A Passage to India

( 42 )


E. M. Forster's exquisitely observed novel about the clash of cultures and the consequences of perception, set in colonial India

Among the greatest novels of the twentieth century and the basis for director David Lean’s Academy Award–winning film, A Passage to India unravels the growing racial tension between Indians, uneasy at best with colonial power, and the British, largely ignorant and dismissive of the society they're infiltrating. A sudden moment of confusion results in a...

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E. M. Forster's exquisitely observed novel about the clash of cultures and the consequences of perception, set in colonial India

Among the greatest novels of the twentieth century and the basis for director David Lean’s Academy Award–winning film, A Passage to India unravels the growing racial tension between Indians, uneasy at best with colonial power, and the British, largely ignorant and dismissive of the society they're infiltrating. A sudden moment of confusion results in a devastating series of events that threatens to ruin a man's life, revealing just how deeply—and swiftly—prejudice has taken root.

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Editorial Reviews

Herbert S. Gorman
A single reading of A Passage to India settles the question. Mr. E. M. Forster is indubitably one of the finest novelists living in England today, and A Passage to India is one of the saddest, keenest, most beautifully written ironic novels of the time. . . . [It] is both a challenge and an indictment. It is also a revelation. -- Books of the Century; New York Times review, August 1924
Library Journal
Du Bois's 1903 classic is one of many large-print standards being released by Transaction. Other new titles in the series include Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy (ISBN 1-56000-523-8), Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (ISBN 1-56000-517-3), H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau (ISBN 1-56000-515-7), Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (ISBN 1-56000-507-8), E.M. Forster's A Passage to India (ISBN 1-56000-507-6), and Scott Fitzgerald's The Ice Palace and Other Stories (ISBN 1-56000-511-4). These are available in a mixture of paperback and hardcovers, with prices ranging from $17.95 to $24.95.
From the Publisher
A Passage to India is one of the great books of the twentieth century and has had enormous influence. We need its message of tolerance and understanding now more than ever. Forster was years ahead of his time, and we ought to try to catch up with him.” –Margaret Drabble

“The crystal clear portraiture, the delicate conveying of nuances of thought and life, and the astonishing command of his medium show Forster at the height of his powers.” –The New York Times

“[Forster is] a supreme storyteller . . . The novel seems to me more completely ‘achieved’ than anything else he wrote.” –from the new Introduction by P. N. Furbank

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156711425
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/28/1965
  • Series: Abinger Edition of E. M. Forster Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 67,273
  • Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

E. M. Forster published his first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, in 1905, which was quickly followed in 1907 by The Longest Journey and then in 1908 with A Room with a View. However, Forster's major breakthrough came in 1910 with the book Howard's End, which is often still regarded as his greatest work. Forster was associated with the Bloomsbury Group: a collective of intellectuals and peers, among them Virginia Woolf, Benjamin Britten, Roger Fry, and John Maynard Keynes. The 1924 publication of A Passage to India firmly cemented Forster in the literary firmament as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century with this being one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. It was, however, the last novel Forster ever completed.

Forster seems to have harbored a growing disillusionment with traditional liberalism and instead turned his attention to teaching and criticism, beginning with the Clark Lectures he delivered at Cambridge in 1927, which were gathered into a much-admired collection of essays published as Aspects of the Novel. In 1946, Forster accepted a fellowship at Cambridge where he remained until his death in 1970.


Edward Morgan Forster was born in London in 1879, attended Tonbridge School as a day boy, and went on to King's College, Cambridge, in 1897. With King's he had a lifelong connection and was elected to an Honorary Fellowship in 1946. He declared that his life as a whole had not been dramatic, and he was unfailingly modest about his achievements. Interviewed by the BBC on his eightieth birthday, he said: "I have not written as much as I'd like to... I write for two reasons: partly to make money and partly to win the respect of people whom I respect... I had better add that I am quite sure I am not a great novelist." Eminent critics and the general public have judged otherwise and in his obituary The Times called him "one of the most esteemed English novelists of his time."

