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E.M. Forster Collection > A Passage to India: Author, Background, & More

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message 1: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Feb 24, 2014 08:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9558 comments Mod
E. M. Forster

Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970) was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. Forster's humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: "Only connect ... ". His 1908 novel, A Room with a View, is his most optimistic work, while A Passage to India (1924) brought him his greatest success.

Forster was born into an Anglo-Irish and Welsh middle-class family at 6 Melcombe Place, Dorset Square, London NW1, in a building that no longer exists. He was the only child of Alice Clara "Lily" (née Whichelo) and Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster, an architect. His name was officially registered as Henry Morgan Forster, but at his baptism he was accidentally named Edward Morgan Forster. To distinguish him from his father, he was always called Morgan. His father died of tuberculosis on 30 October 1880, before Morgan's second birthday. Among Forster's ancestors were members of the Clapham Sect, a social reform group within the Church of England.
He inherited £8,000 (£753,240 as of 2014) from his paternal great-aunt Marianne Thornton (daughter of the abolitionist Henry Thornton), who died on 5 November 1887. The money was enough to live on and enabled him to become a writer. He attended the notable public school, Tonbridge School in Kent, as a day boy. The theatre at the school has been named in his honor.

At King's College, Cambridge, between 1897 and 1901, he became a member of a discussion society known as the Apostles (formally named the Cambridge Conversazione Society). Many of its members went on to constitute what came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group, of which Forster was a peripheral member in the 1910s and 1920s. There is a famous recreation of Forster's Cambridge at the beginning of The Longest Journey.

After leaving university, he travelled in continental Europe with his mother. In 1914, he visited Egypt, Germany and India with the classicist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, by which time he had written all but one of his novels. In the First World War, as a conscientious objector, Forster volunteered for the International Red Cross, and served in Alexandria, Egypt.

Forster spent a second spell in India in the early 1920s as the private secretary to Tukojirao III, the Maharajah of Dewas. The Hill of Devi is his non-fictional account of this period. After returning to London from India, he completed his last novel, A Passage to India (1924), for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. He also edited Eliza Fay's (1756–1816) letters from India, in an edition first published in 1925.

In the 1930s and 1940s Forster became a successful broadcaster on BBC Radio and a public figure associated with the Union of Ethical Societies. He was awarded a Benson Medal in 1937.

Forster was a homosexual (openly to his close friends, but not to the public) and a lifelong bachelor. He developed a long-term, loving relationship with Bob Buckingham, a married policeman. Forster included Buckingham and his wife May in his circle, which included J. R. Ackerley, a writer and literary editor of The Listener, the psychologist W. J. H. Sprott and, for a time, the composer Benjamin Britten. Other writers with whom Forster associated included the poet Siegfried Sassoon and the Belfast-based novelist Forrest Reid.

From 1925 until his mother's death at age 90 on 11 March 1945, Forster lived with her at West Hackhurst, Abinger Hammer, finally leaving on or around 23 September 1946. His London base was 26 Brunswick Square from 1930 to 1939, after which he rented 9 Arlington Park Mansions in Chiswick until at least 1961.

Forster was elected an honorary fellow of King's College, Cambridge, in January 1946, and lived for the most part in the college, doing relatively little. He declined a knighthood in 1949 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1953. In 1969 he was made a member of the Order of Merit. Forster died of a stroke on 7 June 1970 at the age of 91, at the Buckinghams' home in Coventry.


message 2: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Jul 25, 2016 01:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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Overview of A Passage to India

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The British Raj in India

The very idea of British India seems inexplicable.

Consider the fact that Indian written history stretches back almost 4,000 years, to the civilization centers of the Indus Valley Culture at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. In addition, by 1850 A.D., India had a population of some 200 million or more.

Britain, on the other hand, had no indigenous written language until the 9th century A.D. (almost 3,000 years after India). Its population was about 16.6 million in 1850.

How, then, did Britain manage to control India from 1757 to 1947?

The keys seem to have been superior weaponry, a strong profit motive and Eurocentric confidence.

From the moment the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope on Africa's southern tip in 1488, opening sea lanes to the Far East, the European powers strove to acquire Asian trading posts of their own.

For centuries, the Viennese had controlled the European branch of the Silk Road, reaping enormous profits on silk, spices, fine china and precious metals.

