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On Forster’s Cultural Discrimination--A Postcolonial Reading of a Passage to India

Author MiGuiLing
Tutor ZhangJinXia
School Hebei University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords A Passage to India postcolonialism cultural discrimination
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
Downloads 133
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A Passage to India is a remarkable English novel of the early twentieth century. It is also E.M. Forster’s most significant and successful novel. Unlike other fictions on colonial issues, Forster attempts to reach a friendly communication between the British colonizers and the colonized Indians in the novel. However, the novel is still dominated with a strong sense of cultural discrimination. This paper aims to analyze the author’s cultural discrimination against Indian culture from the approach of postcolonialism. It focuses on how Indian culture is represented and disrespected from the perspective of a European colonizer. The analysis is undertaken in three aspects:marginalized cultural identity of the Indians; cultural prejudice presented by symbols; Indian culture as mystical.Chapter 1 deals with a brief introduction of E.M. Forster, the creating process of A Passage to India and its research both at home and abroad. Forster’s two visits to India in 1912 and 1921 contributed to the production of the novel. Besides, the success of the novel is closely related to the warm help of Masood (an Indian Muslim) and Morison (an English gentleman). Since its publication in 1924, the novel has been approached by critics of different backgrounds with their own perspectives, including humanist, feminist and postcolonial perspective. Some critics focus on its writing techniques and style; some focus on its political color; some stress its religious issues; some regard it as a metaphysical novel.Chapter 2 is devoted to analyze how Indian people’s cultural identity is marginalized. The analysis involves two types of Indians:the unnamed Indians from the lower society and a westernized Indian intellectual. In A Passage to India, there are some nameless Indian natives from the lower society. The presentation of these Indians is either from the perspective of the author or from the perspective of the English colonizers in the novel. As the target to be observed, these Indian natives are silent. They have been deprived of a voice and a right to think. Therefore, Forster presumes that no cultural identity can be found in them. Aziz is a typical westernized Indian intellectual. He is characterized by the blend of Occidental and Oriental culture. In the colonial system, he does not really belong to either of the cultures. The double cultural identity puts him in an awkward situation and arouses his sense of loss, uneasiness and grief. What is worse, he is forced to be a subservient man.Chapter 3 focuses on Forster’s cultural discrimination presented by symbols. The description of the setting in the opening chapter takes an important role in the novel, for it concentrates on the theme and tone of the whole narrative. Through the setting, Forster gives his unfair comparison and evaluation between English culture and Indian culture:superior and inferior, control and being controlled. In addition, the Marabar cave is a place to which Forster attaches great importance. The monotonous appearance and the meaningless echo of the caves manifest Forster’overall impression of India, i.e. primitiveness and chaos.Chapter 4 analyzes Indian culture as mystical in Forster’s eye. To the English colonizers in the novel, everything in India is strange and unidentifiable. They are totally ignorant of the old Eastern country. What is the most obscure is Hindu religion which preaches "good is evil, evil is good; presence is absence, absence is presence". The English colonizers can not tolerate the mystery of Indian culture.Chapter 5 makes a conclusion to the paper. Since Indian culture in the novel is represented from the angle of Forster, a Western colonizer, it is not objective and is dominated with a sense of discrimination. Forster’s view of Indian culture is a typical Western view. As an Englishman, Forster is influenced by English social and cultural circumstances inevitably. Therefore, his novel unconsciously reveals a sense of colonialism. He is a Western colonialist in essence and can not penetrate the essence of imperialism.

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