Book #25-A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

I truly enjoyed this trip as I commemorate the 1/4 mark on my literary journey.  Forster’s keen writing details and humanizing dialogues made A Passage to India an enjoyable read.

Two British women travel to the fictional Chandrapore, India where they are to meet with the elder’s son as a potential husband for the latter.  They both are hoping to see the “real” India after their initial disappointment with the colonist’s introduction.

Foster is quite adept at painting the various characters throughout.   A Passage to India focuses on four central characters; Dr. Aziz, Cyril Fielding, Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested.

Aziz is a Muslim physician frustrated by the British colonization that surrounds and disfavors him.  His wife has died and his three children are now living with relatives.

The only trusted Englishman to Aziz, Cyril Fielding is an educator and sees clearly the injustices that abound by his fellow Brits and is quite candid about his observations to all.

Mrs. Moore is an open minded English woman who is disheartened when observing her son’s attitude towards the Indian people.  I was very disappointed that Foster had developed such a strong and independent female character who, without warning, becomes a bitter and sarcastic woman.  While she does become ill, this does not fully explain her completely changed behavior.

Adela Quested is a young and curious lady who is more mature than she herself realizes.  She is able to see her countrymen’s poor behavior and is able to publicly acknowledge her own accusations as being mistaken.

While most of the novel flowed quite nicely, the last section was a tad slow and seemed to want to cram in a little too much knowledge Mr. Foster likely had bursting from his seams.


Why could he remember people whom he did not love?  They were always so vivid to him, whereas, the more he looked at the photograph, the less he saw.  She had eluded him thus, ever since they had carried her to her tomb.  He had known that she would pass from his hands and eyes, but had thought she could live in his mind, not realizing that the very fact that we have loved the dead increases their unreality, and that the more passionately we invoke them the further they recede.

The Indians were bewildered.  The line of thought was not alien to them, but the words were too definite and bleak.  Unless a sentence paid a few compliments to Justice and Morality in passing, its grammar wounded their ears and paralysed their minds.  What they said and what they felt were (except in the case of affection) seldom the same.  They had numerous mental conventions and when these were flouted they found it very difficult to function.

How indeed is it possible for one human being to be sorry for all the sadness that meets him on the face of the earth, for the pain that is endured not only by men, but by animals and plants, and perhaps by the stones?  The soul is tired in a moment, and in fear of losing the little she does understand, she retreats to the permanent lines which habit or chance have dictated, and suffers there.

By sacrificing good taste, this worship achieved what Christianity has shirked:  the inclusion of merriment.  All spirit as well as all matter must participate in salvation, and if practical jokes are banned, the circle is incomplete.

A chat with Mr. Forster would be quite enjoyable.  I’d love to hear about his travels and how he garnered such keen insight into class struggles between nations and more interestingly, among nations.

My rating for A Passage to India is a 9 out of 10.

To see the entire list,  visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

Please share your own reviews or  comments by using the link below.

Next up, Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove.



Filed under A Passage to India

3 responses to “Book #25-A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

  1. Thank you for this post. There were some quotes in there I can’t believe I don’t remember… the part about sadness really touched me. I have a few on my review here:

    I’m surprised you gave this one a 9, but the polarity on this book is very strong. I’m not sure why, but the stats on my site have this review as being read more times than any other by a substantial number. It will be interesting to see if this is an abberration – my thoughts always lead back to the polarity.

    • vsudia

      Seems you did not enjoy this as much as I did. I think we both agreed that Forster clearly captured the essence of the British presence in India, but you were apparently turned off at some point where I was not. I’m already thinking of re-reading some of the books I gave poor scores to…hah, if I ever get through the 100! How goes Tortilla Flat?

  2. Sadly, I have not picked ‘Tortilla Flat’ up yet. I got sidetracked with Jules Verne and life in general, so Steinbeck will have to wait until the holidays.

    Regarding ‘A Passage to India’, I felt there was a lot of ‘stuff’ in the novel that a good editor should have edited out. Also, I remember being suprised that the book ended when it did. The plot really fell off after the trial, and I think there was something missing in the later part of the novel.

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