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A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, can be argued to be a political story on one level, about friendship and love on another and on a third level a story searching for truth and knowledge in the spheres of religion and spirituality. The novel brings into attention the British imperialism in India in a fictionalized story and is divided into three parts namely: “Mosque,” “Caves,” and “Temple” respectively. Forster shows how the British colonial system is inherently flawed although he was British himself.  Containing political, personal, and religious themes that are intertwined, A Passage to India has been subjected to quite a lot of criticism since its publication. Some have responded based on their view of it as a political novel questioning whether he has given a fair impression of the Indians. It can be argued that he portrays most of the British men working in India as racist and harmful figures as well as a negative image of Indians as well. Their positions in the colonial system almost always push them towards becoming as such. This is played out most explicitly in the development of Ronny’s character. The British women, apart from Mrs. Moore and Adela, often seem less sympathetic than the men. Colonial rule over India as they viewed was for the Indians’ own good. Forster also shows how the colonial system makes the Indians hate and sometimes condescend to the British. The colonialists assume role of “oppressor,” no matter how individually kind or open-minded they might be. This is best shown in the changes to Aziz’s character throughout the novel, as he goes from laughing at and befriending the English to actively hating them. Even as the novel criticizes this stereotyping of Orientals, it is itself not entirely free of the Orientalist attitude. The narrator makes broad generalizations about Orientals, about their psychology and their sexuality, that shows the Orientalist attitude in a negative light ins a novel that is sympathetic to them. Forster’s perception of India as a “muddle” and also as a “mystery” is handled carefully by him. In a letter to his friend and fellow author, William Plomer, he connects the plot’s mystery with India’s: “I tried to show that India is an unexplainable muddle by introducing an unexplainable muddle – Miss Quested’s experience in the cave.” Even according to Godbole as well as Mrs. Moore, India is a “mystery”. The reverberation of each and every sound within the cave is heard by Mrs. Moore as ‘baum’, which symbolizes how India is something incomprehensible for the Western mind. Forster shows them uninterested in trying to understand Indians socially or their culture. This paper aims to discuss how Forster’s critiqued the insensitivity of British towards Indians although not imperialism itself, he presents the mystery of the Marabar caves in relation to India as a whole, a mystery and a muddle.This critique of a disinterest by all the British officials: the collector, the superintendent of police, the civil surgeon, and the city magistrate whose only interest is to govern India in order “to do justice and keep the peace”, is underlined by Forster to portray the insensitivity of the British towards Indians. Only the characters of Mrs. Moore, Adela and Fielding posses a general outlook on India that acquires an edge of sensitivity as a result of their experiences during their visit. The British are shown to abuse their power while they should use it in the cause of good. This can be seen when the roles of the victim and the offender (Adela and Dr Aziz) gets reversed and the real crime is revealed to be the abuse of power, that can only lead to the demise of colonialism. It is not just the mysterious and exotic setting of India alone that gives the novel its appeal and complexity; rather it is the placement of dark, ambiguous cavity at the center of the text which is described as a black, blank impenetrable core that indicates the something that cannot be described within the larger geographical setting of India. Thereby this transforms the novel into one of the finest examples of modernist literature. Critic Leland Monk compares Passage to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which also builds tension using a similar strategy.The caves, are described as dark and are hollows in the center of rocks. In addition the entrances to the caves are artificial: “An entrance was necessary, so mankind made one. But else where, deeper in the granite, are there certain chambers that have no entrances? Chambers never unsealed since the arrival of the gods. Local report declares that these exceed in number those that can be visited, as the dead exceed the living—hundred of them, four thousand or million. Nothing is inside them, they were sealed up before the creation of pestilence or treasure; if mankind grew curious and excavated, nothing, nothing, would be added to the sum of good or evil.” (Forster, 125) This inturn describes the colonialism of the British in India which was something necessary that was established by them. And the rest of the chambers are sealed and are said to be consisting of nothing which is presented as something incomprehensible by the British and even the Indians. The incident in these caves leads to all the muddle which is a common theme in many researches and a central theme of the novel. What happened in the cave which lead to Adela imagining or hallucinating the incident remains a mystery. The novel only inclines towards the innocence of Dr. Aziz, which hints that Adela was mistaken. This question of ‘what happened in the Marabar Caves?’, was a question Forster was plagued by readers for decades. His definitive response would be “I don’t know”, he would simply say, frustratingly. The ‘ordeal’ which Adela Quested goes through is in