E. M. FORSTER'S DOUBLE VISION: THE SPLIT IN A PASSAGE TO INDIA
Jo M. Turk
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
The language I speak must be ambiguous, must have two meanings in
order to do justice to the dual aspect of our psychic nature. I strive
quite consciously and deliberately for ambiguity of expression, because
it is superior to unequivocalness and reflects the nature of life.
--Carl Gustav Jung
. art is perhaps most effective when imperfectly understood.
--Richard Ellmann and Charles Feidelson, Jr.
To my husband and children--Tully, Ted, Chris, Dan, Edith, and Heidi
and not forgetting my canine friends, whose names are taken from
some of the best efforts in our literature--Chaucer, Criseyde, Gen-
tillesse Gem, Darkness Visible, Olivia, and Nanda--
My committee chairman, Professor Gordon Bigelow, deserves an
unusually hearty thank-you because he has not only struck exactly
the right balance between giving guidance and offering a wide free-
dom for the writing of this project but also expended extra effort
and a fine tact to overcome the built-in difficulties of directing
a dissertation by long distance. He has found, as I have, that dis-
tance lends little enchantment in an undertaking of this sort. Pro-
fessor Alistair Duckworth and the rest of my committee have also been
most helpful, as were my teachers during a strenuous year of commuting
six hundred miles weekly to finish my course requirements. Professor
Ben Pickard, especially as counselor and friend as well as teacher,
Professor Motley Deakin, Professor Kent Beyette, and Professor Carl
Bredahl, in addition to Professor Bigelow, were in large part respon-
sible for making that year one of the most rewarding of my life.
I owe a debt also to another source of academic and personal aid,
to those at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton who encouraged
and inspired me: Professor Allen Greer, my first professor of English
there and now Assistant Dean of Humanities; Professor William Coyle,
Chairman of the English Department and the one who first offered me
the chance to discover how much a person learns when he teaches; and
Professor Howard Pearce, whose straight thinking has often helped me
to sort out my own.
And to my dear friend Dulari Lytle, who literally lent me her
ears and her house for the better part of two years so that I could
work in a quiet atmosphere, my heartfelt thanks. Her interest in my
paper has often livened my own flagging energies. Other friends,
too, have encouraged me in this way as well as with more tangible
To my family especially I want to say thank-you. Without them
it possibly could have been done sooner but without them there would
have been little reason to do it. They have helped far more than
they have hindered, with many acts of helpfulness ranging from house-
hold chores to psychological balm. I hope they reap as much reward
as they have given.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . .. . . . .iv
ABSTRACT. . . . . . . . . ... . . .... .vii
FORSTER'S DOUBLE VISION AND THE SPLIT IN HUMAN
CONSCIOUSNESS: APOLLONIAN AND DIONYSIAN . . . . .. .
THE SPLIT IN MYTHIC SETTINGS:
EMOTIVE AND COGNITIVE . . . . . . . . .. .14
THE SPLIT IN PLOT: MYTHIC AND MUNDANE ... .. . ... 54
THE SPLIT IN CHARACTERIZATION:
ARCHETYPAL AND REALISTIC . . . . . . . ... .84
THE SPLIT IN STYLE: POETIC AND SATIRIC . . . . .. .122
THE SPLIT AND FORSTER'S PLACE IN
LITERARY HISTORY . . . . . . . . ... ... .168
A LIST OF WORKS :CITED . . . . . . . . .. ... 175
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . ... . .180
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
E. M. FORSTER'S DOUBLE VISION: THE SPLIT IN A PASSAGE TO INDIA
Jo M. Turk
Chairman: Gordon E. Bigelow
Major Department: English
The double perspective of E. M. Forster's A Passage to India
creates a "split" both thematic and esthetic. Despite the novel's
esthetically satisfying tripartite structure, its "open" ending pro-
duces an intellectual and artistic cleft because instead of rounding
off events it encourages contemplation. And in the novel's "felt life"
we sense a reality both mythic and ordinary. Plot, characterizations,
settings--all have strong affinities with myth, but they are also real-
istic and often treated satirically so that their mythic power is
diluted. In this amalgam of mythic and realistic, probably, we find
the essentials of the novel's split effect.
Forster comes closest to primordial myth, perhaps, with his
seemingly alive settings. India, with its indifference or hostility
to man, its vastness and amorphousness, its Hot Weather (itself almost
a personality) attains animate status and powerfully influences the
world of men. Yet India denies Western ideals and fails to accommo-
date the reader's expectations. Similarly, the Marabar's mysterious,
ominous presence spreads throughout the book as presiding image. But
the Caves' ominousness is touched with poetic loveliness and is par-
tially mitigated by the healing spirit of "Temple." The Marabar inci-
dent does not break up a continent or even dislocate a district, and
thus the Marabar Caves are only a barren, rocky region generating
muddle rdther than mystery.
The plot--basically the mythic journey, central motif of much
Western literature--follows its mythic paradigm only part way. This
quest attains no Grail and its mythic quality dissipates as earth and
sky say, "No, not there," and "No, not now," to the uniting of East and
West. Despite this journey's fundamental likeness to the mythic quest,
it is also a picnic excursion that ends in contretemps.
The major characterizations are also "split," humanly realistic
but also mythic. As Hindu goddess Esmiss Esmoor, Mrs. Moore plays a
positive role, whereas as an actual person in an actual world she fails
the humans who need her. Like Godbole, Mrs. Moore satisfies moral ex-
pectations only as mythic figure. Even the highly realistic Fielding,
Aziz, and Adela are partially archetypal: Fielding as Hero with task to
perform (of educating East and West to brotherhood), Aziz as Scapegoat
who fails to arise as Savior, and Adela as momentary Savior-Goddesss who
by recanting "saves" Aziz but to a life of only petty accomplishment.
Forster never fills in their mythic outlines.
This semi-mythic story peopled by semi-mythic characters is
also narrated in a split style. In awed poetic tones the narrative
voice describes the Marabar's incredible antiquity and surpassing
beauty, or conveys "eternal" moments like Fielding's epiphany as the
Marabar moves toward him like a beneficent queen or Mrs. Moore's vision
of nightmare. But this poetic voice is interrupted frequently and de-
cisively by the satiric voice pointing out mankind's weaknesses.
For every mythic creation, in fact, there is a corresponding
waning into the everyday. Forster renders human life with seemingly
casual verisimilitude as he hints at some mythic power beyond the sky's
arches. He retreats, however, from any certain statement about the
source, nature, or even existence of this mythic authority. Nor does
he provide conclusions about human response to it, thus placing his work
well into the twentieth century where ambiguity and irony prevail as
literary goals. Although in the vanguard of modernism with his return
to primitive myth, Forster alloys his mythic work of art with contempo-
rary satire, creating the artistic best of two possible worlds and
leaving those worlds for the reader to ponder.
JO M. TURK
E.M. FORSTER'S DOUBLE VISION:
THE SPLIT IN A PASSAGE TO INDIA
(UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA)
FORSTER'S DOUBLE VISION AND THE SPLIT IN HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS:
APOLLONIAN AND DIONYSIAN
E. M. Forster once wrote of Joseph Conrad that "the secret cas-
ket of his genius contains a vapour rather than a jewel." "Is there
not," asks Forster about Conrad, "something noble, heroic, beautiful,
inspiring half a dozen great books, but obscure, obscure?" Such ques-
tions could be asked about Forster's own work and, in effect, often
have been. The criticism on Forster frequently employs words like
"ambiguity," "puzzle," and "inconclusiveness." Even his friends and
literary confederates have confessed to finding Forster odd or obscure.
Virginia Woolf, for one, wrote of "something baffling and evasive in
the very nature of his gifts."2 After publication of Forster's last
novel, A Passage to India, in 1924, I. A. Richards voiced the uncer-
tainty many readers and critics alike feel about Forster's fiction,
saying: "There is something odd about Mr. Forster's methods as a novel-
ist, and this oddness, if we can track it down, may help us to seize
those other peculiarities which make him on the whole the most puzz-
ling figure in contemporary English letters."3
E. M. Forster, "Joseph Conrad: A Note," in Abinger Harvest
(London: Edward Arnold, Publishers, Ltd., 1931), p. 160.
Virginia Woolf, Death of a Moth and Other Essays (New York:
Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1942), p. 104.
3 I. A. Richards, "A Passage to Forster: Reflections on a Novelist,"
in Malcolm Bradbury, ed., Forster: A Collection of Critical Essays (Eng-
lewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1966), p. 15.
Tracking down this oddness leads inevitably to what critics over
the years have called the "split" in Forster's vision, for it is his
dual way of conceiving reality that generates ambiguities and obscuri-
ties. Forster's split or double vision is both thematic and esthetic.
His diverging artistic impulses--which we might label "poetic" and
"satiric"--underline his dual intellectual concerns with both tangible
and metaphysical worlds. His work is split in several ways--it seems
both Victorian and modern, both satiric and poetic, both realistic and
mythic. His stance with one foot in each century so that his literary
and philosophic loyalties partake of both, the cutting satire set forth
with one hand and taken back with the other in a surge of tolerance,
his two narrative tones so distinct as to sound like two voices instead
of one--all evidence his dual ways of dealing with experience. Whether
critics speak of the two aspects of Forster's thought and art as poetic
and ironic, idealistic and realistic, romantic and satiric, or socio-comic
and symbolistic--to mention a few sets of terms used by various commenta-
tors--they are all speaking of his simultaneous concerns with both human
and transcendent realms and of his dual ways of talking about them.
Forster attributes Conrad's obscurity to discrepancies between
Conrad's nearer and further visions. Curiously, it is the discrepancies
between Forster's own nearer and further visions that occasion the sub-
stance of what critics see as his obscurity. Malcolm Bradbury suggests
that it is these disparities in Forster's artistic and intellectual im.-
pulses that make him difficult to clarify: "Forster's distinctive mixture
of social comedy and 'poetic' writing--his concern on the one hand with
domestic comedy and quirks of character and on the other with the unseen
and overarching--makes him a difficult writer to read and to define."4
A quick survey of critical attitudes toward Forster's art shows
that though he was at one time dismissed as old-fashioned and Victorian
in both theme and technique, or as too easy alongside tantalizingly dif-
ficult writers like Joyce and Woolf, a few early critics did discern
that Forster's novels of Jane Austenish comedy contained dissonant ele-
ments. Rose Macauley, for one, spoke in 1938 of a "split" or "divided"
Forster, "highly committed to personal relationships, yet revealing a
sense of a transcendental realm in which human relations are finally un-
important."5 Virginia Woolf found this division a fault, saying that
Forster fell short of attaining single vision, failed to reconcile his
poetry and his realism.6 Austin Warren, too, felt Forster's novels to
be pulled in two directions, although Warren thought that instead of a
split, a "balance between existence and essence" was created by the dual
perspective. Contemporary critical comment supports the judgment of
these early critics who first noticed Forster's divided interests. To-
day it is a critical commonplace to speak of Forster's double vision
and the "split" effect it causes, especially in A Passage to India,
which is at once the best=received and most puzzling of his works.
A Passage to India has been categorized in genres from political
documentary to spiritual tract. It is clear that critics no longer con-
Malcolm Bradbury, "Introduction," Collection, p. 6.
Rose Macauley, The Writings of E. M. Forster (London: Hogarth
Press, 1938), p. 8.
Woolf, pp. 106-07.
Austin Warren, Rage for Order (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of
Michigan Press, 1948), p. 122.
fine their analyses to the novel's political import; those few who did
so were long ago dismissed from the canon of serious criticism as irre-
levant or naive. Some critics ignore the book's political implications
and treat it as a metaphysical statement. Others, heeding Bradbury's
warning that we are in danger of forgetting that Forster writes comedies
of manners, take renewed delight in his social satire, in his condemna-
tion of British colonialism, and in his cynicism toward the doctrines
and practices of organized Christianity. June Levine summarizes contem-
porary criticism by saying that most critics discuss both the philosophic
message and the historical situation of the novel, but that the "bent of
recent criticism is toward a symbolic analysis."8 Today's critics, what-
ever their methods, stress both the human and metaphysical dimensions
of experience as revealed in Forster's fiction.