He wrote six novels, four of which appeared before the First World War, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908), and Howard's End (1910). An interval of fourteen years elapsed before he published A Passage to India. It won both the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Maurice, his novel on a homosexual theme, finished in 1914, was published posthumously in 1971. He also published two volumes of short stories; two collections of essays; a critical work, Aspects of the Novel; The Hill of Devi, a fascinating record of two visits Forster made to the Indian State of Dewas Senior; two biographies; two books about Alexandria (where he worked for the Red Cross in the First World War); and, with Eric Crozier, the libretto for Britten's opera Billy Budd. He died in June 1970.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edward Morgan Forster
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 1, 1879
    2. Place of Birth:
    1. Date of Death:
      June 7, 1970
    2. Place of Death:
      Coventry, England

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 42 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 42 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2001

    A fascinating story of the injection of westernism

    This book is a great example of how the injection of western influences and domination throw the equilbruim of societies into a state of disarray. The europeans took over rule in many countries trying to force the native cultures into adopting their rules and laws. The domination of western peoples also created its own class structures with them on top. This initiated racism and a hierarchy of social classes. The perceptions of the native peoples even caused them to turn on their own at times. Due to their discontent from the structural conditions of the subjunation of their culture by the British, the Indians used the incident this book centers around to spark a rebellion against western intervention on their way of life. The clashing of cultures due to the integration of western ideologies with the basic belief systems of India caused immense stress on the native people of India. A must for anyone studying the emergence of western ideals in other non-western nations.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2000

    An Interesting Look at British India

    Written in 1924, this book offers an excellent presentation of social constructs in Colonial India from both the British and Indian perspectives. It was fascinating to see how various actions and situations were interpreted by members of the two different civilisations. When one reads this book keeping in mind the period in which it appeared, it is amazing to note just how ahead of its time it was. Ideas presented, such as the notion that India might one day be a nation instead of several very different groups of people¿Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, are really quite revolutionary. While events did not transpire quite as the book may have alluded to (Colonial India was made of up the present-day nations of India and Pakistan, which came about after a very bloody war- hence two nations not one), they are nonetheless far ahead of their times. While I encourage everyone to read this book for the very candid insights into the mindsets of British Colonials and Indians of the time period, I did not give this book a 5 for several reasons. Firstly, the use of many foreign words (of Urdu origin I presume), while adding flavour to the story also made reading a bit difficult as I was unfamiliar with many of them, and could not find them in and English dictionary. It was a bit confusing as many of the words were not explained. Secondly, in my opinion there were large passages where nothing of import was said. This, unfortunately, did not add to the reading experience for me. This aside, I do think it is a book worth reading, especially for its status as a modern classic and the unique point of view from which it is written.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2007

    Passage to Blandness

    I found Passage, written in 1924, a fine book, although, unlike many of the other 'Classics' I've recently consumed, I doubt that I will remember anything from its pages. In order to completely understand the story of Passage, I resorted to using two dictionaries, as my 75,000 word Funk & Wagnalls often did not contain the needed word and I was forced to reach for an unabridged volume. The real action, the crux of the book, doesn't occur until about one hundred pages and twelve chapters in, and then it flies by as fast as a bat chasing a locust. The climax comes at page 188, but the book drags on for another eighty pages, with the writer hinting that there just might be a shocking twist at the end. There isn't. Often I could not comprehend who was speaking, and the author, using several names for the same person, sometimes further confused my simple mind. E. M. Forster's analogies were almost always bland, but maybe that is a factor of the book having been written over eighty years ago. I found A Passage to India not up to the caliber of the other titles I have recently read that fall into that vague category of 'Literature'.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2005

    A Passage to India was very Good.

    In my opinion I really liked E.M. Forster's A Passage to India. I really couldn't get into the book because it was pretty confusing. So I bought the movie and it was really good. My favorite charater was Doc. Aziz. In my opinion, if you want to know about India in the 1920's read the book or better yet if you don't get the book buy the movie.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007


    Wow this book was so great... But to tell you the truth, I didn't really liked this book. There were too many characters in this book and they really weren't that interesting. The characters were just plain boring. The story was not that good. This book really doesn't seem to have a point. It was so boring. I would never read this book again. I didn't liked the style and the plot was horrible. They kept going on and on and on. My favorite character in this book 'A passage to India' was Dr.Aziz, because his name sounds cool and because he is a docter.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2004

    has potential

    This novel, is not one to criticize and detest to the utmost degree...but more a book that has tremendous potential. I had to do a project on this one, and as much as some parts 'did drag on' it was an interesting read. You definitly get a first hand look at the racial tensions that go on between the British and the Indians. You see different religious perspectives from muslims, christians, and hindus. You get to experience something a bit different. The language really wasn't that confusing. If you had background knowledge upon British India it might have helped a bit more...but really, it wasn't that bad. The characters were all very well developed and you begin to sense the conflicting view points among all the characters. The characters are not flawless, but very believable. All in all...it has tremedous potential...the symbols, setting, and plot show that human nature no matter how sweet it intends to be...always has its drawbacks due to social pressures and such. good book...though it seems people usually tend to expect more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2001

    A Moving Example of Culture Conflict

    'A Passage to India' is not only a story, it is a glimpse of the prejudices that have haunted British India since its addition to the British Empire. The story is well-written, and its message is Forster's most profound to date.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2013

    Format was in poetry form each sentence paragraphed

    Hard to read but seems to be corrected but have had odd copies before including poetry in prose paragraphs and scrambled with symbols almost unreadable and a few all. Usually under five dollars. Beware any book whose blurb has any scrambles or symbols or number in text

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  • Posted June 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Bored out of my mind!

