A Passage to India

A Passage to India

by E. M. Forster

Paperback(First Edition)

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156711425
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 03/28/1965
Series: Abinger Edition of E. M. Forster Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 63,411
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.89(d)
Lexile: 950L (what's this?)

About the Author

E. M. Forster was one of the major novelists of the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in 1879 and educated at Cambridge. His other novels include A Room with a View, Howards End, and A Passage to India. He died in 1970.

Paul B. Armstrong is Professor of English and former Dean of the College at Brown University. He was previously a professor and a dean at the University of Oregon and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has also taught at the University of Copenhagen, Georgia Institute of Technology, the Free University of Berlin, the University of Virginia, and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual
Arts. He is the author of How Literature Plays with the Brain: The Neuroscience of Reading and Art; Play and the Politics of Reading: The Social Uses of Modernist Form; Conflicting Readings: Variety and Validity in Interpretation; The Challenge of Bewilderment: Understanding and Representation in James, Conrad, and Ford; and The Phenomenology of Henry James. He is editor of the Norton Critical Edition of E. M.
Forster’s Howards End and of the fourth and fifth Norton Critical Editions of Heart of Darkness.

Date of Birth:

January 1, 1879

Date of Death:

June 7, 1970

Place of Birth:


Place of Death:

Coventry, England


B. A. in classics, King's College, Cambridge, 1900; B. A. in history, 1901; M.A., 1910

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A Passage To India 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My book club chose this book. I was doubtful, having remembered seeing and not liking the movie many years ago, and that proved prophetic. I did not like the book, either, though there is some humor in it, and it does paint a picture of British India in the early part of the 20th century.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Why I would say "read it": The book's descriptions of the difficulties that arise out of "cultures colliding" because of Imperialism (and to some extent within India itself), as well as the descriptions of British racism, which comes out subtly at times and quite overtly at others. Written in 1924, the book is ahead of its time and foreshadows the events that took place in 1947. Why I didn't like it as much as others: the story was not all that interesting to me, and I thought the book could have been pared down. I also don't think the book is particularly well-written; among other things the descriptions of India's religious ceremonies were muddled and confusing.Favorite quotes:Persian grave inscription: "Alas, without me for thousands of yearsThe Rose will blossom and the Spring will bloom,But those who have secretly understood my heart -They will approach and visit the grave where I lie.""Trying to recover his temper, he said, 'India likes gods.''And Englishmen like posing as gods.'""....a poem should touch the hearer with a sense of his own weakness, and should institute some comparison between mankind and flowers.""The train in its descent through the Vindyas had described a semicircle round Asirgarh. What could she connect it with except its own name? Nothing; she knew no one who lived there. But it had looked at her twice and seemed to say: 'I do not vanish.'"
macii on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know why it occurred to me to read this book . . . I think it was because I'd heard of it and I have this fascination with India. What did I discover? I like British authors from the early 20th century . . . C.S. Lewis, Tolkien (who I decided to pick up after I finished this book and I'm thoroughly enjoying), and now Forster. If you have any suggestions of contemporaries of these authors which you have found good, please comment me!This work takes place in the India controlled by Britain. It deals with racism, religious differences, and political matters. In many ways this commentary is applicable today.Forster is brilliant--he gives you a feel for two cultures colliding and each time I picked up this book, I was swept into India. I loved the personification used in descriptions of various attributes of the landscape. I could feel the oppression of the sun and the mystery of the place. The author does a marvelous job at setting the mood and feel surrounding the events of the novel.As I sit and think about the book, there are several scenes which stick out as having evoked strong emotion. First, after the intensity of the second part of the book, "Caves," Fielding, one of the main characters, returns to the west. He enters the Mediterranean-the Western culture-and it was as if my own mind cleared. Fielding, although very at home in India, came back into the familiar--what he knew and loved. Secondly, in the last part of the book, "Temple," we return to India. Forster introduces a religious festival, celebrating the birth of their God. The celebration is messy, heavy, joyous, and beautiful. I wished my own worship could be so alive. This chapter transitions and sets a tone--but you could read it as a stand alone story.Final Verdict: I LOVED this book! Read it.
BookwormPeg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
India at the peak of British colonial era, complete with racial tension. British visitors to Chandrapore are escorted to Marabar caves, where events transpire that split the community--British and Indian alike. Cultures collide and lives are inexorably altered.