So pronounced is Forster's dual approach to reality that his good
friend, the Cambridge don Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, assumed that the
sine qua non of Forster's art was its double vision. Dickinson believed,
however, that in A Passage to India Forster had fused the split. Upon
reading the novel, Dickinson wrote to his younger friend: ". whereas
in your other books your kind of double vision squints--this world, and
a world or worlds behind--here it all comes together."9 That it does not
all come together for many readers is evident, however, from the fact
that so many mention the novel's ambiguities and puzzles. It is not
clear, for example, even to what genre A Passage to India belongs, nor
8 June Perry Levine, Creation and Criticism (Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press, 1971), p. 119.
9 Dickinson in a letter to Forster, quoted in E. M. Forster, Golds-
worthy Lowes Dickinson (London: Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1934 &
1962), p. 216.
whether Forster is to be regarded as satirist or symbolist. Is he con-
cerned primarily with political and social reform or with religious and
metaphysical questions of broader import? Does he aim to create an at-
mosphere, an impression, a work of art-for-art's-sake, or to present
ideas? That Forster did have ideas to present and causes to espouse is
apparent, as Peter Burra says, from the fact that he did not progress
from writing symbolic fantasy to pure abstraction as he could have done
by composing music instead of novels. Yet A Passage to India has
several hallmarks of symbolist literature, notably the penumbra of in-
definiteness cast over the novel by its split effects. Still, the book
is not quite a symbolist poem or a Poe story that seeks only after ef-
fect. It is at once Forster's most realistic and most symbolistic work,
with enough credibility of plot and lifelike character growth to satis-
fy the most eager proponent of realism and enough urgency in its social
and political dilemmas to have made it an influence in the actual world
of men and political states. Yet it is far from the typical nineteenth-
century English novel of sprawling form and mimetic detail. It shapes
the life it depicts so that its artistic form is one of its paramount
qualities. Neither slice-of-life realism nor symbolist abstraction, A
Passage to India is a unique composite, conceived with more than single
Nor does the novel "all come together" as intellectual message.
Its "meaning" has never been determined to the satisfaction of all.
Peter Burra, "The Novels of E. M. Forster," in Bradbury, Collec-
tion, p. 23.
See Malcolm Bradbury, "Two Passages to India: Forster as Vic-
torian and Modern," in Oliver Stallybrass, ed., Aspects of E. M. Fors-
ter (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1969), p. 128 especially.
Critics reviewing it in 1924 fell into two major groups: those who saw
the novel as a tract clearly denouncing British imperial policy and those
who felt it to be a puzzling, mystifying, disturbing work of art. Middle-
ton Murry's comment demonstrates the frustration A Passage to India cre-
ated in many readers: "To be or not to be? was once the question. But
now, Ou-boum or bou-oum? Of these one is as good as the other."12
Fifty years later there is still little consensus about the novel's
message, or even its basic direction. It is clear from the considerable
body of puzzled appraisal that this novel does not all come together in-
tellectually. Witness Levine's devoting an entire chapter of Creation
and Criticism to a summary of the widely varying critical interpretations
of symbols and statements in A Passage to India. She concludes that the
major issue is perhaps as simple as this: "whether A Passage to India
reveals a pessimistic or optimistic view of the universe."13 It is not
only possible but unavoidable to ask Bradbury's fundamental question--
12 John Middleton Murry, "Ou-boum or Bou-oum?" in Philip Gardner,
ed., E. A. Forster: The Critical Heritage (London & Boston: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1973), p. 237. Other comments typical of reviews contempo-
raneous with the book's publication include the following: Arnold Bennett:
"The book left me with a sense of disappointment. I think the reason is
that I don't know quite what it is about" (p. 288); Virginia Woolf: "In-
stead of getting that sense of instant certainty which we get in The Wild
Duck or The Master Builder, we are puzzled, worried. What does this mean?
we ask ourselves" (p. 324); Edward Shanks: Forster has been "carried away
into an understanding beyond explanation" (p. 316); Ralph Wright: the
book has a "suggestion of nameless horror that it is impossible to ex-
plain" (p. 224); E. C. Benson: the book is "a literary mystification"
(p. 329); I. P. Fassett: Forster "has not been able to find a really
satisfying answer to any of his queries" (p. 273); L. P. Hartley: "a
disturbing, uncomfortable book," "at once vague and clear" (p. 227); and
Arnold Bennett again: "All details are good: but the ensemble is fuzzy,
or quzzy. Although I only finished the book three hours ago, I don't re--
call now what the purport of the end of the book is" (p. 220).
13 Levine, p. 119.
whether, even after having attained classic status, this novel asserts
a positive vision of unity or asserts failure.14
Yet if Forster had wished, he could, apparently, have made his
meaning as lucid in this last novel as in his early short stories and
preceding novels. (For Elizabeth Bowen the attraction of the early Fors-
ter novels was their lucidity.15) Although complexity and ambiguity
hover over the Italian novels, there he outlined clearly the contrast
between repressed British suburbia and liberated Italy, or between hectic
London and the joyous countryside, and he made it clear which side should
emerge triumphant. Thus the split was well defined and the methods for
healing it overtly declared. But A Passage to India avoids any clear-cut
contrast between repression and spontaneity as it does between East and
West, and instead implies that such black-and-white declarations exclude
too much. The "ultimate" in this novel, instead of conquering the forces
of evil, may be only a passive something impossible to know, at least as
many construe the novel's message. A Passage to India is, at any rate,
surely no novel of clear and definitive answers. Judging from critical
commentary, its ambiguities are still there.
Then, too, its status as a designed object makes it more than a
story with an indefinitive ending. It is also a design that works on
the reader's sensibility as a Hindu yantra works. A yantra is an orien-
tal geometric design symbolizing the union-yet-discreteness of opposites,
usually in squares or triangles within circles within squares within fur-
ther circles; it leads the eye onward and inward to the forever empty
Bradbury, Collection, p. 14.
15 Elizabeth Bowen, "A Passage to E. M. Forster," in Stallybrass,
center, inducing contemplation of that center. As we shall see, A
Passage to India, yantralike, encourages contemplation by not providing
conclusions. Its center is empty in that it is indefinitive. There is
always more to consider, more to contemplate, in the book as literary
structure and in the human situation it describes.
Its inconclusiveness, far from demonstrating vagueness of mind
(a condition F. R. Leavis implies is Forster's), creates the empty cen-
ter that draws the pondering intellect. Forster's lack of resolution
we shall discover to be not a facile evasion of life's difficult ques-
tions but a toughminded attitude typical of contemporary artists. We
shall see that the novel's realistic oppositions are never resolved,
and that the very split critics decry in it provides its magnetic power.
One finishes the novel not with the sigh of satisfaction with which one
finishes a comedy, nor with the rush of expurgated emption that accom-
panies the concluding of a tragic drama, but with a cautious puzzlement,
wondering with the author if man can or should arrange his own social
relationships, decide his own actions, or define and make contact with
his own God. The novel's last words, "No, not yet," and "No, not there,"
make us wonder, too, if man will ever reach a point where he can live
the humanistic ideals he has long held, whether the final comment will
ever become, "Yes, here and now." And we shall see that the split--both
in matter and manner--far from being a flaw in the work, is the very
point of it.
The purpose of this study, then, is to investigate the split
created by the double vision of A Passage to India--its effects, the
ways it is manifested, its ramifications. No matter by what means one
1F. R. Leavis, "E. M. Forster," in Bradbury, Collection, pp. 45--
may choose to examine the novel, he finds the double vision and the
resulting split. Each fictional element, for example, has affinities
with myth, but these mythic factors--plot, characterization, setting--
are also realistic in a most mundane sense. For every mythic creation
there is a corresponding waning into the ordinary, so that the double
vision persists, and insists, that reality is multiplex and undefinable.
(This insistence places Forster well into the twentieth century where
ambiguity and irony are the prevailing literary goals.) Only in his
creation of presentially alive places having that power peculiar to sac-
red places in primitive thought does Forster commit himself wholly to
the mythic. But even here we find a split: the mythic aliveness of
these places has as its constituents both cognitive and emotive elements
that are within themselves divided.
The quality of language, too, has two clearly distinguishable
levels. Virgina Woolf said Forster failed to reconcile his poetry and
his realism; I plan to show that the continued discreteness of the two
styles is not a failure but a reflection of the essential split in Fors-
ter's perspective, the mythic and mundane parameters of his double
To study how Forster accomplishes his disconcerting split effect,
then, we shall examine the plot, the settings, the characterizations,
the language itself. But first a definition of terms:
When Lowes Dickinson sensed "a world or worlds behind" the everyday
one in Forster's art, he saw that Forster was expressing what Blake and
other great symbolists have long said: that the world is contained in a
grain of sand. In other words, the unseen exists in the seen, and this
unseen world may be more "real" than what we usually call reality. Both
these worlds may merge in art, especially in symbolist art, and both
words, we are rapidly coming to realize, are present in every human
Current psychological data concerning the two hemispheres of the
human brain corroborate the ancient intuition that man's nature has the
attributes of both the dark, pessimistic, passionate Dionysus and the
sunlit, measured Apollo, whom we align with light, reason, seriousness,
boundaries and control.17 From ancient times these attributes have been
represented by the figures of these two mythic gods, and their names
make convenient "handles" for discussing two worlds of human existence:
the rational or scientifically disposed and the spontaneous, passionate,
In art as in life, the Dionysian impulse stresses unity; it is ab-
stract, flowing, nonpictorial, perhaps best expressed in the art of
music. The Apollonian impulse, on the other hand, gives rise to indivi-
duation and shaping, which lead to the plastic arts, to dualism of mind
and matter, and to satire. (The distance at which satire holds out its
object is the result of the individuating impulse.) It is the Apollonian
hand that gives form to the amorphous and meaning to the senseless. It
best does this, according to Nietzsche--who first used the terms "Apollo-
nian and Dionysian" to identify the dual impulses of creative activity--
in Attic tragedy. Never since the days of Aeschylus and Sophocles, says
Nietzsche, have we produced the sublime harmony in art that they reached.
With the coming of Socrates (who, according to Nietzsche, is the arch-
17 See, for example, "Two Pillars of Consciousness: The Apollonian
and Dionysian," by Dr. Sam Keen, Psychology Today, July, 1974, and Robert
E. Ornstein, The Nature of Human Consciousness (San Francisco: W. H. Free-
man & Co., 1973), passim.
enemy of true art) our "Alexandrian" culture developed, and logical
thinking has held sway ever since in the endeavors of Western man.8
That there is currently a swing back to an awareness of the impor-
tance of acknowledging the instinctual Dionysian energies in man is evi-
dent, especially in the literature of the naturalist school for influen-
tial since the 1890's, the formative period of Forster's young life. But
that Forster may have been a harbinger of such an awareness is not so
generally realized. If we had looked, we could have seen at any time in
his career that Forster was aware of these two pillars of human conscious-
ness, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. In the earliest stories we find
him proclaiming the virtues of living spontaneously and rejecting the
conventional response. And in the very first-conceived of his novels,
A Room with a View, the intuitively wise, old Mr. Emerson urges Lucy
Honeychurch to "stand in the sun and live for all you are worth." But
such an attitude was de rigueur in Edwardian Bloomsbury. In Forster's
three other novels published before World War I (Where Angels Fear to
Tread, The Longest Journey, and Howards End) and to some extent in the
posthumously published Maurice, written, we think, shortly after Howards
End, he urges the same fashionable arguments, often attributing awesome
benevolence to the "Unseen." The resulting tension is sometimes only a
18 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Mu-
sic, The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (New York: Modern Library,
1927 & 1954), pp. 1004-1050 especially. Nietzsche of course is outlining
the historical background for the development of what he calls our overly
intellectualized "Alexandrian" culture. Ortega y Gasset also sees Socra-
tes as the turning point of Western culture: "There was a moment, the
chronology of which is perfectly well known, at which the objective pole
of life, viz., reason, was discovered. It may be said that on that day
Europe, as such, came into being. Till then, existence on this continent
had been merged with that in Asia or Egypt. But one day, in the market-
place at Athens, Socrates discovered reason." The Modern Theme (New York:
Harper Torchbooks, 1961), p. 54.
rather precious antithesis. But in his last novel Forster admits the
power and terror of the Dionysian without dressing it up in acceptable
mystery or figuring it forth in mythological outlines of Demeters or
Pans. In A Passage to India he gazes into the abyss, finds there a
nullity that paralyzes Mrs. Moore and disturbs the reader, but by means
of his own Apollonian impulse toward beauty, manages to measure some-
thing immeasurable. With what Bradbury calls Forster's "reconciling
and poetic vision," the author fashions a phenomenon similar to that
of Aeschylean tragedy: he makes Dionysian intensity of feeling appre-
hendable by dialog and image that possesses an Apollonian clarity and
visual beauty similar to what the Greeks used to render the otherwise
inexpressible Dionysian tone of the chorus apprehendable to an audience.
For both Forster and Nietzsche the Dionysian tone of life's primal
force is amorphous and incomprehensible until structure is imposed upon
it by the Apollonian impulse. Then it is "bounded" and made "apparent"
(Nietzsche's terms). The pictorial and aural imagery of the Marabar
Caves, for example, brings into the mind's eye and ear the undistin-
guished echo and writhing worms, making the dread Dionysian "tone" of
the Marabar's atmosphere apprehendable by means of the senses. (Other
visual and auditory images--the Marabar Hills moving toward Fielding
like a beneficent queen; the orange, throbbing sky promising and then
failing to keep its promise of a glorious sunrise; Mrs. Moore sitting
sulkily swinging her foot after suffering disillusionment at the Cave;
the pulsing, unstoppable echo; the irrational chanting of "Esmiss Es-
moor"--all function in a similar manner.) Thus we have in A Passage
to India a modern-day interweaving of Dionysian atmosphere or tone
with the clarity of Apollonian imagery.