    Nothing caught my attention until Adela went insane and then after that it got even more boring. Terrible.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2004

    A Passage to India

    The storyline is both to the physical world and the inner states of the characters. The setting is at India, ecsapially the cities of Chandrapore and Mau, and time is 1910s or 1920s. The main characters are Dr. Aziz an intelligent, emotional Indian doctor in Chandrapore. Aziz attempts to make friends with Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Cyril Fielding. Later, Adela falsely accuses Aziz of attempted rape after an expedition to the Marabar Caves, but the charges are dropped after Adela¿s testimony at the trial. Aziz enjoys writing and reciting poetry. He has three children; his wife died several years before the beginning of the novel. Cyril Fielding, the principal of the government college near Chandrapore. Fielding is an independent man who believes in educating the Indians to be individuals¿a much more sympathetic attitude toward the native population than that held by most English in India. Fielding befriends Dr. Aziz, taking the doctor¿s side against the rest of the English in Chandrapore when Aziz is accused of attempting to rape Adela Quested. Miss Adela Quested is a young, intelligent, inquisitive, but somewhat repressed Englishwoman. Adela travels to India with Mrs. Moore in order to decide whether or not to marry Mrs. Moore¿s son Ronny. Miss Quested begins with an open-minded desire to get to know Indians and see the real India. Later, she falsely accuses Aziz of attempting to rape her in the Marabar Caves. Mrs. Moore an elderly Englishwoman who voyages to India with Adela Quested. Mrs. Moore wishes to see the country and hopes that Adela will marry her son Ronny. Mrs. Moore befriends Dr. Aziz, as she feels some spiritual connection with him. She has an unsettling experience with the bizarre echoes in the Marabar Caves, which cause her to feel a sense of dread, especially about human relationships. Mrs. Moore hurries back to England, and she dies at sea during the journey. Ronny Heaslop is Mrs. Moore¿s son at Chandrapore. Ronny, though well educated and open-minded at heart, has become prejudiced and intolerant of Indians ever since he moved to India¿as is standard for most Englishmen serving there. Ronny is briefly engaged to Adela Quested, though he does not appear particularly passionate about her. Mr. Turton, the collector, the man who governs Chandrapore. Mr. Turton is officious and stern, though more tactful than his wife. Mrs. Turton, Turton¿s wife. In her interactions with Indians, Mrs. Turton embodies the novel¿s stereotype of the snobby, rude, and prejudiced English colonial wife. Mr. McBryde, the superintendent of police in Chandrapore, who has an elaborate theory that he claims explains the inferiority of dark skinned races to light skinned ones. McBryde, though condescending, actually shows more tolerance toward Indians than most English do. Not surprisingly, he and Fielding are friendly acquaintances. McBryde himself stands up against the group mentality of the English at Chandrapore when he divorces his wife after having an affair with Miss Derek. Major Callendar, the civil surgeon at Chandrapore, Dr. Aziz¿s superior. Major Callendar is a boastful, cruel, intolerant, and ridiculous man. Professor Godbole is a Brahman Hindu who teaches at Fielding¿s college. Godbole is very spiritual and reluctant to become involved in human affairs. Hamidullah is Dr. Aziz¿s uncle and friend. Hamidullah, who was educated at Cambridge, believes that friendship between the English and Indians is more likely possible in England than in India. Hamidullah was a close friend of Fielding before Fielding and Aziz met. Mahmoud Ali a lawyer friend of Dr. Aziz who is deeply pessimistic about the English. The Nawab Bahadur, the leading loyalist in Chandrapore. The Nawab Bahadur is wealthy, generous, and faithful to the English. After Aziz¿s trial, however, he gives up his title in protest. Dr. Panna Lal a low born Hindu doctor and Aziz¿s rival. Dr. Panna Lal intends to testify against Aziz at the trial, but he begs forgiveness

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2004


    This book drags on too much. I like that it shows us the racial conflicts between the societies, but there was no point to it at all. Some of the characters, though well developed, were annoying and bland