StoutHearted on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The novel is an engrossing look into England's deteriorating hold on its colony of India. We are introduced to the Anglo-Indians, represented by characters like Heaslop and the Turtons who openly detest the Indian race, to the point of being cruel and grotesque. They need little prompting to believe an Indian is up to no good. Meanwhile, Indians are presented as a race held back by the culture clash, with strong, impulsive emotions and a lack of understanding for the English's reverence for promptness and social invitations. The whole situation sets up a powder keg that is ignited by the visit of Heaslop's mother Mrs. Moore, and Heaslop's prospective bride Miss Quested. Caught up in the fray is Dr. Aziz, a respectable widower who works under the English, but is not welcome into their social club due to being Indian. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested's desire to "see India" ultimately backfires, as they cannot handle the culture clash. While Miss Quested convinces herself that she was raped by Dr. Aziz, who was kind enough to take the ladies on a journey to the local caves upon their request, Mrs. Moore is turned into a local goddess by the superstitious locals. The deification of Mrs. Moore is interesting, as the woman herself had no intention to publicly defend Aziz; she instead chose to flee the country. But a running theme is how the Indians choose to believe gossip over truth, (a fault even acted upon by Aziz, who convinces himself that his faithful Englishman friend abandoned him to marry Miss Quested.) The English suffer from this fault, also, as they whip themselves into a frenzy over the belief that every Indian lusts for white women, and other stereotypes. Indeed this self-absorption and inability of the cultures to blend harmoniously ultimately drives home the final scene of Fielding and Aziz's reunion. Both are disillusioned years after the trial and concede that only when the English leave India, can the races ever be friends.Miss Quested is a curious character, who while she never means to do any harm, ultimately destroys lives with her accusation of rape. It appears that she was overwhelmed by the caves, and hallucinated the terrifying event. Does she get due punishment? Although her bravery is lauded by few, first Fielding, then, years later, Aziz, it it notable that no other Anglo-Indian would have confessed to making such a mistake. The English relished the chance to punish Indians, and considered Quested a traitor for not continuing with the trial. Throughout the novel, Miss Quested tries to be sympathetic towards Indians, but she cannot escape her underlying repulsion of them. Forster seems to suggest that this is caused by the domination of her race over theirs. She is in a psychological muddle: While she recognizes that the treatment of Indians by the English is horrible, she knows that she has that feeling within herself, and confides to Aziz as much. Her biggest fault is probably being too honest, and speaking wihtout thinking, like when she innocently asks Aziz how many wives he has. The same impulse compels her to run into a cactus patch from the caves after her scare, rather than compose herself and try to summon some sense of the situation.Fielding seems to be the noblest character, sacrificing his reputation among his fellow Englishman for what he believes is right, defending Aziz. At times it seems that Aziz doesn't quite grasp the full impact of Fielding's support, such as when Aziz accuses his friend of abandonment after the arrest, when Fielding was forbidden to accompany the prisoner to the police station. Aziz routinely brings the abandonment up in times of doubt in Fielding's faithfulness. Eventually, the Indians turn against him, too. After the trial, Fielding's reluctant support of Miss Quested (who has been abandoned by her peers) is interpreted and gossiped as a love affair. This breakdown of the relationship between Fielding and Aziz further illustrates the novel's point that India and Engl
irishwasherwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a great book club read. It flows well, yet has a nice layer of complication to it. I both read it and listened to it. Forster is an able storyteller who conveys a wonderful sense of character and place in his novels.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Passage to India, written by E. M. Forster in 1924, is on many short lists of greatest novels written in the 20th century, and deservedly so. It is a period piece, set in the British Raj of the 1920s. It is rich in imagery and symbolism, focusing on bigotry, hypocrisy and mistrust among the various nationalities and religions present within the story. Idealism, naivety and human nature also play parts.At its heart, is the friendship between the Muslim Indian professional, Dr. Aziz, and the English dowager, Mrs. Moore, who has accompanied her son¿s presumptive fiancée to meet him in Chandrapore. Aziz, Mrs. Moore and Mr. Fielding, a British schoolmaster, struggle to bridge the abyss existing between the British and native cultures. For their troubles, they are punished, each in distinctive ways.Having seen the movie, an excellent flick by the way, I was intimately familiar with the tale. The Victorian style of writing, however, really brought the story to life and breathed life into the characters. Some may find the writing too florid or archaic for their tastes, but I found it beneficial in setting a mood for the story.While the driving force behind the book is the social interaction (or lack of) and the cultural divide between the British administrators and what they view as their morally and intellectually inferior native Indian subjects, a subtext is the mistrust and tension existing between the Hindu and Moslem religious communities. As Aziz becomes increasingly disenchanted with his British overlords, he begins to fall in with Indian nationalists. The question of the viability of an ¿Indian¿ state, in the presence of such a politically, ethnically and religiously fragmented populace is periodically raised. Very perceptive writing, coming as it does over twenty years prior to Indian independence, civil war and ultimately partition.
amerynth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the few cases where I enjoyed the movie far more than I enjoyed the book! E.M.Forster's "A Passage to India" is the story of an Indian physician, named Aziz, who tries to impress two English women seeking to see the "real India" with disasterous results. The story is really interesting as a meditation on race and colonialism, but I found it a bit too meandering. Perhaps because I have seen the movie, I often found myself wishing Forster would get on it with it and get the story moving along. Overall, it was a very uneven read for me... parts of the book were quite dull but those were interwoven with brilliant passages that contained interesting and thought-provoking ideas.