the Marabar caves is also projected as if it is something that the location had brought unto her. Her naivety is excused for by the idea that India is a puzzle that cannot be cracked. A similar excuse is given for Ronny Heaslop’s character who is portrayed to suit the British interests. Though he is rude and condescending in his attitude towards Indians, he is so because of the flawed colonial administration system. The free-spirited, independent thinker in him has conformed to the herd mentality of the colonial administration. The Marabar caves provide an important insight into the Western imagination of the Oriental landscape as baffling and chaotic. Even in the novel, the narrator asks “how can the mind take hold of such a country?” (Forster). In his essay, Edward Said reads Passage through the lens of his theory of Orientalism and portrays how the depiction of Indians in the novel provides a negative stereotype for the West. For Said, Forster’s depiction of India as incomprehensible is an act of evasion rather than understanding; he exoticises and mystifies the nation, rather than engaging and elucidating. Thus the India as Forster depicts is a mystery and muddle that characterizes what he depicts as an essentially unknowable country. Even the incident at the heart of the novel’s plot, therefore, was like India, maintained as a mystery. Another lens one can use to analyze the novel, particularly the incident in the cave is the concept of “unconscious” by Freud. According to Freud the human mind is like an iceberg. It is mostly hidden in the unconscious. He believed that the conscious level of the mind was similar to the tip of the iceberg which could be seen, but the unconscious was mysterious and was hidden. In the case of Adela, the Marabar cave she entered might symbolize the depths of the unconscious mind. She admits to hearing the same mysterious echo that Mrs. Moore heard, and which had such a catastrophic effect Mrs. Moore’s peace of mind who had come to India to discover its beauty. For these two Westerners, it can be analyzed that the caves break down their conscious, or their personalities that are carefully constructed by them and reveals the unconscious that remains under the surface personalities and lay bare what is under the surface. I can be suggested that when Adela steps into the cave, she loses her rationale and some of her unconscious fears about love and marriage and sex are let loose, which leads her to imagine that she has been assaulted.Another unexplainable phenomenon is the echo of the caves which shows the gapbetween what our primitive selves desire and what the civilized imprisonments of society supplies. The dialogue between Mrs. Moor and Adela discussing the echo that they both hear has something uncanny about it:”There is this echo that I keep on hearing.” “Oh, what of the echo?” asked Mrs Moore, paying attention to her for the first time. “I can’t get rid of it.” “I don’t suppose you ever will.” Ronny had emphasized to his mother that Adela would arrive in a morbid state, yet she was being positively malicious.  “Mrs. Moore, what is this echo?” “Don’t you know?” “No—what is it? Oh, do say! I felt you would be able to explain it . . . this will comfort me so . . .”  “If you don’t know, you don’t know; I can’t tell you.” (Forster)To put this in Freudian terms, it is the gap between the id and the superego that the ego struggles over. The term uncanny describes this opposition between the familiar and the knowable on one hand, versus the incomprehensibility of India on the other. The uncanny is, as described in the Freud’s introduction of “The Uncanny”, “that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar” (Freud 124). India itself may be in this category: the novel opens in the British rule at Chandrapore, where the established set of attitudes guide the them in how to behave and how to rule India. However, the narrator undermines this and  by and renders this as superficial and wrong. What was familiar to the British from their perspective of India becomes unfamiliar when they come across the “ou-boum” of the caves . The Marabar Caves’ mysterious form and lack of content expresses in addition to the novels’ muddle and lack of meaningful characteristics which comprises everything that is incomprehensible about India. This poses as the novel’s greatest challenge to established colonial authority. This actualizes the question of representing otherness in the novel, especially in terms of describing Indians and their land in this narrative. The narrator’s attempt at a textual rendering of the echo is significant, but necessarily doomed to fail. Integrating Forster’s representation of India and his outlook of the general Indians with more sensitivity, demonstrated his concern of the ill effects of corrupted imperialism in India. Although not completely against the idea of imperialism, his overall message is that the corrupted colonialism in India is a harmful system for both the British and the Indians. Friendships like that between Aziz and Fielding are a rare exception, not the rule, and even such friendships are all but destroyed or thwarted by the problems and tensions of caused by corruption. In a place which remains a mystery and a muddle, Forster attempts at bridging the gap between the West and the East, although not entirely free of the Oriental mindset, he depicts a more sympathetic and sensitive side towards Indians and their struggles under the British rule, which is corrupted. Although he doesn’t criticize the British rule, but he calls for a better treatment of the British government towards the colonized to make the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized more friendly, rather than representing the oppressor (British)and the oppressed. (Indians)

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