"A Passage to India" Review

arch in India
India Gate, 1931, New Delhi, India.

Pallava Bagla / Getty Images

E.M. Forster's A Passage to India was written at a time when the end of the British colonial presence in India was becoming a very real possibility. The novel now stands in the canon of English literature as one of the truly great discussions of that colonial presence. But, the novel also demonstrates how friendships attempt (though often failing) to span the gap between the English colonizer and the Indian colonized.

Written as a precise mixture between a realistic and recognizable setting and a mystical tone, A Passage to India shows its author as both an excellent stylist as well as a perceptive and acute judge of human character.


The main incident of the novel is the accusation by an English woman that an Indian doctor followed her into a cave and attempted to rape her. Doctor Aziz (the accused man) is a respected member of the Muslim community in India. Like many people of his social class, his relationship with the British administration is somewhat ambivalent. He sees most of the British as enormously rude, so he is pleased and flattered when an English woman, Mrs. Moore, attempts to befriend him.
Fielding also becomes a friend, and he is the only English person who attempts to help him after the accusation is made. Despite Fielding's help, Aziz is constantly worried that Fielding will somehow betray him). The two part ways and then meet many years later. Forster suggests that the two can never really be friends until the English withdraw from India.

Wrongs of Colonization

A Passage to India is a searing portrayal of the English mismanagement of India, as well as an accusatory missal against many of the racist attitudes the English colonial administration held. The novel explores the many rights and wrongs of Empire and the way in which the native Indian population was oppressed by the English administration.
With the exception of Fielding, none of the English believe in Aziz's innocence. The head of the police believes that the Indian character is inherently flawed by an ingrained criminality. There appears to be little doubt that Aziz will be found guilty because the word of an English woman is believed over the word of an Indian.

Beyond his concern for British colonization, Forster is even more concerned with the right and wrong of human interactions. A Passage to India is about friendship. The friendship between Aziz and his English friend, Mrs. Moore, begins in almost mystical circumstances. They meet at a Mosque as the light is fading, and they discover a common bond.
Such friendships cannot last in the heat of the Indian sun nor under the auspices of the British Empire. Forster ushers us into the minds of the characters with his stream-of-consciousness style. We begin to understand the missed meanings, the failure to connect. Ultimately, we begin to see how these characters are kept apart.
A Passage to India is a marvelously written, marvelously sad novel. The novel emotively and naturally recreates the Raj in India and offers insight into how the Empire was run. Ultimately, though, it's a tale of powerlessness and alienation. Even friendship and the attempt to connect fails.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Topham, James. ""A Passage to India" Review." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/a-passage-to-india-review-741017. Topham, James. (2020, August 27). "A Passage to India" Review. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-passage-to-india-review-741017 Topham, James. ""A Passage to India" Review." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-passage-to-india-review-741017 (accessed June 9, 2023).