rizeandshine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In A Passage to India, Forster writes about ruling British colonials and their relationship with India in the early 1900s. At the heart of the story are complex issues of empire, race, religion, cultural differences, mistrust, decency, and tension between the English (Anglo-Indians), Muslims and Hindus. It raises the question of the possibility of friendship between an Englishman and an Indian in the context of British colonialism. The relationship between the British and Indian characters is quite compelling and is told from a number of different voices; characters whose emotions and feelings are based on their perceptions of each other through distorted racial prejudice.Forster uses his experiences as a foreigner abroad to paint a picture of India as striking and beautiful, a diverse "muddle" of formless countryside, unidentifiable nature and various ethnic, religious and linguistic groups, under the ordered and authoritative yet condescending rule of colonial Britain. Two women, Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested, arrive seeking the "real" India of adventure and mystery, and resolve to experience it without the prejudices exhibited by their English compatriots. They soon meet a young Muslim Indian physician, Dr. Aziz, whose relationship with his unpleasant superiors has made him scornful of the English. Aziz quickly develops a deep respect for Mrs. Moore, however, and pronounces her Oriental. Through Mrs. Moore, he also develops a tentative friendship with Cyril Fielding, an educator who is interested in discovering more about India. Aziz organizes a tour of the Marabar Caves for his new friends, and from this the central crisis arises. The crux of the story is the mystery or "muddle" of what did or did not occur at the caves and the harm the incident brings to each of the main characters and their relationships with each other. As Aziz says, until India is free from the British, an Indian and an Englishman cannot be true friends.I really enjoyed this book, especially the interactions of the characters who often misunderstand each other's words or intentions due to linguistic and cultural differences. The prose was philosophical and poetic, yet easy to read. The larger questions of racism and oppression explored in the novel continue to resonate today.
SFM13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿A Passage to India¿ takes place during the early years of Britain¿s colonization of the government. The Indian citizens are looked on as a lesser race in their own country! Western ways are thought to be desired by the natives ¿ the foods, dress, etc¿ are copied. The white man is catered to for the wealth he brings which amounts to little more than pennies for the natives. Mrs. Moore is visiting from England with Adela Quested, a young woman, who is to marry her son Ronny, a magistrate, in the town of Chandapore. The two women are anxious to see the real India. Not the recreation of English life in an Indian setting. Not the typical elephant ride, but everyday life of common Indians. In a mosque Mrs. Moore becomes acquainted with an Indian doctor, Aziz, who offers to take her and Miss Quested on a tour of the Marabar Caves.The country is beautifully described, but the meat of the story revolves around racial conflict.At the caves, a suspicious assault on Adela takes place, and in her disoriented state she falsely accuses Aziz as her ¿attacker.¿ When the case goes to trial, Ronny sends his mother home rather than let her testify, because she believes Aziz is innocent. When Adela is called to the stand she recants her earlier testimony and denies the charge against Aziz, claiming she was and is confused about the situation. After Adela changes her story, Ronny breaks the engagement. Ronny believes the stereotype that Indian men lust after white women. Mr. Felding, an Englishman, but also a friend of the Indian doctor tries to remain loyal. Even so Aziz has lost his faith in ¿whites¿ after the ordeal he went through when held suspect for the crime.The misunderstanding of intentions can¿t be avoided when considering the different beliefs of these two cultures.Forster leaves us to ponder the difficulties that mixing race and cultures can bring, as well as the danger of prejudices.I recommend that this book not be overlooked. And if you think I¿ve spoiled the story by revealing too much, there are many parts not mentioned that will surprise you and keep you reading until the end.
vesnaslav on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A significant novel of this century. Well-crafted, gripping story. One of the rare cases, however, when the film is more enjoyable and poignant than the book.
jfslone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure if it was because this was my last novel of undergrad classes and I wasn't in the mood, but something certainly turned me off to this work of Forster's, from nearly the very beginning. It seems to be one of those books you need to be in a certain mood to enjoy, and I must have missed out on it. I love the other Forster books I've read, but I found myself skimming much of this one. I think I'll let my brain relax and maybe give this one another try in a year or so!
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in the fictional northern India city of Chandrapore, E.M. Forster's 'Passage to India', widely regarded as an early 20th century classic, tells the tale of the troubled interactions between British India and the country's Indian inhabitants. Forster's message seems to be that the white British and the native Indians should not have tried to interact socially outside of the accepted forms because it always ended badly for all concerned. The story meanders, to put it kindly, until Part 2 when the 'event' occurs at the also-fictional Marabar Caves and Forster breathes some life into the tale. If you have an interest in British colonialism, India, or English Literature or all three, by all means read the book. Don't expect a sparkling story to go along with the fine characterizations and be ready for a dated view.
theageofsilt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A memorable study of cultural misunderstanding that becomes a wider contemplation of human suffering. It well deserves to be considered a classic.
literati238 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have always loved this book, and I am a big Forster fan, mainly because I think he captures a sense of otherness uncommon amongst many Edwardian writers. This novel sympathetically portrays India and castigates British social constructs and sensibilities that preserved an artificial and inhuman hierarchy in the Empire.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was no Room with a View.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book ruined by too many typos
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