Whether we use the terms "Apollonian" and "Dionysian" to discuss
the poles of intellect and intuition, or the way emotional tone can be
turned into apprehendable form, or the flowing, poetic mode of narra-
tion that alternates with the satiric, clipped measures of another nar-
rative mode, or the mythic and realistic aspects of plot, character, and
setting, we are still talking about the same phenomenon: the way every
element in A Passage to India demonstrates Forster's double vision, his
Dionysian and Apollonian or his mythic and satiric tendencies. Because
Forster offers in this novel inconclusive verbal statement about some-
thing scarcely intelligible through logical, verbal means, but offers
it packaged in esthetically fathomable artistry, A Passage to India,
of all his works, makes the most productive vehicle for studying his
dual impulses. It yields the clearest view, despite its mystery and
muddle, of his complex thought and artistry.
Following Forster's fourteen years of fictional silence after
publication of Howards End in 1910, his last and best novel, A Passage
to India, appeared in 1924. Here his split consciousness offers a dual
vision of his world. Forster is still partially devoted to an Enlighten-
mentlike rationalism and to traditional literary technique; but he has
recognized more fully his affinities for symbolist technique and his
need to express a meaning too profound and complex for expression by
conventional means. Now his prose is basically symbolist, his structure
consummately classic, but his meaning no more completed than a yantra
is ever completed. Because of this double perspective, not despite it,
Forster has created in A Passage to India the artistic best of two
THE SPLIT IN MYTHIC SETTINGS: EMOTIVE AND COGNITIVE
A Passage to India is not a tract . it is an experience .
The word "myth has a number of conflicting meanings in current
usage. It is often taken to mean a fiction or half-truth based more
on opinion or tradition than on fact. Or to students of Jungian psy-
chology it means the symbolic expression of universal truths that stem
from the archetypal tendencies in the human psyche. To cultural anthro-
pologists like Bronislaw Malinowski, however, myths are not symbolic at
all but the primitive reality resurrected in all its power, the living
thing itself, not merely a commemoration or celebration of those pri-
mordial events.1 But to discuss the mythic element in Forster's novel
it will be useful to adopt a definition of myth by Gordon E. Bigelow.
"A myth is a numinous image or story. 'Numinous' here means having the
power to seize men and compel them to some kind of total response."2
This definition of myth, embracing image as well as the stories more
commonly thought of as myths, is especially suited for a discussion of
A Passage to India because in this novel the narrative ends in perplex-
ity, leaving conclusions open, while the numinous images--the Marabar
1 Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science, and Religion (Glencoe, Ill.:
Free Press, 1948), p. 79.
2Gordon E. Bigelow, The Poet's Third Eye (New York: Philosophical
Library, Inc., 1977), p. 81.
Caves and the Indian subcontinent--stand still for us, seize our minds
and compel us to response, and provide the foundation for and aura
about the novel that are distinctly mythic.
To a writer like Forster who is trying to depict something beyond
everyday reality, myth is an especially valuable technical means be-
cause mythic symbols stem from the archetypal tendencies of the uncon-
scious and thus come close to representing their unanalyzable sources,
which "lie forever beyond the grasp of conscious reason with its demand
for logical consistency."3 Thus mythic symbols are not limited to the
bounds of logic; they hold up the mirror to nature in a special way.
A Passage to India is at least partially a symbolist novel, and in sym-
bolist literature, as Bigelow tells us, we should not be surprised to
find mythical elements because myth "feeds the whole panoply of tech--
nique dearest to the heart of the symbolist writer, the use of tensive,
multiple levels of meanings, the use of suggestive indirection, ambigu-
ity, paradox and irony, and interpenetration of past and present time.
A symbolist era in literature is almost inevitably a myth-haunted era."
That Forster is haunted by myth can easily be sensed. In his
fiction before A Passage to India he alludes to pagan mythology and thus
imposes on his materials the patterns of ancient myth. This process
sorts life's experiences--his raw material--into a coherent order, from
which he can draw conclusions that are consistent and thus consoling to
one disturbed by the disorder of contemporary life. But in A Passage
Bigelow, pp. 63-64.
Ibid., p. 87.
5 Forster himself finds the only order in modern life to be that in
the internal harmony of a work of art. See "Art for Art's Sake," Two
Cheers for Democracy (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1951), pp. 91-
to India Forster uses myth in a different way. Instead of alluding to
myth so that it suggests meaning for contemporary life, that is, using
myth in a symbolic way, he reaches back beyond literary tradition in a
less learned and intellectual way than Joyce or Eliot does, and seems
to create primordial myth anew. Most vivid as primordial reality resur-
rected is Forster's evocation of places with true numinosity. The whole
land of India and the Marabar Caves in particular have that power to
compel the human's total response. They emanate what Polynesians call
Mana," the "groundstuff of the entire creation, corresponding to the
modern idea of energy if we understand the term to include physical,
psychological, and psychic."6 This kind of myth appears in this novel
as the numinous, archetypal, living reality--it is not simply patterned
after past fact. We shall see that in A Passage to India it is crucial
to plot, to character, and especially to setting--not embellishment only.
Yet there is another current cutting through the mythic stream that
underlies A Passage to India. Forster presents a plot that follows the
mythic paradigm of the quest, but this plot follows its mythical model
only part way, and there is considerable doubt whether this questing
journey attains any Grail. :In addition, the characters who undertake
this incompletely mythic adventure fall short of becoming mythic heroes
or heroines. Often their behavior and attributes can be explained only
by seeing them in their archetypal roles, and they do fit into the arche-
typal patterns of mythic figures, but never completely. Their photo-
graphic realism, for which Forster is often praised, modifies their
6 John Senior, The Way Down and Out: The Occult in Symbolist
Literature (New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1968), p. 2.
stature as archetypal symbols. Mythic character and story, then, are
so limited by their author's ironic perspective that their energy is
low; they lack the compelling charisma of truly mythic or archetypal
heroes. Thus as Forster almost follows mythic story model and creates
semi-mythic characters, he undercuts the primeval reality he has resur-
rected and treats much of his material ironically.
In other words, he sees the mythic world he has created in A Pas-
sage to India from the perspective of a skeptical modern. Those who,
like Dickinson, sense a "world behind" Forster's surface fictional world
are talking about the mythic, symbolic existence of his characters and
events. It is, of course, the symbolic dimension of his characteriza-
tions and plots that brings down on Forster's head the criticism that
he fails to reconcile his poetry and his realism, that his plots are
based on incredible events, that his characters are "veiled by the
larger-than-life masks they wear."7 But the amalgam of archetypal
quality with the lifelike detail given to so many characters and hap-
penings in this novel is a major reason it has had both critical and
popular success. The gulf between symbol and reality is sharply nar-
rowed in A Passage to India. But in his use of myth as in everything
else, Forster's impulses are split. He evokes places with true "pre-
sential reality,"8 which is Dionysian and mythic; on the other hand,
he undercuts the numinosity of character and plot by treating them
ironically, which is Apollonian and satiric.
7 Gertrude White, "A Passage to India: Analysis and Revaluation,"
in Andrew Rutherford, ed., Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Passage
to India (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970), p. 64.
Ernst Cassirer's term. See Essay on Man (New York: Yale Univer-
sity Press, 1944 and Bantam, 1970), passim.
Much of the achieved content of A Passage to India rests in the
inextinguishable presence of India. This presence embodies all the
intellectually-arrived-at interpretations of analysts, and includes
concepts like multiplicity and teeming fertility, romantic exoticism,
all-inclusiveness and indiscriminateness, and, above all--vastness. It
is intellectually conceived ideas or concepts that build cognitively
the image of India in the reader's mind. But concepts alone do not
constitute the total presence of India, a compelling presence that pro-
vides the "overmastering perspective of the novel."9 They merely aug-
ment it. India's living self arises partly by technical means that call
forth the reader's emotions as well as engaging his intellect. It
arises from the pages affectively and mysteriously even as we probe
rationally for its meaning. Its total presence is probably unanalyzable
but its image has undeniable numinosity.
Part of Forster's Dionysian mythic consciousness consists of his
sense of presential reality or the haunting aliveness of the natural
world.0 Forster has never been willing to sever his affinities for con-
crete reality, for the earth and the rural, for what he calls "life."11
George Thomson's phrase. See The Fiction of E. M. Forster (De-
troit: Wayne State University Press, 1967), p. 218 and elsewhere.
10 Cassirer, Essay on Man, p. 135, for definition of "presential."
In his own Aspects of the Novel (New York: Harcourt, Brace &
World, Inc., 1927 & 1955) Forster takes the Wellsian side in the Wells/
James controversy over whether "life" should be fitted into a preconceived
Furthermore, his sense of the living presence in certain almost sacred
places is not a feeling of sympathy or identification with those places,
but a feeling of identity with them, a relationship in which there is
little sense of a bond between the two because they are so thoroughly
merged into each other.12 This sense of presential reality in natural
places is as sure a token of Forster's Dionysian affinities as is his
widely recognized espousal of free feeling. This sense of the universe
as presentially alive is a mythic idea. One version of it, found in the
pattern for a novel. This stance is a strange one for an author whose
own work is highly symbolist; but, theoretically at least, Forster is
pro-life and anti-pattern-following: "It is this question of the rigid
pattern: hour-glass or grand chain or converging lines of the cathedral
or diverging lines of the Catherine wheel, or bed of Procrustes--what-
ever image you like as long as it implies unity. Can it be combined
with the immense richness of material which life provides? Wells and
James would agree it cannot, Wells would go on to say that life should
be given the preference, and must not be whittled or distended for a
pattern's sake. My own prejudices are with Wells" (p. 163).
12 I am indebted to George Thomson not only for his definitions of
"identity" and "identification" as they define varying relations between
man and nature, but also for a related idea: that Forster's feeling of
identity with nature is quite different from a Wordsworthian identification
with it (pp. 42-43). Such a strong bond with the natural world "would
be unknown to Sartrian man, who does indeed stand alone and knows no
bond with nature and no kinship with her animate beings outside the ani-
mate world," says William Barrett. In returning to "the crucible of
life," primitive, mythic sources of human inspiration, man may draw on
vital forces to solve the existential dilemma. "In the end," says Ear-
rett, "the answer to nihilism is not intellectual, but vital, as Nietz-
sche told us a century ago." Time of Need: Forms of Imagination in the
Twentieth Century (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), pp. 381-82. In his
feeling for places and inanimate objects in nature, Forster pulls short
of Sartre's existential alienation except perhaps in A Passage to India
where the immense indifference of nature seems to negate his former con-
viction that the natural world can help man find his bearings in the hu-
man world, and, by reverting to an ancient mythopoeic attitude, moves in
a sense ahead of existential modernism. Forster's answer to man's sense
of loss is not intellectual but vital. Here he is in accord with Nietz-
sche as he is in accord with him on the importance of the Dionysian.
Thus although Forster is poles apart from Nietzsche on the question of
the will to power and the concept of certain individuals as Supermen
superior to others, he is closer to Nietzsche than one would suppose on
several paramount points.
Philosophia perennis, is that the natural world can take human form.13
Behind mundane phenomena, runs this belief, lies a single reality, a
Oneness of which all the universe is formed. This Nietzschean, Diony-
sian Oneness is the substance of everything, animate or inanimate, and
is believed to lend animation to the inorganic. Sometimes the earth
takes the form of a living man, as in Forster's first short story,
"The Story of a Panic." The valley that breathed life into Forster's
fictional aspirations (in real life the Vallone Fontano Caroso near
Ravello, Italy, where Forster visited in 1902) appears in the story as
a "many-fingered hand, palm upwards, which was clutching convulsively"
to keep the characters in its grasp.4 Forster himself points out, too,
how his second-published novel, The Longest Journey, "depends from an
encounter with the genius loci."15 Always Forster has felt the genius
loci in special places, and his taste for the occult has gradually
strengthened his ability to evoke their presential reality, a develop-
ment that can be traced in all his novels--possibly excepting Maurice--
1See John Senior, The Way Down and Out, passim, and Aldous
Huxley, "The Bhagavad-Gita and the Perennial Philosophy," in Newman
P. and Genevieve B. Birk, eds., The Odyssey Reader: Ideas and Style
(New York: Odyssey Press, 1968), pp. 224-31.
"The Story of a Panic," The Collected Tales of E. M. Forster
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959), pp. 10-11. This story is a proper
forerunner for A Passage to India because it depicts living force in
a natural place in a mythic, occult way; because it suggests the Diony-
sian theme of allowing oneself to feel freely, a theme of high rank in
all Forster's work; and because it is open-ended so that its design in-
duces, as Passage does, further contemplation. The story ends with
Eustace, the youthful rebel against convention, running over the land-
scape, where we do not know. Most of Forster's intervening works offer
conclusive endings either because the plots imply conclusion or because
the narrator declares it. It is clear from this early story, however,
that the budding author has already conceived of fiction as posing prob-
lems without always solving them.
