Symbolism In A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster

Symbolism plays a very important part in the story of “A Passage to India”. The use of symbol imparts additional significance to the content of the novel. The principal symbols of the Mosque, the cave, and the Temple along with ceremonies connected with the festival of Gokul Ashtami, the figure of Mrs. Moore and the Punkhawallah add charm to the story. The three sections with the heading of the Mosque, the cave, and the Temple serve a significant purpose for the idea that Forster wishes to convey through the particular section.

The Mosque serves as a symbol of understanding between Dr. Aziz and Mrs. Moore or between East and West. Aziz, while meditating upon the glory of Islam in the Mosque, warns Mrs. Moore not to enter without taking off her shoes. To his pleasant surprise, Mrs. Moore has already taken off her shoes saying that she knows that God is here. A strange bond of natural love binds the two and Aziz feels abiding reverence for the English lady while Mrs. Moore is immensely drowning towards India and her liking for him proves to be a lasting sentiment. Throughout these sections, both Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested saw unusual friendship towards the Indian and very often scoff at the arrogance of the English officials. Thus, both the east and the west succeed in meeting a point where love and respect can be reciprocated – Mrs. Moore says, ‘I like Aziz’, Aziz is my real friend, east and west have seen to have met and formed a deep and lasting tie. The Mosque serves as a symbol of this tie.

The Cave represents complexity which is surrounded in mystery critics hold different views upon the symbolic meanings of Marabar Caves. It has been described as :

  1. base, dark, echoing,
  2. the very voice of that union which is the opposite of divine,
  3. womb and
  4. the soul of India.

Obviously, the caves are a symbol of evil. Their emptiness, their desolation, and their darkness covey a sense of futility. Hostility lurks within the whole section for which the cave serves as a heading. In this section, the sun is in dominating presence and is hostile. Mrs. Moore’s experience inside the cave is a dreadful one. Some “vile marked thing” strikes her face and settles on her mouth. For this instant, she goes mad. To add to her agony there is a terrified echo. This echo represents the climax of the horror in the novel. The echo is associated with worms and snakes both of which have an evil association. As a result of her terrific experience in the things and people around her, Adela’s visit to the cave proves disastrous. She suffers from hallucinations and brings a serious charge against Aziz. The cave, thus has a disintegrating influence upon two innocent foreign women add aggravate the racial prejudice between the white and the native people. Mrs. Moore falls into a state of despair and cynicism from which she never recovers. Miss Quested experiences dejection and loneliness. Her engagement with Ronny Heaslop breaks off and she fails to secure goodwill from the English people. No doubt, the caves embody something evil and sinister which brings doom to the personal relationship.

Mrs. Moore seems to bridge the gap between the English and the Indians. She is a channel of communication between two races. She praises Aziz and makes all efforts to dispel the misunderstanding between two races. Secondly, she stands for goodness piety and charity. Mrs. Moore is a devout Christian and benign influence. He remarks that Aziz is innocent makes Adela realize what went wrong in the cave, on the other hand, it was the image of Mrs. Moore in the mind of Aziz that he gave up the idea of claiming financial compensation from Miss Quested. The personality of Mrs. Moore refines the minds of both Aziz and Adela even Narayan Godbole thinks of her with respect in religious ceremonies.

The Punkhawallah has his share in purging Adela’s mind of its illusions. A man of low birth, he s busy pulling the punkah – rope. She is hardly aware why the court is fuller than usual. But, something in his aloofness impress Adela and rebukes the narrowness of her suffering the sight of this low born humble man gives rise to the nobility of thought in Adela’s mind and broadened her outlook.

The religious ceremony on the day of Gokul Ashtami has a deeper meaning. The birth of Lord Krishna signifies the emergence of love in the universe. Godbole’s ecstatic dancing shows the proferend reverence which the typical Brahman feels for his religion. The festival is to show the possibility of the religion of universal love finding acceptance in the human heart. It is possible for a human heart to extend his love so far as to include a wasp.

In the concluding part, the boats collide with the floating of the village of Gokul, all the four occupants are thrown into the water while Godbole is already standing in the water. From this symbolic wetting English, Muslim and Hindu go their separate ways. Friendship has been formed, spiritual affinities established but, they apart because neither mosque, nor caves, nor the temples can bind them together. Forster’s final message is that the different cultures can not be integrated together. This message concurs with Aziz final disenchantment that no friendship is possible between India as the Englishmen under the existing condition.

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Comments (2)

  1. Partha Mukherjre May 13, 2019

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