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'Prejudice is reasonable if it preserves culture' - To what extent is this the prevailing view in EM Forster's 'A Passage to India'

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Introduction

"" How far do the views presented in 'Our Country's Good' and 'A Passage to India' agree with this statement? Culture is a word that is difficult to define as it is a transient notion; culture is constantly changing over time. Despite this, culture can be summarised as the shared values, practices and goals that characterise a group of people and give them a sense of belonging. In 'Our Country's Good' and 'A Passage to India' there are examples of different cultures which clash. The idea of exporting culture is one that is unlikely to prove fruitful, as culture is based on common ideas uniting a group of people. Attempting to take culture overseas 'for the spread of civilisation, for the Christianising of the negro' (Bax, 1896) was supposedly the main philanthropic aim of British colonialism, in addition to the exploitation of foreign resources to further strengthen Britain and gain vast wealth. The implicit sense of superiority found through the aims of colonialism is found in 'Our Country's Good'. Scene 3 opens with the empowered men 'shooting birds' whilst discussing that the land of Australia is bound by English law, this creates a distinct image of the English destroying indigenous species at the same time as strengthening their own power. ...read more.

Middle

changes from that point onwards Culminating in him ditching his non-progressive overly conservative stance of maintaining Britishness in every way possible by abandoning his initial prejudices and sleeping with Mary Brenham. Uncertainty in views on the nature of cultures and of divisions are also found in 'A Passage to India' in which Fielding and Adela both are presented in a state of flux with regard to their cultural sympathies. Early on in the novel, Adela rejects the idea of marrying Ronny, whilst maintaining a desire to 'see the real India'. The rejection of Ronny having seen the nature of his job and the manner in which he treats his subordinates, could be construed as racist. "We're not out here for the purpose of behaving pleasantly!" Adela approaches India idealistically and is unimpressed by the treatment of the natives, yet finds the company of Aziz more enjoyable and relishes the opportunity to visit the Marabar Caves. The caves representing the complex nature of India in which events are easily misinterpreted, the nature of simple things is distorted by the echo of the cave, which happens to Adela when she feels violated and accuses Aziz of rape. Within the cave, Adela realises the alien nature of Indian culture compared to what she is aware of, represented in the film adaptation by a temple that appears enchanting yet is protected by violent monkeys. ...read more.

Conclusion

The problem with this is that both separate groups are concerned only with their own utility and neither would wish to compromise their ideals in fear that the other culture would dominate their own and all remnants of their culture would be lost. The outcome in 'A Passage to India' and in 'Our Country's Good' are notably different, as throughout 'Our Country's Good', the theatre becomes a tool through which the officers and convicts realise they have common values. Through the rehearsals the officers realise the nature of the convicts is not as absolute as they had once though and the recurrent motif throughout both novels that events are misinterpreted comes up. From this, the officers and convicts advance and reach a stage at which both cultures form their own colony, which is entirely separated from the life they would lead in England. Whereas 'A Passage to India' presents a different view, the Indian culture is too varied for the English to even try to find a common medium through which social barriers can be broken. Instead, the Indians such as Aziz trying to integrate with the English through events such as the expedition to the Marabar Caves are punished for effectively making a compromise, whilst the English remain insular and attempt to make no such deal. This then reinforces the imbalance of power and compounds colonialisation further, creating more barriers and ultimately making it more difficult for people to transcend these and live harmoniously. ...read more.

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