15 Forster, "Introduction," Collected Tales, p. vii.
culminating in A Passage to India.1
Probably no writer uses setting as mere backdrop; even settings
so realistic as Dickens' London or Trollope's Barchester Towers have
some symbolic significance. But to a certain extent it is fair to say
that settings in Forster's early novels represent abstract qualities
more definitely than do the settings of A Passage to India. It is
clear, in what Alan Freidman calls Forster's "symbolic geography,"
what values attach to which places. Italy and Greece, for example,
stand for spontaneity and intuition, London and suburbia for repression
of feeling and general stuffiness, rural England for the sturdy yeoman
spirit. But during the fourteen-year gap between the writing of Howards
End and A Passage to India, he evolved from using symbolic geography
so definitively. In A Passage to India earth seems hostile or indiffer-
ent ("It was as if irritation exuded from the very soil"; "There is
something hostile in that soil"; earth and sky say "No" to the friend-
ship of Aziz and Fielding at the end of the book), yet India hovers mag-
nificently if not benevolently over the whole novel. One country no
Forster says that for "The Road to Colonnus," another very early
story which, like "The Story of a Panic," was inspired by a place, he
sat "down on the theme as if it were an anthill" (Ibid., p. vi). In this
story a hollow tree near Olympia, Greece, serves as inspirational germ.
Mr. Lucas steps into the tree to hang a votice offering and receives such
spiritual balm that it changes the tone of his life. And in his second-
published novel, The Longest Journey, the Cadbury Rings seem to be a sac-
red center or "altar" almost as "holy" as the house, "Howards End," sym-
bol of the rural spirit and the Unseen in Howards End.
17 Alan Freidman, "The Novel," in C. B. Cox and A. E. Dyson, eds.,
The Twentieth-Century Mind, Volume I: 1900-1918 (London and New York:
Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 431.
E. M. Forster, A Passage to India (New York: Harcourt, Brace,
and World, 1952), p. 78, p. 18, and p. 322. Subsequent references to
this book will be included in the text and are all to this edition.
longer acts in a clear-cut way as the symbol of readily definable ab-
stract qualities as do Italy and Greece. We may expect, after reading
Forster's early work, to assign such qualities as freedom from British
convention and spontaneity of feeling and even romantic exoticism to a
land like India. But India does not fit into any of the expected cate-
gories. "The contrast of England and India is not the end of the issue,"
says Bradbury, since'Tndia is schismatic within itself; India's challenge
is the challenge of the multiverse . ." One reason India seems
incomprehensible to the Western reader is that as Forster attaches to
it concepts like romanticism and fertility, he simultaneously negates
them. These conventional, understandable attributes are comprehensible
to a mind that functions primarily logically as Western minds do, and
they constitute the cognitive element in Forster's fashioning of India's
image. From them we begin to define India for ourselves; but as we find
these cognitive elements baffled or negated, we feel uncertainty about
that definition, which is one reason the novel affects us as it does.
Most readers find A Passage to India unsettling in its capacity to baf-
fle our understanding. Considering, then, only the cognitive constitu-
ents in India's composition, we are already baffled because of the way
they are set forth and then contradicted or qualified.
With its "hundred voices," the "hundred fissures" in its hostile
soil its contradictory moods and messages, its inclusion of all nature
without barriers between human and nonhuman, India surely suggests a
complex, divided world of multiplicity and disunity. It is a conglome-
ration of persons, messages, religions, tongues. Although this "melt-
pot" idea is congenial at least to Americans and probably comprehensible to
Bradbury, in Stallybrass, p. 133.
all Westerners, India's blending of elements differs signally from our
Western ideals. Its individual elements retain no distinction; every-
thing seems "modelled out of the same brown paste" (p. 265). In try-
ing to overcome barriers between individuals, Westerners aim for brother-
hood. But in India, all matter, even nonliving objects, is considered
viable and important in itself. There are no -bonds of brotherhood be-
tween entities--all is one. To include all matter in the Christian pro-
mise of salvation, for example, proves meaningless to Mr. Sorley, one of
the two missionaries in Chandrapore. When questioned whether God will
make room in his many mansions for all beings, Mr. Graysford, the elder
and more rigid of the two, says "No," but Mr. Sorley, who is "advanced,"
sees "no reason why monkeys should not have their collateral share of
bliss," but "oranges, cactuses, crystals, and mud? and the bacteria in-
side Mr. Sorley? No, no, this is going too far" (p. 38). Such all inclu-
siveness simply will not hold with the Christian concept of the father's
mansion, nor with the Western concept of individualism. Separation is
overcome in Hinduism, but not with brotherhood and thus is no victory in
Western eyes, for separation is overcome only "at the cost of indistinc-
tion, only by the loss of communication."20 Hinduism,prevailing religion
of India, fails to "connect," though its failure is of a different sort
from the West's and Christianity's; it fails not to reach a goal but to
set one, and is thus at odds with our expectations of purpose.and dis-
Still another ideal deeply valued by the West--that of privacy--
carries little weight in India. "Accustomed to the privacy of London,"
20 Alan Wilde, Art and Order: A Study of E. M. Forster (New York:
New York University Press, 1964), p. 134.
Mrs. Moore, for example, cannot "realize that India, seemingly so mys-
terious,contains none" [privacyl (p. 49). Wasps make themselves at home
in houses; servants eavesdrop outside windows; neither human nor nonhuman
world keeps the conventions of privacy or sets the value on individual
distinction common to the Western world. Thus Forster proceeds to under-
line the vast discrepancies between the reader's and the East's perspec-
tives. India fails to accommodate itself to the audience's assumptions
and thus seems "split" even in that part of its makeup for which the
Western reader has most affinity: the cognitive.
Nor does India meet our concept of romantic. Its "melancholy
plains" where "everything was placed wrong" are not beautiful to those
who expect form and proportion. As Fielding returns to Europe via the
Mediterranean, he is astounded to find again beauty of proportion: "He
had forgotten the beauty of form among idol temples and lumpy hills; in-
deed, without form, how can there be beauty?" (p. 282). In these hints
that India is not only "placed wrong" on the "underside" of our globe
but also that.it will never accommodate itself to Western expectations
of beauty, Forster stresses the split between East and West, between
Dionysian, intuitive oneness, and Apollonian, logical individualism.
Readers familiar with Forster's symbolic geography might expect
indiscriminate, free-flowing India to represent freedom from British
stuffiness as Italy and Greece do in his earlier fiction, but here we
have no simple contrast between British reserve and tropical warmth, or
between pagan spontaneity and Christian civilization, although there
is a tension between these values. India's exoticism is so strange that
it is not romantic but unsettling. So foreign does it seem even to Mrs.
Moore, who has an affinity with the spirit of India, that she expects a
different moon in the southern sky. "'Let me think,'" says she, "'We
don't see the other side of the moon out there, no.' 'Come, India's not
as bad as all that,' said a pleasant voice [from the anonymous depths
of the English Club]. 'Other side of the earth if you like, but we stick
to the same old moon'" (p. 24). To secure herself in familiar beliefs,
apparently, she declares that God is omnipresent even in India, "to see
how we are succeeding in demonstrating that God is love" (p. 51). Her
anchor of faith is loosened by the uneasy silence beyond the sky's arch
and by her sudden understanding of the dualism accepted by India but
denied by Christianity: that everything is composed of good and evil.
Viewing the moonlit, crocodile-infested Ganges, she sighs, "What a ter-
rible river! what a wonderful river!" (p. 32).
India's romanticism is in fact denied at every turn, a denial illus-
trated explicitly by Adela's attitude. She senses that she is perceiv-
ing India as a frieze rather than as a spirit, and being Western and
Apollonian to the core, she strives to understand India, to "know" it
by analyzing it. Thoroughly honest, Adela catches glimpses--at moments
when her romantic defenses fail--of the reality India will mean to her.
She wants to see the "real India," to allow its message into her "well-
equipped mind." Yet she senses the futility of her attempt, given the
hard reality that she will marry into Anglo-India, not her "real India."
Contemplating at sunset the Marabar Hills, which "look romantic in cer-
tain lights and at suitable distances," she realizes: "How lovely they
suddenly were! But she couldn't touch them. In front, like a shutter,
fell a vision of her married life" (p. 47). Her married life will con-
sist of looking into the Club every evening, of visiting back and forth
with Lesleys and Callendars and Turtons and Burtons, "while the tiue
India" slides by unnoticed. "Colour would remain--the pageant of birds
in the early morning, brown bodies, white turbans, idols whose flesh
was scarlet or blue--and movement would remain. . But the force
that lies behind colour and movement would escape her even more effec-
tually than it did now. She would see India always as a frieze, never
as a spirit" (p. 47).
Not romantic but amorphous, not mysterious but muddled, India's
personality overpowers the novel but fails to direct it. As Adela and
Mrs. Moore travel by train to the Marabar, for example, the endless ex-
panse of India's uncultivated acres appears as a "timeless twilight."
As the miles race by, Adela turns her thoughts to "the manageable fu-
ture," but a glance out the window reminds her that India is unmanage-
able: "The branch line stops, the road is only practicable for cars to
a point, the bullock-carts lumber down the side tracks, paths fray out
into the cultivation, and disappear near a splash of red paint" (p. 136).
"India the primal" remains primitivistic,. invaded by such civilized
mechanisms as Mail trains that resemble "coffins from the scientific
north" troubling the scenery only a few times a day (p.161). "How can
the mind take hold of such a country?" asks the narrator (p. 136). The
logical mind cannot take hold of India. India does, however, have
prescience: "India knows of . the whole world's trouble, to its
uttermost depth. She calls 'Come'through her hundred mouths, through
objects ridiculous and august. But come to what? She has never defined.
She is not a promise, only an appeal" (p. 136).
India's character and "personality"--its presence --cannot be ade-
quately described in discursive prose. It is true that at times the
narrator attempts to do so by telling the reader about India's nature,
as in the following:
In Europe life retreats out of the cold, and exquisite
fireside myths have resulted--Balder, Persephone--but
here the retreat is from the source of life, the trea-
cherous sun, and no poetry adorns it because disillu-
sionment cannot be beautiful. Men yearn for poetry
though they may not confess it; they desire that joy
shall be graceful and infinity have a form and India
fails to accommodate them. The annual helter-kkelter
of April, when irritability and lust spread like a can-
.ker is one of her comments on the orderly hopes of
humanity. (p. 250)
But India's dramatic presence, not simply as representative of values,
must be presented poetically, "presentationally," to use Susanne Lan-
ger's term,if it is to come alive.1 Forster uses poetic technique to
make India come alive presentationally by making it concrete.
First he gives it animation. Personified over and over by the
pronoun "she," India soon becomes more than a pathetic fallacy; it be-
comes a felt presence. For example, although India's base is "impla-
cable rock," even that rock has life: it is "flesh torn from the sun's
flesh" (p. 123). Boulders say, "I am alive," and smaller stones say,
"I am almost alive" (p. 151). This presence is often paradoxical or
enigmatic. The scenery "smiles" but falls "like a gravestone on any
human hope" (p. 321). Moonlit pinnacles "rush up" at Mrs. Moore "like
fringes of the sea" (p. 209), but the dawn at Bombay is "soupy," the
sky "suave," the countryside "stricken and blurred" (p. 209, p. 160,
and p. 265). India is animate but its living force is not entirely
positive. In fact, as Alan Wilde says, about India "only one thing is
certain: the strength of the nonhuman world."22
21 See, for example, Philosophy in a New Key (New York: The New
American Library, 1951), especially "Discursive Forms and Presenta-
tional Forms,"pp. 75-94.
22 Wilde, p. 124.
The Hot Weather, for example, is a real force that must be reck-
oned with, not a heat wave to be passively endured.23 Newcomers to
India may not recognize its force. Still holding to her rational out-
look, Adela, for example, does not "believe in" the Hot Weather. "Peo-
ple like Major Callendar who always talk about it--it's in the hope of
making one feel inexperienced and small, like their everlasting, 'I've
been twenty years in this country'" (p. 134). On the other hand, Mrs.
Moore, more experienced in the ways of human beings and more attuned to
the natural, cyclic realities, understands that the Hot Weather is a
real thing that affects men's lives in tangible ways, although she at
first underestimates it: "I believe in the Hot Weather,'" she says,"'but
never did I suppose it would bottle me up as it will.' For owing to
the sage leisureliness of Ronny and Adela, they could not be married till
May. . By May a barrier of fire would have fallen across India"
(p. 134). Terms like "barrier of fire" and the dramatizing of the pal-
pable effect climate has on human lives create not just a backdrop or
setting but a particular, concrete "thing."
Another factor in India's vibrant presence is its mythic person-
hood, sometimes touched on only lightly, as the narrator tells how the
Marabar region came into being: "The mountains rose, their debris silted
up the ocean, and the gods took their seats on them and contrived the
river, and the India we call immemorial came into being" (p. 123). Here
the narrator's pose as geologist is altered only slightly by his mythic
mask. At other times he sets forth India's earth and sky as potently
mythic actors in the mythic union of earth-mother and sky-father. The
23 Notice that Forster capitalizes "Hot Weather," giving it
sky, he says, "which settles everything," can "rain glory into Chan-
rapore"; its strength "comes from the sun, infused in it daily; size
from the prostrate earth" (p. 9). In the novel's final section, "Tem-
ple," this mythic union is again echoed as sheets of rain and the model
of the god are "confounded with the father and mother of the Lord" (p.