The Viennese monopoly ended with the establishment of the sea-route. At first, the European powers in Asia were solely interested in trade, but over time, the acquisition of territory grew in importance.

Among the nations looking for a piece of the action was Britain.

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East India Company

The East India Company (EIC), originally chartered as the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies, and more properly called the Honourable East India Company, was an English and later (from 1707) British joint-stock company formed for pursuing trade with the East Indies but which ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent, Qing Dynasty China, North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan.

Commonly associated with trade in basic commodities, which included cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium, the Company received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth in 1600, making it the oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies. Shares of the company were owned by wealthy merchants and aristocrats. The government owned no shares and had only indirect control. The Company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its own private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey and lasted until 1858 when, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown assuming direct control of India in the era of the new British Raj.

The company was dissolved in 1874 as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act passed one year earlier, as the Government of India Act had by then rendered it vestigial, powerless and obsolete. Its functions had been fully absorbed into the official government machinery of British India and its private presidency armies had been nationalised by the British Crown.

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Indian Mutiny of 1857

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of the East India Company's army on 10 May 1857, in the cantonment of the town of Meerut, and soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region.

The rebellion posed a considerable threat to Company power in that region, and was contained only with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858. The rebellion is also known as India's First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Rebellion of 1857, the Uprising of 1857, the Sepoy Rebellion and the Sepoy Mutiny. The Mutiny was a result of various grievances.

However the flashpoint was reached when the soldiers were asked to bite off the paper cartridges for their rifles which were greased with animal fat, namely beef and pork. This was, and is, against the religious beliefs of Hindus and Muslims, respectively. Other regions of Company-controlled India – such as Bengal, the Bombay Presidency, and the Madras Presidency – remained largely calm. In Punjab, the Sikh princes backed the Company by providing soldiers and support. The large princely states of Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, and Kashmir, as well as the smaller ones of Rajputana, did not join the rebellion. In some regions, such as Oudh, the rebellion took on the attributes of a patriotic revolt against European presence.

Maratha leaders, such as Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, became folk heroes in the nationalist movement in India half a century later;[3] however, they themselves "generated no coherent ideology" for a new order. The rebellion led to the dissolution of the East India Company in 1858. It also led the British to reorganize the army, the financial system and the administration in India. The country was thereafter directly governed by the crown as the new British Raj.

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1924 Review from The Guardian

The first duty of any reviewer is to welcome Mr. E. M. Forster's reappearance as a novelist and to express the hope that the general public as well as the critics will recognise his merits and their good fortune; the second is to congratulate him upon the tone and temper of his new novel. To speak of its "fairness" would convey the wrong impression, because that suggests a conscious virtue. This is the involuntary fairness of the man who sees.

We have had novels about India from the British point of view and from the native point of view, and in each case with sympathy for the other side; but the sympathy has been intended, and in this novel there is not the slightest suggestion of anything but a personal impression, with the prejudices and limitations of the writer frankly exposed. Mr. Forster, in fact, has reached the stage in his development as an artist when, in his own words about Miss Quested, he is "no longer examining life, but being examined by it." He has been examined by India, and this is his confession.

There can be no doubt about the principal faculties which have contributed to its quality: imagination and humour. It is imagination in the strictest sense of the world as the power of seeing and hearing internally, without any obligation to fancy - though Mr. Forster has fancy at his command to heighten the impression, as in his treatment of the echoes in the Marabar Caves. "Even the striking of a match starts a little worm coiling, which is too small to complete a circle but is eternally watchful." To speak of his characters as being "well drawn," would be crude; they draw themselves, and mainly in their conversation. More remarkable even than his vision is Mr. Forster's power of inner hearing; he seems incapable of allowing a person to speak out of character, and Dr. Aziz strikes one as less invented than overheard. Equally pure is Mr. Forster's humour. His people, British or native, are not satirised or caricatured or made the targets of wit; they are simply enjoyed.

The story is, essentially, that of the close contact of East and West in the persons of Dr. Aziz, a Moslem, assistant medical officers of the Chandrapore Hospital, and Mr. Fielding, principal of the College. In all the other characters the contact is governed by conventions - official or would-be sympathetic - but in them it is as close as blood itself allows. So far as affection is concerned they are friends, so that the interplay of East and West is along the very finest channels of human intercourse - suggesting the comparison of the blood and air vessels in the lungs; but the friendship is always at the mercy of the feelings which rise from the deeps of racial personality.