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2003


    well... to start out in defense of the book it does reveal the racial tensions in society but so many books and movies also do the same thing so that is not enough to save the book from its own demise. it could have been a good book but has choked itself to death with its boring and seemingly senseless long verbose desricptions and other stuff that seemed to have no real relation to the story. so if you dare read it but i don't recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2003

    A Good Book, but in a packed genre

    A Passage to India focuses on the racial conflict between the British and the Indians. It does a good job of revealing characters and their prejudices, but isn't this a well-documented literary motif? Faulkner's Light in August and even Ellison's Invisible Man do a much better (and much more interesting) job of zeroing in on racial tensions. Plus this book is full of British people, who, frankly, can get on the nerves pretty quickly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2002

    a bit confusing

    the plot was very interesting, i enjoyed that. But the way it was written was very beautifull in it's description (if not a bit verbose at times), also very confusing. Half the time I didn't know what was going on, who was talking...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2002

    This book stinks!

    Can we say boring??? This book was one of the worst books I've ever read. Forster's dialogue is confusing and the descriptive narrations are not only bland and uninteresting, but they drag on forever! Do youself a favor...avoid this one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2001

    The Kindness and Caring Required to Bridge Cultural Gaps

    A Passage to India vividly demonstrates the psychology of how people avoid those who are different than themselves. The litmus test of this problem is identified by how even friendly people assume the worst about others, rather than keeping an open mind or assuming the best. The book is less successful at providing a model of how to overcome those weaknesses. Mrs. Moore, a visiting Englishwoman, in the book successfully establishes a friendship with Dr. Aziz, a Muslim physician in Chandrapore, India. The connection is deeply embedded in her sincere interest in all other people and their feelings. She arrives in the book with that empathy, and only one of her sons also seems to have the same fineness of emotional connection. Another son clearly doesn¿t. So, it¿s a rare trait, even in families. There is no evidence of how to create that attitude which leads to such rapid and firm trust. More typical is the friendship between Dr. Aziz and Cyril Fielding. Both are committed to each other, but are quick to suspect each other¿s motives. A continuing effort allows them to reconcile. One has to suppose that their relationship is the model that E.M. Forester had in mind for most of us. We can connect with others we respect and like, and with hard work can overcome miscommunications and suspicion. Dr. Aziz is portrayed in a very thoughtful way. He wants to have friends across the cultural divide, and makes enormous efforts in that respect. However, his intentions often have unintended consequences. He bears up and moves forward. I was impressed from this character about the need to have many people who seek friendship in order to make connections possible. The plot builds around the arrival of Mrs. Moore, the mother of a local English magistrate, with Miss Adela Quested, who is considering whether to marry Mrs. Moore¿s magistrate son. Like many newcomers to colonial India, they are interested in meeting native people and seeing the local sites. In attempting to respond to their interests, the various connections take place. Both are initially appalled by the attitude of those English people who have long lived in India towards the Hindus and Muslims there. The book raises important questions at several levels, such as: (1) Can people with very different religious beliefs live in peace with one another? (2) Can colonialism ever be anything other than bad for all involved? (3) How should one adapt to the local community in which one lives, if it is different from one¿s own background? (4) What should people be willing to do to help one another? (5) What should people not do to help one another? (6) How can mistrust be dispelled? (7) How does racism harm the person who is a racist? A major drawback of the book is that many of the characters are usually unappealing. Even Mrs. Moore, who serves as the ideal in many ways, retreats into self-centered inaction as her health fails. Miss Quested repays Dr. Aziz¿s hospitality with putting his life and finances in great peril. Cyril Fielding seems to often do too little to bridge the cultural gaps. Dr. Aziz often comes across as a toady. The other English people have severe drawbacks. The characters are often surmounted by their agendas. One aspect of the book that I liked was the way it showed how those accused of crimes bring out the fundamental social flaws of the community. This happens in fiction in Gone with the Wind in the sequence where Scarlett has some problems driving her carriage, and her complaints lead the white men to attack the African-Americans who live in the area where her problem occurred. In France, the trial of the Jewish Captain Dreyfus created a similar split in the community and rise in racist feelings and actions. The story also seems a little dated, so that the characters seem too extreme to us today to be credible. They more often seem to be caricatures than characters. After

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2000

    if you know what's good for you don't read it

    Wow was this not good. Sure it broght to life British society in India but it was so boring! There was virtualy no plot, and it took forever for it to end. Aside from it being boring it was confusing. You had to read several passages over a few times before you could figure out who was saying what and what was going on. Unless you enjoy long chapters of description I would never recomend this in a million years. If you want to read a classic, read something by Dickens or Jane Austen, or anything else for that matter. Anything else is more interesting than this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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