315). Similar to the retelling of the same ages-old myth in The Long-
est Journey, where "the cloud would descend and visibly embrace the
earth . and the earth itself would bring forth clouds" (a pheno-
menon, says the narrator, that "seemed the beginning of life"),24 this
version of the mythic union suggests the reuniting of the broken parts
of the universal syzygy--masculine and feminine, light and dark, good
and evil. In the ancient myth of creation, the earth rightly has pas-
sive feminine qualities and the sky creative, masculine ones. The sky
over India, then, should properly have fiery heat, omnipotent creative
ability, dominant assertiveness, all of which its power to "settle
everything" indicates. But myth holds polarities in tension. When
Forster slackens this tension, he disturbs universally held human expec-
tations, and slacken it he does, devitalizing the mythic sense of his
allusion. The sky's strength comes from the sun--he makes a point of
this commonplace. But then he proceeds to rob the sun of its masculine
authority. It is "merely a creature, like the rest, and so debarred
from glory" (p. 115). As the Hot Weather approaches, India's sun, one
would think, would attain its greatest power. Certainly the Hot Weather
dominates every corner of life on this peninsula. Yet April, "herald
24 E. M. Forster, The Longest Journey (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1961), p. 101.
of horrors," brings the sun back to his kingdom without that attribute
more powerful than power: beauty. "April, herald of horrors, is at
hand. The sun was returning to his kingdom but without beauty--that
was the sinister feature" (p. 115). Yet the sun is distinctly personi-
fied as a mythic character:
If only there had been beauty! His cruelty would have
been tolerable then. Through excess of light, he failed
to triumph, he also; in his yellowy-white overflow not
only matter, but brightness itself lay drowned. He was
not the unattainable friend, either of men or birds or
other suns, he was not the eternal promise, the never-
withdrawn suggestion that haunts our consciousness; he
was merely a creature, like the rest, and so debarred
from glory. (p. 115)
Here we have ironic myth. The legendary, mythic, religious cq-ality of
the narrative is underscored by the Biblical turn of phrase, "failed to
triumph, he also." But its mythic quality is then flattened with nega-
tives of phrasing and meaning that follow. The narrator specifically
denies that the sun is the Islamic god, the unattainable "Friend" so
often implored by Aziz; nor is the sun the eternal promise of Christen-
dom. And there is another denial, more basic, not tied to any religion
but to all human myth. We in the West think of the sun as warming and
procreative--it promotes growth and provides enlightenment both actual
and metaphoric. But our "idea" of the sun as glorious creator is not,
according to Jung, a concept we "think" of; it is an archetypal image
stemming from the collective unconscious of all, mankind. Archetypes,
Jung taught, as soon as we become aware of them, partake of the exter-
nal world, "for from it they have drawn the matter in which they are
clothed."25 Light is the primary archetype; the sun is one of light's
25 Carl Gustav Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious,
Bollingen Series, 9 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press,
and London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1959), 52.
images in the external world, an image that connotes warmth and pro-
creation for humans wherever the sun's function is benevolent. Thus
the image of the sun here as passive, hostile, or treacherous challen-
ges the Western reader's psychically generated archetypal image. It
is not simply a matter of "adjusting our thinking." We find a split
between symbol-as-expected and symbol-as-prehended. The expected fit
is not there. At every turn the sun (and also the sky, because it is
consistently seen as an arch, an incomplete circle) fails to fulfill
its mythic role. It fails even to supply a glorious sunrise to accom-
modate Adela's hopes:
"Look, the sun's rising--this'll be absolutely magni-
ficent--come quickly--look. I wouldn't have missed
this for anything. We should never have seen it if
we'd stuck to the Turtons and their eternal elephants."
As she spoke, the sky to the left turned angry
orange. Colour throbbed and mounted behind a pattern
of trees, grew in intensity, was yet brighter, incredi-
bly brighter, strained from without against the globe
of the air. They awaited the miracle. But at the su-
preme moment, when night should have died and day lived,
This incident of the thwarted sunrise is not simply a naturalistic de-
tail. The author underlines it pointedly, attaching divine male crea-
tivity and personhood to the sun, yet stressing its failure to fulfill
humanity's expectations of divine power:
It was as if virtue had failed in the celestial fount.
The hues in the east decayed, the hills seemed dimmer
though in fact better lit, and a profound disappointment
entered with the morning breeze. Why, when the chamber
was prepared, did the bridegroom not enter with trumpets
and shawms, as humanity expects? The sun rose without
splendour. He was presently observed trailing yellow-
ish behind the trees, or against the insipid sky, and
touching the bodies already at work in the fields.
By setting his novel on the underside of our hemisphere and depicting
the sun as denying human expectations, Forster is able to create both
paradox and unease for the Western reader, who is unlikely to accept
paradox and incongruity with the equanimity of an Easterner.
Not only sun but earth in India baffles the Western sense of order,
not because earth in the ..western hemisphere is intrinsically different
from the .eastern but because of the way Forster treats it. By casting
India's earth as the passive partner in the mythic narrative of earth-
sky union, he invests it with the universally understood feminine quali-
ties of passivity, pliability, moistness, and fertility, and he stresses
these qualities by insisting on the teeming multiplicity of this vast
land. Instead of challenging the archetypal expectation, he seems to
underscore it. Yet in Forster's Indian landscape, feminine passivity
hardens into intractable rigidity: ". .. the spirit of the Indian
earth tries to keep men in compartments" (p. 127); "There is something
hostile in that soil. It either yields, or else it is unexpectedly
rigid and sharp . ." (p. 18). In its emotive effect that arises
partly out of the cognitive and partly out of its scarcely analyzable
presence, India projects disparity and paradox, mystery and muddle,
strength and disorder, all sorts of contraries: multiplicity-unity,
authority-vacillation, excellence-indifference, diversity-tedium, hos-
tility-submission, alienation-embracement. Such antitheses are common
in archetypal symbols because they embody the tensions of their psychic
origins, and it is these tensions that supply much of their power. But
these tensions also generate much of the uneasiness felt by the Western
India as overmastering perspective figures forth in the novel as
the image of "Life" that Forster's friend Dickinson describes in a let-
ter that Forster took care to include in his biography of his friend.
Dickinson's impression of life, he writes, is that it "extends so vari-
ously through time and space, is so incredibly various, even if one con-
fines oneself to humans. And when one takes in also the animals and
insects' not to mention the stuff physicists deal with. . Grim and
grimmer it is and will be, but as it becomes more terrible becoming also
more mysterious and perhaps up to something greater than we can con-
ceive."26 To an analyst attempting to abstract logical meanings from
the image of India in this novel, India remains an impossible enigma,
but to one who will accept its mystery, its ambiguities, its contradic-
tions, India amounts to something greater than we can conceive. After
we have asked "whether human faculties are capable of such understanding
at all," says Frederick Crews, "we are left again with the enormous and
irrational presence of India, a riddle that can be ignored but never re-
solved."27 Precisely. India the primal, with its endless divisions and
utter shapelessness, attains a presence that embodies all meanings cogni-
tively assigned to it and yet conveys a qualitative experience beyond
the sum of all its concepts. Its vastness, its timelessness, its evo-
cation of eternity and infinite space--all give hints that man is not a
being ranking just under the angels, nor the center of God's interest,
nor more than a speck, in fact, in the vast scheme of things that is not
even anything so orderly as a scheme. Its enormous and irrational pre-
sence makes us see man as "small in the right way," a function Forster
26 Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson in a letter to Dennis Proctor, in
E. M. Forster, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, p. 224 and p. 226.
2Frederick Crews, E. M. Forster: The Perils of Humanism (Prince-
ton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1962), p. 144.
sees as one of art's primary goals.28 Books like Dante's Divine Come-
dy, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and Tolstoy's War and Peace, he says,
are more than monumental: "They impressed me by their massiveness and
design. . But to realize the vastness of the universe, the limits
of human knowledge, the even narrower limits of human power, to catch
a passing glimpse of the medieval universe, or of the Roman Empire on
its millennial way, or of Napoleon collapsing against the panorama of
Russian daily life--that is not to be influenced. It is to be extended."
Forster's own novel works similarly. Although it may influence readers
(and it did influence the world of British politics and imperial power),
influence is not its primary effect. It extend's one's perspective; it
allows him a qualitative cosmic experience. It not only serves the pur-
pose of discursive prose, that of stimulating thought, but it is also
a work of art, a "celebration of man's qualitative experience."29 India
as presence provides a large part of this novel's qualitative experi-
ence, one that is unique and palpable. A reader may draw from it what
meaning he can, but in the end he must absorb its atmosphere and let
it color his impression of the novel's being.
2Forster, "A Book That Influenced Me," in Two Cheers, p. 219.
29 This phrase is from W. J. Handy,Kant and the Southern New
Critics (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963), p. vii.
Similarly, one may analyze the meaning of the Marabar Caves and
try to draw from that analysis the solution to the novel's puzzle. We
may ask with Louise Dauner, "What Happened in the Cave?" and answer
according to one of several mind-sets--psychological, philosophical,
theological.30 Yet the Caves, even more stubbornly than India, resist
analysis and remain mysterious. "The Marabar" (Forster's phrase, which
seems to include the Hills and the caves within them) is in concentrated
small what India is in diffuse large, embodying numerous analytical in-
terpretations and yet adding up to more than their sum. All our abstrac-
tions and paraphrases, though they may aid in fuller comprehension,
will not yield the full quality of experience that the Marabar Caves
render the reader. Because caves are archetypal images of the first
hierarchy, what Carl Kerenyi calls archai, "ageless, inexhaustible,
invincible in timeless primordiality,31 the bulk of their numinosity
is built-in, an advantage Forster does not have in using India as image.
A cave is a seminal image; arising from the human psyche, the image of
a cave anywhere--in art or in life--has power to evoke emotional response
because it takes its shape from those most basic and universal human ten-
dencies, the psychic archetypes. Jung tells us caves represent the Great
30 See Louise Dauner, "What Happened in the Cave? Reflections on
A Passage to India, in V. A. Shahane, Perspectives on E. M. Forster's
A Passage to India (New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1968), pp. 52-64.
31 Kerenyi quoted in Harry Slowchower, Mythopoeisis (Detroit, Michi-
gan: Wayne State University Press, 1970), p. 38.
Mother archetype, which includes both Nourishing, Nurturing Mother and
Terrible, Devouring Mother. (Here we have a prime example of the capa-
city of archetypes for holding oppositions in tension, and also a rudi-
mentary reason for assigning more than a single interpretation to the
Marabar.) In its fruitful aspect the Great Mother's most frequent image
is a round of any sort, a hollow. In its dreadful aspect, the Great
Mother may appear as a grave, a sarcophagus, or death.32 Thus Clara
Rising's pithy summary of the Marabar Caves as "wombs and tombs" is
an apt one.3
Alfred North Whitehead uses the term "presentational immediacy"
to identify the mode of perception that helps one to apprehend the to-
tality of the perceived object, of its presence as well as its signi-
fication.3 Presentational immediacy can be achieved in fiction if
that fiction calls into play the various senses. Forster depicts the
Marabar presentationally by impressing our senses of sight and hearing,
by giving it animation, by underlining its uncanny "extraordinariness"
with frequent narrative declaration (and also with the characters' re-
actions to it), and by relaying all reactions to it, including his own,
with genuine artistic immediacy. Because he places it in a mythic con-
text and speaks of it in mythic tones, he andows the Marabar also with
mythic presence. This "extraordinary" place thus becomes poetically and
mythically concrete, presentationally alive.
3Jung, pp. 181-82.
Clara Rising, From Hegel to Hinduism: The Dialectic of E. M.
Forster, Dissertation, University of Florida, 1969, p. 328.
3Alfred North Whitehead, Symbolism (New York: Capricorn Press,
1927), p. 21.
