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Literature: A Passage to India
"A Passage to India" is a 1924 novel by E.M. Forster about relationships between Britain and India in the last days of the British Raj and the struggle for Indian independence. The novel opens with Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore arriving at India. Adela is to marry Ronny Heaslop, Mrs. Moore's son and the city magistrate. While visiting a mosque one night, Mrs. Moore meets Dr. Aziz, an Indian physician. The two become close friends. At a later visit, Dr. Aziz agrees to take Mrs. Moore, Adela, Cyril Fielding (a pro-Indian teacher at a local school) and Narayan Godbole (a Hindu-Brahmin professor) to a visit to the Marabar Caves.

Something happens when Adela enters a cave by herself—the book is never clear on just what it is. She leaves the cave bloody and disheveled, and accuses Dr. Aziz of attempting to rape her. The man is arrested, which leads to the Indian community and Fielding springing to Aziz's defense. Fielding is ostracized from the English community. Mrs. Moore is criticized by Ronnie for her belief that Aziz is innocent and her unwillingness to testify at the trial.

A film of the book was made in 1984, directed by David Lean.


The book provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Situation: No one will ever know what really happened in the Marabar caves, and Forster refused to say insisting that it wasn't as important as the chain of events it set in motion.
  • Author Avatar: Most, if not all of Fielding's opinions about India are Forster's himself.
  • The British Empire
  • Burial at Sea: Mrs. Moore dies on the voyage back to Britain, resulting in this type of burial.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs Moore, more or less.
  • Dirty Foreigner: How the British (except Mrs. Moore, Adela and Fielding) see the native Indians, even though they are in their country!
  • Enemy Mine: The tentative and temporary unity between Hindus and Muslims during the trial.
  • Inherent in the System: One of the main critiques the book levels against the Raj is that it co-opts even the most well meaning of the English into viewing the Indians as inferior. It is also the reason that Aziz and Fielding can't be friends while the British remain in India.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Elderly Mrs Moore's relationships with the much younger Aziz and Adela.
  • The Philosopher: Narayan Godbole.
  • Plain Jane: Adela is not a good-looking woman. She knows it.
  • Positive Discrimination: Subverted. While the native Indian characters are generally presented in a more sympathetic light than the Anglo-Indians, they are not immune to bigotry themselves, particularly on religious grounds. Dr Godbole feels the need to wash his hands after touching a non-Hindu, and several of the Muslim characters express the view that Hindus are barbarians who need to be civilised by their influence - essentially parroting the views of the British. The inferior status of women is also touched upon.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Mc Bryde expresses the same racism as his peers, but he generally respects Indians and regrets the furor building up around Aziz's trial. He also remains friendly with Fielding when other British characters turn their back on him.
  • The Raj
  • Real Men Love Allah: After Babur, Aziz's second favorite of the Six Great Mughal Emperors is the mighty, fiercely religious warrior king Aurangzeb. Aziz himself is described as possessing a wiry strength in himself, and is a deeply devout Muslim, as his scene in the Chandrapore Mosque describes well.
  • Scenery Porn: There are a lot of descriptions about the Marabar Caves, the mosque that Aziz and Mrs. Moore visit, etc.
  • Time Skip: Two years pass between Parts II and III.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Adela is earnest in her desire to see all the wonders of the "real India". Doesn't really last for her, though.

The film provides examples of:

  • British Stuffiness: Mr. and Mrs. Turton, Major Callendar and Ronny Heslop. Completely averted with Mrs. Moore.
  • Cool Train: The Trans-India Express journey from Bombay to Chandrapore.
  • Curse Is Foiled Again: Prof. Godbole takes this tack on the surprise outcome of the trial of Dr. Aziz.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Karmic Jackpot: After his ordeal and unexpected aversion of certain doom by Adela's withdrawal of the charges, things start going very well for Aziz.
  • Lighter and Softer
  • Mean Brit: Ronny Heslop. He insults Aziz behind his back without ever having spoken with the man, initially flatly forbids Adela from accepting Aziz' invitation to the Caves, then later refuses him bail and sends his mother, an important witness to the events at the caves, arbitrarily back to England to prevent her from testifying on Aziz' behalf. Also applies to Inspector Macbride.
  • Oop North: Inspector Mac Bride.
  • Scenery Porn: This comes into play quite literally when Adela sees the erotic carvings.
  • Sim Sim Salabim: India is portrayed like this to a T, right down to the attack monkeys.
  • Spot of Tea: It's exasperating to Adela how the vast majority British Community in Chandrapore has recreated a microcosm of English life and Culture without making any effort to associate or learn about their Indian subjects. When she's taken to the Club for the first time she's served Tea and cucumber sandwiches.
  • Stiff Upper Lip Except for Adela the entire British Community in Chandrapore is nonplussed by the angry protests surrounding the arrest and trial of Dr. Aziz.


Parade's EndLiterature of the 1920sPather Panchali
PapillonLit FicPavilion Of Women
Once Upon a Time in AmericaFilms of the 1980sThe Philadelphia Experiment
The Killing FieldsAcademy AwardA Soldiers Story

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