a passage to india book jacket

A PASSAGE TO INDIA / E.M. Forster

Forster’s 1924 novel is a cautionary tale of India under the British rule.  The reader is led to appreciate the vast cultural gulfs between Britain and India and between conflicting factions within India (Moslem, Hindu,…).  Forster orchestrates his themes through a select cast of characters.

Two British ladies, Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested, come to Chandrapore to “experience India.”  At first they seem to overcome the existing allofness that prevents true mingling between the “occupation forces”  and “the natives”;  Dr. Aziz, a Moslem with Western credentials (along with his sole British friend and confidant, Cyril Fielding) takes the women under his wing and offers to shepherd them on an outing to the Marabar Caves, a nearby landmark.  Things go wrong and Aziz gets arrested on the charge of attempting to molest Adela.  The incident and subsequent trial lead to a number of unexpected outcomes.

No plot summary can convey the magic of this novel.  Forster’s command of all aspects of Indian life, his grasp of psychology, and his incredible ability to depict the interactions among such diverse people are the true rewards of reading  A PASSAGE TO INDIA.  Forster’s writing, always elegant, and full of gems of insight, rises to poetry now and again in his pictures of landscape and weather.

This book (which presages India’s coming independence (1947)) would profit anyone open to seeing the difficulty and necessity of bridging an impasse between cultures or religions.  We leave India encouraged to improve our tolerance and affection for the vast variety of humankind.     Don 9/11/19

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