The Marabar Hills seem presentationally or presentially alive
first of all because their visual outlines give readers their first
awareness of them:
League after league the earth lies flat, heaves a lit-
tle, is flat again. Only in the south, where a group
of fists and fingers are thrust up through the soil,
is the endless expanse interrupted. These fists and
fingers are the Marabar Hills, containing the extraor-
"The sense of presence that occurs to one who catches a sudden glimpse
of, say, a certain contour of hills or of a red wheelbarrow in the rain
defies explanation," says Philip Wheelwright. As William Carlos Wil-
liams introduces his red wheelbarrow in the rain without expository con-
text, so Forster brings forth his image of the Marabar Hills as "fists
and fingers" thrust up against the horizon. The image is pictorial but
kinetic, with verbs of strong action like "heaves," "thrust," and "in-
terrupted." The effect of suddenly catching a glimpse in the mind's eye
of this contour of hills defies explanation, even according to the nar-
rator of the novel: "A glimpse of them makes the breath catch. They
rise abruptly, insanely, without the proportion that is kept by the
wildest hills elsewhere" (pp. 123-24). As the visitors near the Mara-
bar, the topmost boulder presents another striking visual impression,
again described by a verb of vigorous action: "Kawa Dol was nearest. It
shot up in a single slab, on whose summit one rock was poised--if a mass
so great can be called one rock. Behind it, recumbent, were the hills
that contained the other caves" (p. 137). Because the other hills lie
35 Philip Wheelwright, Metaphor and Reality (Bloomington, Indiana:
Indiana University Press, 1971), pp. 158-59.
recumbent, they seem less foreboding than this particular hill, the
one containing the Cave into which Mrs. Moore goes. Not only contour
but color contributes to visual impression: "the sky to the left turned
angry orange. Colour throbbed and mounted behind a pattern of trees,
grew in intensity, incredibly brighter" (p. 137).
Senses other than sight build up presential aliveness in these
fictional caves. Fictional representation of sound adds another dimen-
sion to their presence. The "spiritual silence" surrounding them and
the chaotic, overlapping echoes within them make memorable impress on
their English visitors and on readers: "a new quality occurred, a spi-
ritual silence which invaded more senses than the ear" (p. 140). Once
Mrs. Moore finds herself inside a Cave, this weird spiritual silence
becomes a raucous cacophany, All-Sound, generated by echoes that over-
lap and writhe. Movement, in fact, characterizes the whole Marabar
region, inanimate though it supposedly is: "Films of heat radiated from
the Kawa Dol precipices, increased the confusion. They came at irregular
intervals and moved capriciously. . a patch of field would jump as
if it was being fried, then lie quiet" (p. 141). From a distance, the
Marabar Hills sometimes seem animated, although from afar this animation
appears romantic rather than ominous. To Adela they seem to have "crept
near, as was their custom at sunset; if the sunset had lasted long enough,
they would have reached the town, but it was swift, being tropical" (pp.
45-46). Even Fielding, a man devoid of romanticism usually, sees the
hills moving toward him like a queen, lovely and exquisite (p. 191). The
Marabar attains an animism that has paradoxical aspects, both benevolent
and menacing. The feeling of a presence both beautiful and threatening
pervades the entire Marabar episode.
As tensive symbol the Marabar thus serves as an archetypal image
that goes beyond intellect and works on emotive faculties. But feeling
is not all, despite Faust. The achieved content--the quality of experi-
ence imparted by the Marabar--includes cognitive as well as affective
elements. Its constituents may be split into two categories, but there
is artistic harmony between subliminally conveyed atmosphere and cogni-
tively effected meaning. Nevertheless, we find within its intellectu-
ally apprehended meaning symbolic suggestions that are themselves split--
suggesting first evil and then incomplete evil or even unity. Caves
not only reflect archetypal "wombs and tombs"--not only the original
egglike engendering center for life and the tomb-like suppressor of life,
a cave may also be "the place of rebirth, that secret cavity in which
one is shut up in order to be incubated and renewed."36 Thus we see
rolled into one symbol various possibilities for interpretation: the
cave as source for all life and growth, the cave as denial of life and
value, and the cave as source of renewal--psychological or theological--
of life. Forster's characteristic split leads us to expect that his
double vision will be cast over the Marabar too, and so it is.
He consciously intended the Marabar to serve as structural nucleus
for events in his novel. The Caves, he said, "represented an area in
which concentration can take place. A cavity. They were to focus every-
thing up: they were to engender an event like an egg."37 The Marabar
Caves engendered not only a fictive event but an avalanche of analysis.
The Caves, it has been said, suggest such Dionysian concepts as natural
36 Jung, p. 136.
E. M. Forster, interviewed by P. N. Furbank and F. J. H. Has-
kell, "E. M. Forster," in Malcolm Cowley, ed., Writers at Work, The
Paris Interviews (New York: Viking Press, 1959), p. 27.
or sexual symbols, Adela's unconscious, Chaos and Old Night, eternity
and infinity, or the unity of Atman and Brahman. They also represent
such Westernized, Alexandrian, and, in a sense, Apollonian, concepts
as Christianity and reason, pride and narcissicism, repressed sexua-
lity, intellect, or logic. They are also said to symbolize the Hindu
World Mountain, "life entire," and perhaps even "God without attributes."
One interpreter even considers the Caves' messsage to be "the absolute
negation of all these things it might be."38
Here we have another split within a split: within the analyzable
components of the Caves' symbolism we find a disparity in kinds of mean-
ing. Yet there is benevolence and calm unity underlying the ominous
surface impression of Dionysian cognitive and emotive elements even as
there is hope and order beneath the more Apollonian, "scientific" in-
Clara Rising has gathered together critical comment on the meaning
38 "Natural or sexual symbols," Louise Dauner, in Shahane, p. 5?;
"Adela's unconscious," Ted Boyle, "Adela Quested's Delusion: The Failure
of Rationalism in A Passage to India," in Shahane, pp. 73-75; "Chaos and
Old Night," Gertrude White in Rutherford, p. 57; "eternity" and "infi-
nity," Austin Warren, p. 136; "the unity of Atman and Brahman," Glen O.
Allen, "Structure, Symbol, and Theme in E. M. Forster's A Passage to In-
dia, PMLA, 52 (December, 1955), 934-54, rpt. in Shahane, pp. 121-41;
Christianity and reason, Glen O. Allen; pride and narcissicism, Thomson,
p. 231; repressed sexuality, Dauner and see also Norman Kelvin, E. M. For-
ster (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957),
p. 130; intellect, Wilbur Stone, The Cave and the Mountain (Stanford,
California: Stanford University Press, 1966), p. 311; "logic," Hugh Mac-
Lean, "The Structure of A Passage to India," University of Toronto
Quarterly, 22 (January, 1953), 157, 163, 163, and 168, rpt. in Shahane,
pp. 19-33; "Hindu World Mountain," Stone, pp. 301-10; "life entire,"
Frank Kermode, "Mr. E. M. Forster as Symbolist," in Bradbury, Collection,
p. 95; "God without attributes," Kermode, Ibid.; and "the absolute ne-
gation of all these things it might be," Thomson, p. 321.
For a summary of some of the same sources as quoted above, see
Rising, below, and Levine.
of the Caves experience for Mrs. Moore, noting especially Thomson's
calling it "the horror of narcissism or an initiation to rebirth,"
Shahane's "a negativity which is evil," Stone's "a negativity which
is the absence of evil," Brown's "a vacuum implying fullness," Crews'
"a dilettantish yearning for such a unity that is echoed but not ans-
wered," and Allen's saying it is "the cost of trying to be one with the
universe."39 Rising's own interpretation is that Mrs. Moore finds
reality or true life in the Cave by momentarily living on the subcon-
scious level; she later finds this truer life eternally by dying to the
conscious life and taking up life on a supraconscious or spiritual
plane, thus proceeding a step upward in the ongoing process Hegel calls
aufheben: annihilation-yet preservation, assimilation, and new creation,
a process that by its very nature is never-ending.40 This interpreta-
tion allows for optimism, unlike the prevailing idea that the Marabar
represents an entirely negative Wasteland.41 Crews, for instance, says
the Caves hold no ultimate truth.42 And after studying the manuscripts
of Passage, Thomson concludesthat India and the Marabar represent obverse
themes: "the many changes from manuscript to book confirm beyond doubt
Forster's deliberate intention of making a sharp and meaningful distinc-
tion between the Marabar as symbol of absolute negation implying the non-
existence of God or spirit, and the India of Part I and II as a symbol
of the wasteland in which God is absent but not on that account nonexis-
39 Rising, pp. 345-46, primarily from sources quoted in my text above.
40 Rising, especially pp. 329-34.
41 The similarities between Forster's Marabar region and Eliot's
setting for The Waste Land prompt many readers to construe the Marabar
as a wasteland of negation.
Crews, p. 159.
tent. Because Forster stresses that the Caves are absolutely empty
and have absolutely no attributes, Thomson takes them as symbol of to-
tal negation and therefore evil: "Forster may also have understood that
the primordial feminine, the vessel of the world and life, can be a ves-
sel of death as well, can be cave or coffin, tomb or urn. Such a con-
ception integrates death into the life cycle. But no such idea is im-
plied by Forster's caves, which are empty."44 But this very emptiness
is what makes them representative, in an Eastern view, of all life. Their
emptiness is negative only to those trained in positivism. The empti-
ness of the Great Void can suggest its opposite: fruitfulness.
To Westerners trained in the philosophy of being, the
Tao-Te-Ching's idea of the ultimate as "nothingness,"
the "not," the "empty," can be very puzzling. In Wes-
tern philosophy generally, the negative is an inherent
character of finite things. Non-being means absence
or negation; while being is equated with the real, the
highest principle is Being. . When we understand
that in the Tao-Te-Ching the ultimate principle of the
world is regarded as a mother principle, we can explain
why emptiness is exalted above the full, the dark is
prior to and productive of the bright, and the low-lying
is more powerful than the high-rising, and non-being is
more ultimate than being. Furthermore, the wu can be
connected to the emptiness of the female productive pow-
er, and is fertile, moving, and inexhaustible. In the
Tao-Te-Ching the female i 5the origin of motion, life,
and unity in all things.
Forster was oriented to the Eastern mode of thinking and to Oriental
mythology, and had the background to know of Nothingness as the Ultimate
Thomson, p. 268.
Ibid., p. 230. Numerous other critics agree with Thomson here.
Ellen Marie Chen, "Nothingness and the Mother Principle in Early
Chinese Taoism," International Philosophic Quarterly, 9, 3 (Summer, 1969),
391-92 and 401.
Principle in Eastern philosophy, anthropology, and religion. He could
very well have intended to embody in the female principle--imaged by
the Cave, the Great Mother archetype--all opposites like darkness-light,
motion-stillness, lowness-highness, nothingness-all-being. This con-
ception may seem paradoxical to the logical Western mind, but to the
intuitive Eastern mode of consciousness--in other words, in mythic
thought--it makes perfect "sense."
Most readers, to be sure, carry away with them an impression of
the Caves as dreadful and eerie. It is probably fair to say that the
presiding effect of the Marabar is ominousness. Between this ominous
atmosphere and the philosophic idea that emptiness can connote fullness
and fertility, then, there is a split. I offer a rebuttal, therefore,
to the opinion that the Marabar represents total negation, without at-
all denying the Caves' ominousness, and not because one more interpre-
tation is needed, but because it is important to see that Forster'.s split
impulses have created a Marabar pregnant with a presential reality that
is itself split. Part of the Caves' total presence arises from the cog--
nitive ideas incorporated into the symbols and imagery (which work emo-
tively, primarily) of the Caves.
The Marabar's beauty is there in the fiction, undeniable. But it
is a kind of beauty often slighted by the Western Apollonian conscious-
ness because it is distinctly Dionysian and most of Western man has been
during much of his history puzzled or downright frightened when faced
with the unformed energies of the Dionysian. The Marabar's sexual over-
tones ("more voluptuous than love," "skin smoother than windless water")
and the fact that the Cave is enclosed in that most perfect form, the
circle, are important indicators of its Dionysian character. To primi-
tive peoples the Dionysian is expressed in symbols of wholeness and
security: the Great Round, for example, that archetypal image even more
elemental than the Great Mother.6 Other images like the snake that
Forster attaches to the Marabar suggest to the primitive or Eastern
mind the productive and beneficial (as it does in Freudian symbolic
language), even though to Western Christendom it represents sinister,
insinuating evil. We find these images in Forster's Marabar; they link
the Marabar with the ancient concept of "life entire," Frank Kermode's
all-encompassing phrase for the Marabar's connotations. As symbol of
the feminine--including the diametrically opposed features of the shel-
tering, nurturing feminine and the devouring, entrapping feminine, a
cave is entirely apropos. And as image of that "secret cavity in which
one is shut up in order to be incubated and renewed," the Marabar Cave
is entirely apt, especially for Adela and Mrs. Moore, who are both re-
newed in certain ways. This primordial symbol means many things at
once, a plurality--not a mother or a destroyer. Because caves are es-
sentially round, they function symbolically as do all circles, rounds,
and spheres, images of what Erich Neumann calls the Great Round.
Forster's Marabar bears uncanny resemblance to Neumann's Great
Round. All rounds are aspects of the self-contained, says Neumann,
which is "without beginning and without end," "prior to any process,
eternal."47 The Marabar-too has this quality of being prior to any
process: "If flesh of the sun's flesh is to be touched anywhere, it is
here, among the incredible antiquity of these hills. . To call them
46 Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, Bol-
lingen Series XLII, trans. R. F. C. Hull (New York: Bollingen Founda--
tion, 1954; first published in German by Rascher Verlag, Zurich, 1949),
pp. 10 ff.