The action of the story is provided by outsiders; two travelling Englishwomen, one elderly, the mother of the city magistrate, and one, Miss Quested, comparatively young, who becomes for a time engaged to him. The one has a natural and the other a theoretical sympathy for the country and its people.

As the guests of Dr. Aziz they make an excursion to the Marabar Caves, where Miss Quested loses her head and accuses Aziz of having insulted her - a series of minor accidents lending plausibility to what was, in effect, an hallucination. Aziz is arrested, and East and West rally round their prejudices and conventions, though Fielding believes Aziz to be innocent, and breaks with his own order to support him.

At the trial, before a native magistrate, Miss Quested withdraws her accusations and Aziz is acquitted; but in the following turmoil Fielding, against his will, is true to his blood in sheltering Miss Quested, and he and Aziz drift apart. "Why can't we be friends now?" he says at the end. "It's what I want. It's what you want." But India answers: "No, not yet...No, not there."

Thus we are left with the feeling that the blending of races is a four-dimensional problem. In his presentation of the problem Mr. Forster leans, if anywhere, towards his own race in his acute sense of their difficulties, but not more than by the weight of blood; and, again, fairness is not the word for his sensitive presentation. It is something much less conscious; not so much a virtue as a fatality of his genius. Whether he presents Englishman or Moslem or Hindu or Eurasian he is no longer examining life, but being examined by it" in the deeps of his personality as an artist.

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Katy (kathy_h) | 9558 comments Mod
A Passage to India Map

message 8: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Jun 25, 2015 09:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

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Character List

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message 9: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Mar 01, 2014 10:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9558 comments Mod
I didn't realize it, but there is a 1984 movie on this book.

1984 Drama directed by David Lean

Judy Davis as Adela Quested
Peggy Ashcroft as Mrs Moore
Victor Banerjee as Dr Aziz Ahmed
James Fox as Richard Fielding
Alec Guinness as Professor Godbole
Nigel Havers as Ronny Heaslop
Michael Culver as Major McBryde
Clive Swift as Major Callendar
Art Malik as Ali
Saeed Jaffrey as Advocate Hamidullah
Roshan Seth as Advocate Amrit Rao
Richard Wilson as Turton
Antonia Pemberton as Mrs. Turton

Was nominated for and won several awards.

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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Another David Lean movie ... he directed the '65 version of Doctor Zhivago. Also famous for Lawrence of Arabia, which I remember as quite boring when viewed over several days in 9th grade, in an auditorium with many other classes of students. Probably not 'ideal' viewing conditions ;-).

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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments ^^^ I put the David Lean flick on hold, at my library.

message 12: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments MK wrote: "^^^ I put the David Lean flick on hold, at my library."

I picked up my copy from the library tonight. Sometime in the next week I hope to get to it :)

message 13: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9558 comments Mod
It is a good read. Hope you enjoy it.

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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Kathy wrote: "It is a good read. Hope you enjoy it."

Thanks, Kathy :).

This time I saved the movie for after the book :D. I finished the book earlier in the week (late ... but I got there! heh )

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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Kathy wrote: "I didn't realize it, but there is a 1984 movie on this book.

1984 Drama directed by David Lean

Judy Davis as Adela Quested
Peggy Ashcroft as Mrs Moore
Victor Banerjee as Dr Aziz Ahmed

I watched it. I dunno, I don't love David Lean movies!

I mean, I know he's famous for epic classic movies. But, so far, of the two I've seen (Zhivago and this one), they make some significant changes from the book to the movie. Not just leaving out scenes or characters, but changing things, and inventing things too.

Movie was good. And long. It just was different from the book.

message 16: by Lynn, Revisit the Shelf (last edited Apr 23, 2020 08:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynn (lynnsreads) | 3291 comments Mod
I tend to get bogged down in research at times. One thing I found interesting is the line in Katy's biography at the top of this thread that E M Forster was an annoucer for the BBC.

I have been listening to his broadcast on youtube. You might find this interesting:

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