E. M. Forster's "A Passage to India" is an extremely provocative read. Though written nearly 100 years ago, it addresses themes that remain timely, examining how race and ethnicity color societal interactions in a way that provokes the reader to thoughtful evaluation. It follows four characters: Dr. Aziz, Mr. Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Miss Quested—Dr. Aziz an Indian with the remaining three Englishmen. Several points of the plot remain obscure and the relationships between the four characters vacillate from friendly to strained to hostile and back again. The character development is complex and realistic, and I found myself identifying with one of the characters more than any of the others—I have heard that every reader sees his or herself in one of the characters. As you read, ask yourself who you are and the book becomes an emotive experience. Regardless of your choice, you will come to the conclusion that the arbitrary boundaries created by societies are just that: arbitrary--pointless and tragic. I would recommend this book to any interested in Colonial India or racial and ethnic discrimination.
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"It is impossible here," an Indian character tells his friend, Dr. Aziz, early in the novel.
"They come out intending to be gentlemen, and are told it will not do.... Why, I remember when Turton came out first. It was in another part of the Province. You fellows will not believe me, but I have driven with Turton in his carriage--Turton! Oh yes, we were once quite intimate. He has shown me his stamp collection.Written while England was still firmly in control of India, Forster's novel follows the fortunes of three English newcomers to India--Miss Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Cyril Fielding--and the Indian, Dr. Aziz, with whom they cross destinies. The idea of true friendship between the races was a radical one in Forster's time, and he makes it abundantly clear that it was not one that either side welcomed. If Aziz's friend, Hamidullah, believed it ...
"He would expect you to steal it now. Turton! But red-nosed boy will be far worse than Turton!
"I do not think so. They all become exactly the same, not worse, not better. I give any Englishman two years, be he Turton or Burton. It is only the difference of a letter. And I give any Englishwoman six months. All are exactly alike."