'uncanny' suggests ghosts, and they are older than all spirit.. .
they were sealed up before the creation of pestilence or treasure"
(pp. 123-25). The Marabar also echoes the Great Round spatially, for
the Great Round has "no above and no below," whereas the Marabar has
"neither ceiling nor floor." Neither the Great Round nor the dark
Marabar Cave has attributes, phenomena, or history; each is something
"static and eternal, unchanging and therefore without history."49 The
Marabar, we are told, bears "no relation to anything dreamt or seen.
. . Nothing, nothing attaches to them . Nothing is inside them
Sif mankind grew curious and excavated, nothing, nothing would
be added to the sum of good or evil" (pp. 124-25). Time, space, and
consequence, says Neumann, come to the primordial Great Round only with
the coming of light, or consciousness. Light also brings consciousness
and consequence to the Marabar: "There is little to see and no eye to
see it, until the visitor arrives for his five minutes, and strikes a
match" (pp. 124-25). Immediately another flame arises in the granite
and a little worm begins to coil--consequences of human consciousness.
Yet nothing can be added to the sum of good or evil. These unmistake-
able verbal parallels with those used by Neumann to describe the Great
Round hint that the Marabar Cave, like the Great Round, represents both
good and evil, both nurturing, succoring Mother and terrible, destroying
But paradox is predictable in archetypal images. Even though the
Great Round lacks attributes and history, it is "at the same time the
place of origin and the germ cell of creativity. . the Primal Being
4Neumann, p. 10 and A Passage to India, p. 125.
Neumann, p. 49.
that says 'I am Alpha and Omega.'"50 Forster's Caves, we remember,
were to serve as creative germ, "something to engender an event like
an egg." As node of symbolic meaning, the Marabar also generates oth-
er symbols that carry its influence into every corner of the book, and
not all of these lesser symbols suggest the negative only.
One of these Marabar-spawned images is the echo, seemingly set in
motion by the worms, snakes, or serpents that "writhe independently" and
"descend and return to the ceiling." Some critics see the worms as em-
blems of pure malignancy. The image may seem productive as well as
malignant, however, if we consider ancient Eastern symbolism. The snake
biting its own tail is a common enough symbol of eternal life, but not
so commonly known is its frequent association with the Great Mother or
"uroboros," Neumann's term for the World Parents before separation, the
prototypal syzygy. Says Neumann; "The uroboric form of the oldest Mother
Goddess is the snake, mistress of the earth."52 The snake is also re-
demptive because it suggests rebirth as it sheds its skin and becomes a
"new" creature. In the Marabar, the snake's diminutive, the worm, comes
into existence only when a visitor arrives and strikes a match, that is,
with the coming of light and thus of consciousness. It is consciousness
that also causes the splitting of the uroboros in ancient myth. In Fors-
ter's Cave, the scratching of a match starts a little worm coiling. Two
lights, the match flame and its reflection, leap to life, strive to unite
and cannot, "because one of them breathes air, the other stone" (p. 125).
Neumann, p. 49.
See J. B. Beer, for one. The Achievement of E, M. Forster (New
York: Barnes and Noble, 1962), p. 145.
Neumann, p. 49.
The World Parents, once split by the coming of consciousness, try
forever after to achieve oneness again. Mrs. Moore is trying to be-
come "one with the universe"; Adela is trying, though subconsciously
so she does not articulate her wish, to achieve oneness with her un-
known self. Their attempts are beautifully symbolized in this uroboric
image of the serpent descending and returning to the ceiling, for the
snake that completes a full circle and thus attains a perfect circular
form symbolizes whole, eternal life.
This imagery, moreover, underscores Rising's suggestion that Mrs.
Moore is proceeding an upward step in the process of aufheben. It also
gives pictorial form to Louise Dauner's idea that Adela confronts in the
Cave her unconscious, repressed, sexual self.53 All of these interpre-
tations are ways of saying the Caves represent the Dionysian, for in-
cluded in the Dionysian are all unconscious, irrational, spiritual, and
universalizing forces. The dark and chthonic energy symbolized in a
strangely attributeless, undecorated cave stuffed full of snakes that
writhe independently may destroy rational order and longheld Christian
faith--as they do in Mrs. Moore--but in the process this destruction
"aids in the conquest of the subjective, the release from the ego and
the silencing of the individual will and desire" that Nietzsche says
characterize the "self-oblivion of the Dionysian state."54 Even though
Mrs. Moore's vision at the Cave is one of disillusion and horror, Nietz-
sche would say that the forces she feels emanating from the Cave are
Dionysian (and thus ultimately beneficial once one is able to penetrate
53 Dauner in Shahane, p. 60.
54 Nietzsche, Philosophy, p. 967.
beyond the surface chaos of the Dionysian to its underlying unity). The
Dionysian, says Nietzsche, does not at first "liberate us, in the heal-
ing intuition of the eternal, from desire and suffering. Instead what
we actually experience . is a state . which includes suffering
and pain as part of a primordial essence of all things."55 But the Dio-
nysian state does make us realize that "in spite of terror and pain,
life is at bottom indestructibly powerful and creative."56 When Mrs.
Moore reaches "that place where completeness may be found" (p. 286)--or
steps onto a spiritual plane of existence where physical life and love
are left behind and bhakti pervades all, as Rising has it57--she has
achieved the self-oblivion of the Dionysian state. This oblivion is
counterpart to that identity with nature of which Thomson speaks. As
Nietzsche says, once the Principium individuationis collapses, "we shall
gain an insight into the nature of the Dionysian. . Under the charm
of the Dionysian not only is the union between man and man reaffirmed,
but Nature which has become estranged, hostile, or subjugated, celebrates
once more her reconciliation with her prodigal son, man."58 It is this
process that takes place in A Passage to India. Nature is indifferent
if not hostile to man in India, definitely threatening in the Marabar,
and its irrational force there undermines Mrs. Moore's consciously held
faith. At first. What she eventually accomplishes--or what Godbole ac-
complishes for her--as she reaches that place where completeness may be
55 Rose Pfeiffer, paraphrasing Nietzsche, Nietzsche: Disciple of
Dionysus (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, 1972), p. 53.
Rising, Chapter VI, passim, and pp. 390-91.
Nietzsche, Philosophy, p. 955.
found, is a reconciliation with all nature, a merging into oneness with
all creation, a reaffirmation of the underlying but forgotten union not
only between man and man but between man and nature. A wasp, a stone--
they also enter Godbole's vision and he impels them also to that place
where completeness may be found. (The narrator tells us he was "wrong
to attempt the stone," however; "logic and conscious effort [the prin-
ciple of individuation] had seduced," and he fails [p. 286].) Mrs.
Moore's final merging into oneness with the universe begins with her
moment of horrifying vision in the Cave. What begins as horrifying ends
as unifying. "The mystic experience can be beatific, satanic, revela-
tory, or psychotic, but whatever its nature, it is one of unity."59 Mrs.
Moore's first reaction to her mystic experience at the Cave is the oppo-
site of unity: she no longer wants to be one with the universe, nor to
communicate with anyone, not even her children home in England, "not
even with God" (p. 150). Her vision is at first revelatory only of
horror and nullity; it seems actually satanic, an element of antichrist,
for it scorns Christian love and has nothing of the beatific. Not until
she reaches Godbole's place of completeness will she be able to compre-
hend the unity in what seems to her at first a vision of a "petty" abyss,
a "serpent of eternity made of maggots" (p. 208). Mrs. Moore is bound
by her own Apollonian restrictions from comprehending right then and
there the Dionysian Truly Primal Unity (Nietzsche's phrase) underlying
the Caves' chaos. Her blackest moment comes just after her visit inside
the Cave but as she nears Bombay on her farewell journey across India,
she draws back a little from her irritable alienated position, just as
59 Arthur J. Deikman, "Bimodal Consciousness," in Robert E. Orn-
stein, The Nature of Human Consciousness, p. 63.
the oppressive heat has "drawn back a little" (p. 209). The moon, no
longer the "exhausted crescent that precedes the sun" (p. 255) but a
completed sphere once more, shines over "landscapes that were baked and
cleached but had not the hopeless melancholy of the plain" (p. 209).
She now notices what man has built on this hostile continent, and these
accomplishments seem to her evidence of "the indestructible life of man
and his changing faces, and the houses he has built for himself and God,
and they appeared to her not in terms of her own trouble but as things
to see" (Ibid.). Her train describes a semi-circle around the bastion
of Asirgarh, one of man's more permanent achievements. It looks at her
twice and seems to say, "I do not vanish" (Ibid.). Realizing she has
"not seen the right places," she longs to stop and "disentangle the hun-
dred Indias that passed each other in the streets" (p. 210). The images
of completed circles in the moon and the twice circling of Asirgarh plus
the suggestion of unity in her wish to disentangle the hundred Indias
point to the oncoming sense of completeness asserted when Godbole impels
her spirit to union with all things in a spirit of universal love, or
bhakti. Nature itself assures Mrs. Moore that despair may yet be alle-
viated: "Thousands of cocoanut palms appeared all round the anchor-
age and climbed the hills to wave her farewell. 'So you thought an
echo was India; you took the Marabar caves as final? they laughed.
What have we in common with them, or they with Asirgarh? Good-bye!'"
No, says the narrator, not every event to stem from the Marabar has
wrought evil: the Caves "had been a terrible strain on the local admi-
nistration; they altered a good many lives and wrecked several careers,
but they did not break up a continent or even dislocate a district"
Thus we do not need Mau to balance Marabar (Thomson says "Temple"
balances the Marabar's evil ), for we have already learned from the
narrator's statement that the Marabar's evil is only another incompletion
of the myriad incompletions in India. The narrator's verbal declaration,
however, is opposed by the sinister ominousness of the Marabar that is
imparted by less discursive means. The split between declared intention
and imparted atmosphere widens the gap between the two modes of vision
so apparent in this as in all Forster's work. Forster does not deny the
evil of Marabar, but clearly does not accept this evil as total and final.
In the way the goblins are followed by the forces of splendor and heroism
in Beethoven's Fifth Symphony according to Forster's famous gloss on it
in Howards End, evil is followed by the forces of good in this novel.
The narrator says so when he points out that the echo has dissipated
and that the Marabar has failed to dislocate a district. But the evil
can always return, as the goblins can, which is why E. K. Brown believes
we can trust Forster as Forster claims we may trust Beethoven.6 It is
the lack of finality that Forster admires in the Fifth Symphony and that
he has echoed in A Passage to India. At its close evil has receded but
lurks in the background. Polarities remain; the sense of hope for the
future is weak because evil has not been obliterated. But hope is there.
The Marabar functions, like the Grecian Urn of Keats's poem or the
Brooklyn Bridge in Hart Crane's major work, or even as the beast in Henry
James's nouvelle, "The Beast in the Jungle," as what Wheelwright calls
Thomson, p. 272.
E. M. Forster, Howards End (New York: Random House, n.d.) pp. 33-34.
6E. K. Brown, "Rhythm in E. M. Forster's A Passage to I2dia', in
Bradbury, Collection, p. 158.
a "presiding symbol,"63 extending its influence into every subtlety of
the work. The Marabar forms the nucleus as well as the outreach of the
quality of experience offered by the novel. As clusters or nodes of
symbolic meaning that spread their "problematic residue" (Wheelwright's
phrase) backwards from their central position to the beginning of the
novel where they first appear as extraordinary fists and fingers thrust
up through the hostile soil, and forward to the novel's end where their
influence. proves to have been less than devastating, the Caves remain
full of ambiguity and mystery as a true symbol should. Their problem-
atic residue is diffuse but persistent. Presiding symbols function just
this way, "by holding together certain imaginative experiences and possi-
bilities of experience which partly are expressed within the poem and
partly are suggested as having a more universal life outside it."64
Caves have a universal life outside art, of course, as actual geologic
formations and as archai, or archetypal symbols of the first hierarchy.
But this particular Cave is like Moby Dick, one of those symbolic images
that will not remain contained within their vehicles. "Even when a sym-
bol belongs somewhat uniquely to a particular poem, it does not, if it
is truly effective, stay confined there," writes Wheelwright. "Moby Dick
cannot remain confined within Melville's novel; as Northrop Frye has re-
marked, 'he is absorbed into our imaginative experience of leviathans
and dragons of the deep from the Old Testament onward.' Any tensive sTym-
bol is likely to have lurking potencies of infinitely expanded reter-
ence."65 Some readers of A Passage to India may not for lorg remeirber
63 Wheelwright, Metaphor and Reality, pp. 93-95.
64 Ibid., p. 93.
6Ibid., p. 102.
the characters'idiosyncracies or be able to analyze the novel's total
meaning, but all, without exception, I believe, retain the impress of
the Caves. The presential reality of the Marabar extends throughout
the novel and also makes indefinitely expanding ripples outside it. It
has entered our imaginative experience.
