A Passage to India is a novel of clash of culture

Question: A Passage to India is a novel of clash of culture- Discuss. Or, how is seperation presented in A Passage to India.


Conflict is the keynote of the novel “A Passage to India” by E. M. Forster (1879-1970) as the novel concerns the relations between the English and the native population of India during the colonial period in which Britain ruled India.

Big Gap between the English and the Indian

In India, there was a wide gulf existing between the white rulers and the brown native Indians. The plot of the novel starts at Chandrapore which is a fictional city of the novel situated in Bihar is divided into two parts such as the English civil station and the native section.

The civil station shares nothing with the city except the lofty sky. The railway line divides the English locality from the Indian locality. Besides, the civil station where the British families live is completely separated from the rest of the city where the Indians live. Thus, the city is tense or excited with the anti-relation of class and race.

“It is a city of gardens, it is no city, but a forest sparsely

scattered with huts. It is a tropical pleasance, washed by a noble river”.

The Negligence of British Authority

The Englishmen’s negligence towards the high native officials is evidence of a clash of culture and race presented in a comprehensive way in the novel. At the very outset of the novel, a group of Muslims discusses that it is impossible for them to befriend the British. They think all the Englishmen who come to India for taking the government jobs lost the refinement of their manners and the Englishwomen are also haughty and authoritarian.

So, the Indians have their discontent against the ruling class. Hamidullah who has a Cambridge degree says that the city magistrate, Ronny Heaslop, insulted him at the court. He also tells Dr. Aziz that one can only befriend an English person outside of India. Dr. Aziz is always harassed by the civil surgeon, Major Callendar, who takes pleasure in his brutal manner.

The desire for Permanent Power

Fear of losing power is the prime cause of the collision of culture and hatred depicted in the novel very vividly by E. M. Forster. When Mahatma Gandhi got the responsibility of running the Swadeshi Movement in 1918, the people of the Indian subcontinent became more united and enthusiastic for independence. As we know that the time setting of the novel is the 1920s during the independent movement of India. The British were well concerned at that time that they had to control the natives and their intellectuals in such a way so that they could exist in India more and more.

One such incident in the novel is that Dr. Aziz is falsely accused of attempting rape. The allegation that is brought by Adela Quested is baseless, but the British authority tries to make it strong by their criminal head. This incident proves that the Indians can prevent any kind of injustice because all walks of people become united and Nawab Bahadur declares all the expenses for this case will be borne by him. Finally, Adela confesses that the accused doctor is innocent. “I am afraid I have made a mistake”. By the trial, it is witnessed that the British and the Indians were in two in India.

Bitterness Between Hinduism and Islam

The relations between Hindus and Muslims are not very cordial at all. Aziz badly remarks that Hindus are loose, and they do not have any punctuality or idea of society. The annual riots in India on the occasion of Moharram represent that two different cultures cannot be one. In this respect, Ronny Heaslop comments:

“The British were necessary to India; there would certainly have been bloodshed without them”

Again, Dr. Aziz’s final remark to Fielding is another evidence that the Hindus and Muslims are in hatred.

“We may hate one another, but we hate you most.”


Thus, “A passage to India” is a novel of the tragic evil of human divisions and hostilities man against man, race against race, and culture against culture.

S Ridoy Kumar
S Ridoy Kumar
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