "[A]nd a crowd of dependents were swarming over the seats of the carriage like monkeys" (141). However, sometimes the comparison to monkeys is too good for the subjects. "Most of the inhabitants of India do not mind how India is governed. Nor are the lower animals of England concerned about England..."(123). "Most of the inhabitants" are no better then the "lower animals of England" is the implication. ...read more.

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