|“Adventures do occur, but not punctually.”|
Sometime in the early 1900's, a young English woman named Adela Quested arrives in India accompanied by the elderly Mrs. Moore with the the prospect of marrying her son, a government official stationed at Chandrapore. Adela has a romanticized idea of the East only to be severely disappointed upon discovering that the British Raj is a painfully dull place without any excitement. She longs to see "the real India" but her circle of European colonizers find her request oddly amusing since they perceive the natives with racist and discriminatory attitudes. They cannot fathom why a rich young woman is at all interested in associating herself with primitives rather than forming relationships with her own people: "Why, the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die," said Mrs. Callendar (27). This is just one of the many derogatory remarks aimed at Indians and their culture throughout the novel. The only people other than Miss Quested who are more open minded about British-Indian relations is Mrs. Moore and Mr. Fielding--the latter being one of the more important figures in the story who rejects British imperialism on account of defending his Indian friend, a doctor named Aziz who is convicted of sexually assaulting Adela during an excursion up in the Marabar caves. This causes the racial tensions to escalate even more dramatically. The British are quick to believe that the India man is guilty because of course, he's an uncivilized minority and it is in his nature to act immorally towards women. Aziz is given the due process of law but something unexpected occurs during the trial that radically disrupts British authority in India.
Certainly, one could do a close-reading and examine the precarious relationship between east and west, social hierarchy, the emergence of nationalism or even gender (especially in relation to the Indian "purdah" where women are not allowed to be seen in the presence of men during social situations) but that seems unnecessary for me to do considering my aversion to this novel.
A Passage to India has so much potential to achieve greatness but fails to deliver an engaging story with convincing characters; the depiction of colonialism is oversimplified; the narrative takes many nonsensical digressions and Forster gets far too carried away with his excessively pompous style of prose. Many claim that his writing is poetic but I find it downright obnoxious and annoying. Enough already with the colorful descriptions of the hot weather and the landscape. Yes, India is known for its sweltering temperatures, we get it. You made that painfully clear the first twenty-seven times, Mr. Forster. Not to mention, a lot of the narrative is confusing or incoherent because he is keen to bombard to reader with an onslaught of extraneous details (sometimes stretching for several pages), which makes the story such an incredible chore to get through. Talk about a snore-fest.
Perhaps this novel created some controversy when it was published in 1924 since Forster is fairly critical of British imperialism but it seems severely dated. Its status as one of the great novels of the 20th century and high praise from many readers is baffling to me. Forster's writing is priggish and dull. Sure, there are brief moments of insight or beauty but not enough to sustain the entire narrative. After being disappointed with Howards End and now this one, I have no intention of reading anything else by E.M. Forster in the near future.
This novel is part of my Classics Club Challenge.