Sunday, December 2, 2007

Forster, A Passage to India

While reading the section on the “Caves” we came up with some interesting ideas and questions for you to think about:


Aziz does love Mrs. Moore but not so much Adela "He had never liked Miss Quested as much as Mrs. Moore, and had little to say to her, less that ever now that she would marry a British official."(167)

This sets a mood of conflict between them and shows Aziz' feelings of restraint due to the her engagement-uncomfortable with the British official that has power over him

“She was perfect, as always, his dear Mrs. Moore . . . There was nothing he would not do for her. He would die to make her happy.” (145)

“Yes, I am your friend” Mrs. Moore to Aziz (164)

Although he does not like Adela as much as Mrs. Moore, Aziz still says:

“These two had strange effects on him- they were his friend, his for ever, and he theirs forever…” (157)

Evidence of innocence?


"Life went on as usual, but had no consequences, that is to say, sounds did not echo or thoughts develop." (155)

I think this is a really important quote that describes the echo. It’s almost as if the echo represents trouble and the future arrest of Aziz. Maybe that's why the echo made Mrs. Moore uncomfortable? That's a bit of a stretch but still can show the impending trouble- "echoes generate echoes" (163)

Mrs. Moore “didn’t know who touched her, couldn’t breathe, and some vile naked thing struck her face and settled on her mouth like a pad . . . For an instant she went mad, hitting and gasping like a fanatic.
For not only did the crush and stench alarm her; there was a also a terrifying echo” (162)

“There are some exquisite echoes in India . . . The echo in a Marabar cave is not like these, it is entirely devoid of distinction. Whatever is said, the same monotonous noise replies . . .” (163)

“The crush and the smells she could forget, but the echo began in some indescribable way to undermine her hold on life” (165)

After Mrs. Moore leaves the cave she is looking for a villain. Foreshadowing of the incident with Adela?

The Moguls:

Aziz admires Babur but thinks Akbar is foolish because...
"You keep your religion, I mine. That is the best. Nothing embraces the whole of India, nothing, nothing..."(160)
Not even British culture?

Adela counters with "...I hope you're not right. There will have to be something universal in this country- I don't say religion, for I am not religious, but something, or how else are barriers to be broken down?"(160)
This question seems to show how E.M. Forster is wondering how any humans can connect. Especially in India where there are so many barriers. They then go into a conversation about Adela's impending Anglo-Indian point of view which will further separate her from any sort of universal brotherhood

Aziz says he feels like the Emperor Babur, and later says “But Babur- never in his whole life did he betray a friend” (159)
Foreshadowing his innocence?

And then in regards to the problem with Aziz:

“He was inaccurate because he desired to honor her and- facts being entangled- he had to arrange them in her vicinity, as one tidies the ground after extracting a weed. Before breakfast was over, he had told
a good many lies” (175) Aziz

Aziz is digging himself into a hole

"When an Indian goes bad he goes not only bad, but very queer."
They keep referring to Aziz in generic terms making them seem to represent the larger conflict between the British and English. Fielding plays an important mediator role between the two races, often siding with Aziz. Interesting? Why is this significant?

“When evil occurs, it expresses the whole of the universe. Similarly when good occurs” (197)

What did you think of this passage? I thought it was very interesting- saying they were all responsible- he did it, and so did everyone else.


Kristina said...

I don’t really think that British culture really embraces the whole of India. I think that it tries to take over the country and it is successful in doing so, but saying that it embraces it is not really true. The natives still have their own religion and ways of doing things and they are often relatively unaffected by the British people in terms of this. They are not treated fairly, however, and the government is controlled by Britain but the Indian culture hasn’t been completely taken over. Furthermore, India does eventually get freedom from British control, so England couldn’t have overtaken the country so much that it embraced the whole of it.

"...I hope you're not right. There will have to be something universal in this country- I don't say religion, for I am not religious, but something, or how else are barriers to be broken down?"(160) I also think that this question is interesting. It does show E.M. Forster’s questioning of how humans can connect. I thought that the quote even seemed to foreshadow India’s eventual freedom from British rule because she talks about barriers being broken. It seems as though she is suggesting that the people of India should come together on some common ground in order to overthrow the British rule. The quote makes me like Adela a little more than before just because she seems to be standing up for the Indians more than the British by saying it.

Megan Putney said...

I think that the root of the problems that surround the echo in the caves lies in the difference between the echoes that are found in India which are described as "exquisite" and the echoes in the cave which are "entirely devoid of distinction" (163) and monotonous. Why are the echoes in India not characterized by this deep fear while those in the Marabar caves are? My idea is that the echoes in the caves are so feared because they reduce everything to having the same meaning. It is interesting to note when you look at it this way that only the English people are described as fearing the echoes. As Mrs. Moore says, "Pathos, piety, courage-they exist, but are identical, and so is filth. Everything exists, nothing has value" (165). The echoes outside of the caves are exquisite rather than feared because in that realm of India the English are able to apply their hierarchies and social structures in order to develop an India that has meaning for themselves and thus is not feared. Mrs. Moore’s anxiety in the caves first develops when she is plunged into darkness and is unable to determine the identities of the people who are touching and crowding her. Her fear arises in this situation because her place in the hierarchy has become unstable- no one can tell that she is English in the dark and she cannot tell who anyone is either. This makes sense to me in my head but I’m not sure I described it well, sorry if it’s confusing!

andrew w. said...

I was thinking pretty much the exact same thing as Megan concerning the echoes of the caves. It reminds me of the deeper unity that is said to underlie the outwardly disparate culture of India (and presumably the world) as evoked in the moment of poetry we looked at toward the beginning of the novel. Looking at it in this sense, it screams 'descending into the unconscious' to me that is somehow like a collective of life and existence or a primordial source. Deep beneath the surface (into the caves) of life, everyone and everything is connected without these social constructions imposed by people. I agree that the novel portrays the English as the only visitors to be startled in the caves, and it seems to portray the Indians in a very 'mystic native' stereotype kind of light, as if there are essential characteristics or connections to the world in "Orientals." On the one hand, Forster is presenting a decently rounded portrait of both English and Indians positive, negative, and neutral characters; yet on the other hand, this particular treatment of the Indians seems a little racist in a way, however well-intentioned it may be.

And who would be more likely to read this novel? The audience is almost certain to be English, not Indian, and this is a book that is dealing quite directly with larger social themes as opposed to subtly exploring them. To me it comes off as quite literally the reader's "passage to India." I can imagine English readers picking up the book to get at the "real India" that Adela is also looking for. In this sense, maybe Forster is getting carried away with his attribution to the "Orientals" of a greater/easier ability to connect with the world.

Andy Murphy said...

The relationships between Aziz, Mrs. Moore, and Adela are more complex than simply eternal friends. The fact that Aziz befriends the British women in no way proves his innocence or guilt in the accusations against him and his interactions with Adela.

There is no way that British culture embraces India in any way. The interactions between British settlers and Indian natives at the town party display the incompatability between the cultures. As long as the British remain outsiders and demand control of the natives, the master/slave complex keeps the cultures from embracing each other as a unified India. Since the cultures are so completely different in practices and values, they can nerver fully assimilate each other. This is not bad, though, as if they were to assimilate, the spiritually rich Indian culture would be lost to a foreign influence.

When Forster uses Aziz in conflicts with British authority, it represents the larger Indian population resisting the British occupation of India. The fact that Fielding sides with Aziz shows that, on at least some level, that British authority realizes its presence effecting Indian culture in a negative way and acknoledges that the natives deserve better treatment.

Bailey said...

I think the difference between Aziz's feelings towards Mrs. Moore and Adela are purely in Aziz's head. He clearly loves Mrs. Moore more than Adela, but I think these feelings stem from Aziz's initial encounters with the women. He first meets Mrs. Moore in the mosque where she has respectfully followed protocol. I think Aziz is immediately drawn to Mrs. Moore and hopes she will provide the "oriental" English figure he's been looking for. In a way, Aziz sees Mrs. Moore in the manner in which he wishes to perceive her. Conversely, he meets Adela in somewhat different circumstances. Adela first appears to Aziz in the whites-club watching an English performance. It is no surprise that Aziz would become more hesitant with Adela after associating her with the white counterparts he finds her with. The fact that Mrs. Moore is found in a mosque and Adela found in a whites-club initially begins the separation that Aziz feels between the two women. Although Aziz eventually cares for both women, I think his first-impressions created the foundation of his relationships.

Ryan Tilley said...

I think Forster is drawing up a very broad and elaborate extended metaphor with his description of the caves and the "echo". I haven't quite wrapped my brain around it yet, but what it seems to me is that Forster is describing varying culutral spheres, "pockets," realms-- what have you.

Consider the following quote:
"Behind it [Kawa Dol (the overarching summit/rock)], recumbent, were the hills that contained the other caves, isolated each from his neighbour by broad channels of the plain."

These caves are representational of the cultural realms, the Muslim Indian culture, the Anglo-English culture, the Hindu-Indian culture, the infinitesimal sub-divisions of culture that can be divided in a multitude of ways. There are many caves, all similar in shape, indistinguishable from one another. Yet they are not interconnected-they are isolated, some not even penetrated yet, perfect chambers of darkness at the depth of each cave. this is a reference to the small kernel of culture that is appealing and attractive. It is also interesting how the caves are described as being simultaneously magnificent as well as dull.


"Having seen one such cave, having seen two, having seen three, four, fourteen, twenty-four, the visitor returns to Chandrapore uncertain whethre he has had an interesting experience or a dull one or any experience at all."

The caves, representing structures, being penetrated by men with rough tunnels that "impinge....upon the internal perfection" are this cultural spheres. Entering these caves is essentially cultural consumption, trying to derive experience/meaning through exposure to these cultures. However, the process is rough, tainted somewhat, and often bewildering, as it leaves Mrs. Moore and Adela disoriented and disturbed (some kind of culture shock). If left undisturbed, they are perfect dark chambers of perfection, but as soon as the outside world is let in to encounter the depth of the cave things become problematic. Consider the caves that are described as being unfound, no tunnel enters them, they hide within the hills, they are cultures existing in vacuum, cultures not yet subjected to universality to which they will inevitably be bound too.

The echo comes in here as it is representational of the pursuit of culture, which is the essentially the same endeavour, seeking universal truths through religion, relationship, ritual, etc.
All cultures are pursuing the same abstractions, whether they exist or not is unknown. The "boum" is both representational of the sameness of these cultural endeavours as it breaks down everything into the same sound, the same reverberation, the same echoing sound. It unites everything in a way but is also unnevering as it undermines certain cultural structures, such as Mrs. Moore's christian identity, and thus becomes very unnerving. It reduces everything to sameness and nothingness (but abscence implying presence, as Godbole would argue).

Its a complicated interpretation but I know Forster is getting at SOMETHING here. I want to talk tomorrow about what he might be trying to draw up with the echo and the caves as two additives to a compounded metaphor.

ryan said...

English Culture (Mrs. Moore):

God + Jesus Christ + England + Marriage + Empire + Englishness+... = "boum"

India (Aziz)

Allah + India + Chandrapore + Mohammed + Hookah... = "boum"

mike said...

There's a lot of great stuff being said about the echoes. I especially like Megan's observation that only the English seem to be affected. England at that time and during the preceding centuries was not a place accustomed to difference. They largely considered France to be their opposite, but on the grand scale, those two countries are more like feuding twins. India, on the other hand, has had a more diverse history, particularly as regards religious life. With the Church of England clearly dominant, the nation was largely preserved from the tumultuous variety of sects in Europe. India not only has many sects, but they teem within two separate religions, Hindu and Islam, which each have very different worldviews. India is a vast mixed plain; England, a sealed-off island. The caves represent a liminal space where religions, cultures, nations, and bodies mix and are so compacted as to almost become one. This is an allegory of imperialism. The Indians are used to a heterogenous culture and are not as unsettled. As for the English, even relatively open-minded individuals like Moore and Quested are used to a more uniform and stable world.

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