A cave, that natural and yet preternatural empty concavity, is
one of those things in nature which "can in some way be expressive of
the Great One," as Bigelow says every thing in nature can be.6 This
particular literary cave is one of those symbols that Ira Progoff calls
"an embodiment of reality itself."67 It may seem illogical to claim
that one image can represent everything in life, even spirit, but
literary meanings may not be entirely the outcome of logical thirking,
as W. J. Handy reminds us.68 "They represent presentational meanings
which are logically irrelevant but which succes3fully embody the par-
ticularity of experience in its unabst:acted state." The Marabar suc-
cessfully embodies the unabstracted state of experience even as it
becomes the means of co.municating an illogical and perhaps irrelevant
truth. It may even represent "God without attributes," that "passage
to India" which is "nct easy, not now, not here, not to be apprehended
except when it is unattainable" (pp. 314-15). As such, the Marabar
images all that comes within the broad parameters of Forster's double
vision, a vision of the sacred as well as of the secular.
6Bigelow, p. 14.
67 Ira Progoff, The Symbolic and the Real(New York, 1963), p. 212.
Handy, p. 42.
THE SPLIT IN PLOT: MYTHIC AND MUNDANE
Daily life, whatever it may be really, is practically composed of two
lives--the life in time and the life by values.
E. M. Forster
Even as he resurrects primeval reality in his mythic evocation of
place, Forster weakens the mythic vitality he has created by confound-
ing it with ironic myth: archetypal plot incompleted or parodied. The
central event around which the plot of A Passage to India gathers--the
journey to the Marabar Caves--is mythic, and a basic, primary myth at
that (though not of the first hierarchy, not one of the archai). North-
rop Frye, in fact, identifies the quest motif as "the central" motif of
all Western literature.1 The mythic journey down through the underworld
in search of rebirth, life everlasting, or some other gift of the gods
becomes in modern times the exploration of the suboncscious; in any time
the mythic journey is a quest to attain a goal, whether the goal be to
understand and assimilate one's unconscious self or some more divinely
oriented spiritual achievement. The simple mythic plot of A Passage to
India is a literal journey--a picnic excursion. Yet it is a figurative
The journey to the Marabar is toward spiritual enlightenment for
Mrs. Moore, toward a whole self for Adola, toward acceptance of some of
1 Northrop Frye, "The Archetypes of Literature," in James Miller,
Myth and Method (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1960), pp. 158-
life's unromantic realities for Aziz, but incomplete for all. Adela,
for example, confronts in the Cave her repressed self, according to
psychological interpretations, but fails to complete the archetypal
process of individuation. Mrs. Moore, instead of achieving her aim of
becoming "one with the universe, so dignified and simple," suffers dis-
illusionment. Her faith in God or any principle she had heretofore
clung to disintegrates. Only after her death is there a hint that she
may have reached that place where oneness, completeness, may be found.
Forster postpones her becoming one with the universe and makes it possi-
ble later only at the hands of an agent other than herself--the Hindu
Godbole. And he makes the suggestion tenuously, since all other recon-
ciliations brought about in "Temple" prove transient.
There is no tangibly attained Grail at the end of this quest, even
though the journey otherwise parallels its mythic model. Thus the read-
er is left with a feeling of incompletion that is very different from
the effect of the strongly mythical presential reality of India and the
Marabar. Their presence is felt as whole and alive, whereas this mythic
journey tapers off into perplexity. In many ways the plot reflects accu-
rately such events and people as we would feel no surprise at encounter-
ing in everyday life. Certainty is seldom the outcome of actual life's
puzzling events. Yet the stress in this novel--brought about in large
part by symbolic means (including symbolic plot and character) and
narrative commentary--is on metaphysical matters to the extent that
daily life loses its importance even though it is depicted realistically.
The plot of A Passage to India is split--it depicts the life in time
and the life by values.
Forster has been accused generally of ineptness as a maker of
credible plots and specifically of "melodrama," of "insufficient cau-
sality," of "the device of coincidence," of scorning "the fetish of
'adequate motivation.'"2 His plots, instead of unravelling mimetically,
fit symbolic patterns determined ahead of time by the author. He does
not at all let his characters "run away with him" as he claims the best
characters do.3 Nor does he let his "raw material, life itself," domi-
nate, in spite of his stand on that question. He chaffs at Meredith's
attempt to elevate the plot of Beauchamp's Career "to Aristotelian sym-
metry, to turn the novel into a temple wherein dwells interpretation,"
and does not like plot to triumph "too completely." No, he says, "all
human happiness and misery does not take the form of action,. it seeks
means of expression other than through the plot, it must not be rigidly
canalized."4 Yet, like Henry James, who, Forster claims, forces life
to fit into an artistic pattern in the carpet, Forster himself employs
characters and plot that create preconceived artistic effects rather
than accurately reflecting life as it is most likely to happen. He
is not simply inept as a plotmaker, however. Rather he deviates from
the usual nineteenth- and twentieth-century mode and uses the methods
Alan Wilde, p. 16; Harold Oliver, The Art of E. M. Forster
(London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1960), p. 17; Hyatt
Howe Waggoner, "Notes on the Use of Ccincidence in the Novels of E. M.
Forster," in Bradbury, Collection, p. 83; Lionel Trilling, E. A. Fors-
ter (New York: New Directions, 1964), p. 10. These critics, hcwever:
except for Oliver perhaps, find that Forster uses melodrama purposeful-
ly and effectively. They are not accusing but explaining hin.
3Aspects of the Novel (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Woxld, Inc.,
A Harvest Book, 1955. First published 1927), p. 66.
4 Ibid., p. 91 and pp. 94-95.
of romance rather than of realism. As Frederick McDowell says, Fors-
ter is not careless with plot but uses it to achieve effects other than
verisimilitude. Forster's so-called melodramatic or incredible inci-
dents sometimes yield a "truth to life" larger and more significant than
he might attain with accurate mimesis of the statistically probable.
He "sings" rather than transcribes life.
Forster is more nearly the pure romancer or fabulist in his early
novels and short stories, which are largely near-fantasies with symbolic
or archetypally-patterned plots. Most of his short stories could almost
be called parables, and the plots of the early novels (except Maurice)
are realistic only in that such happenings are sometimes--though seldom--
the stuff of which daily life is made, like the "fairytale" marriage of
Lucy Honeychurch to George Emerson in A Room with a View, the sudden
deaths in Where Angels Fear to Tread and The Longest Journey, and the
symbolic compromise between Margaret and Henry Wilcox at the close of
Howards End. These incidents of plot--particularly the closing of How-
ards End ahere Helen's son, the offspring of the cultured intelligentsia
and the elemental yeoman class, is to inherit "Howards End" and the red
rust of London is encroaching only slowly on the meadows that have just
produced "such a crop of hay as never--have been called "tacked on,"
"facile," and even "faked." Some claim that Forster simply announces
Waggoner, in Bradbury, Collection, p. 88.
Frederick McDowell, E. M. Forster (New York: New York University
Press, 1969), p. 134.
Francis Gillen, "Howards End and the Neglected Narrator," Novel:
A Forum on Fiction, 3, 2 (Winter, 1970), 141; Alan Wilde, p. 23; and
Frank Kermode, in Bradbury, Collection,p. 92 (Kermode refers here to
artistic organicism in general, not to Howards End per se).
rather than develops motivation for such events. Waggoner analyzes
this symbolic plotting not as ineptness but as a deliberate focusing of
our awareness on "the intrusion of the unknown, the unpredictable, into
our ordered and secure existence."8 The reader is uneasily aware, as
he reads Forster's last novel, of the unknown and unpredictable as a
real possibility, which makes the novel all the more disturbing. Cri-
tics oriented toward realism complain of melodrama in his early novels
but speak approvingly of his turn toward realism in A Passage to India.
But even in this, his most realistic novel where events have a life-
like inevitability, the plot is distinctly symbolic. True, there is lit-
tle romantic sentimentalizing. Friendships, for example, "peter out in
A Passage to India as they do in life," political matters remain muddled
as they do in real life, and events have complex, multiple generating
causes as they usually do in actual life. Still, the nature of those
generating sources and the fact that Fielding's "truth of mood" prevails
over "verbal truth" give symbolic dimension to a plot that is oddly out
of kilter with realistic expectations. The author takes pains to show,
for one thing, that it is an occult or spiritual reality, not simply a
psychological phenomenon, that confronts Mrs. Moore at the Cave, and
that it is not only Adela's psychological functioning but something tha.t
cannot be explained by ordinary or scientific means that opens her mindi
to the dead Mrs. Moore's influence in the courtoom. Once she frees
Aziz by withdrawing her charge, Adela becomes an ally of sorts with
Waggoner, in Bradbury, Collection, p. 84.
Arnold Kettle, Introduction to the English Novel, Ir(Lor:oon, 1i53),5b.
10See Rising, From Hegel to Hinduism, pp. 304-06.
See Rising, From Hegel to Hinduism, cP. 304-06.
Fielding and the Chandrapore Mohammedans, at which point we might, in
a novel of less adulterated realism, expect Adela and Fielding to fall
in love and marry. They have certainly found much common ground, and
their marriage would have satisfied realistic expectations. Instead,
Fielding marries Mrs. Moore's daughter in a symbolic union. The reader
gains little sense of Stella as a personality, but she fulfills several
symbolic requirements: she is named after the stars with which her moth-
er feels a kinship; she, like her mother, has an Eastern receptivity to
the Unseen; and her coming back to India with Fielding brings the plot
This following of a figure in a carpet could as easily be called
"faked," "unrealistic," or "tacked on" as the ending of Howards End.
But the fact is that critics do not make such evaluations of the closing
incidents of A Passage to India (although some do question the artistic
and thematic differences wrought by the addition of the "Temple" section).
This novel depicts the life by values, symbolic life, along with such
accurate miming of daily life that the charge of melodrama never arises.
The remarkable thing about Passage, in fact, is that life's two levels
are merged so successfully that the reader is little aware of the fan-
tastic or symbolic element. This novel has none of the "improvised air"
that Forster found in fantasy. (He felt the reader has to :pay something
extra" to accept the supernatural or improvised air in fantasy where
"the stuff of daily life will be tugged and strained in various direc-
E. K. Brown's early estimate of Forster says that "before one
reaches the middle of any of his novels, one has a distinct sense of two
levels on which one cannot focus at once."In William Van O'Connor, od,.
Forms of Modern Fiction (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana Univ. Press, 1962),
pp. 171-72. Later, in Rhythm in the Novel (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto
Press, 1950), Brown in effect overrides his own charge as he calls the
novel "great" rather than simply "remarkable."
tions." 2) Although his Italian novels and The Longest Journey do give
their happenings a fortuitous air as Forster says fantasy does, his
"idea novel," Maurice, does not, nor do Howards End and A Passage to
India. (We may have to except here the ending of Howards End and pos-
sibly even the marriage between Henry and Margaret as well as the "one-
night affair" between Helen Schlegel and Leonard Bast.) The reader of
A Passage to India may half-consciously expect something to come of
Adela's and Fielding's liaison, but he feels no sense of straining and
tugging at daily life when they go their separate ways. Nor does the
narrator of Passage have to work at defining the symbolism held in set-
ting, character, or event. In Howards End, for example, the narrator
announces rather pointedly Mrs. Wilcox's symbolic function: "she and
daily life were out of focus: one or the other must show blurred. And
at lunch she seemed more out of focus than usual, and nearer the line
that divides daily life from a life that may be of greater importance."l
In A Passage to India, however, Mrs. Moore's affinity for the Unseen is
dramatized in her actions and mental configurations rather than explained
by the narrator. This is not to say that the author's philosophy is dif-
ferent from Mrs. Moore's or that we fail to feel his opinion in a subtle
way throughout. We do. But it is through Mrs. Moore's consciousness
that we grasp the unease generated by the arches stretching infinitely
and silently beyond the arch of the sky over Chandrapore, and through
Fielding's consciousness that we glimpse the life of values that he is
missing as it is suggested by the distant, seemingly animated, wise
Aspects of the Novel, p. 110.
Howards End, p. 76.
and lovely Marabar Hills. Symbolic places and plot partake so strongly
of the real that the reader feels the supranatural not as an obtrusion
but as part of the novel's daily life. The spiritual realities so pre-
sentially alive to Mrs. Moore, the occult experience that overtakes
Adela in the courtroom, the metaphysical something that Stella Moore
Fielding is "onto" and that Fielding wishes he too could value--these
manifestations of "another life more important than daily life" all ap-
pear in the novel as perfectly credible though intangible realities.
The Unseen is always present to the reader, seeming significant and live
to receptive characters, remaining unsuspected or suspicious to nonre-
ceptive characters, but woven into the fabric of the novel with such
deftness that the reader is only subliminally aware of them as the woof
woven in and out of the warp of the novel's realism. Forster's accom-
plishment in A Passage to India is, as Gertrude White remarks, "an al-
most successful-attempt at an all-but-impossible task: an attempt to
fuse the real world of social comedy and human conflict with the mean-
ing and value of the universe which that world mirrors."14 That Forster
so nearly succeeds completely, she claims, is the wonder of it, not that
the novel fails of complete success.
The plot of A Passage to India, then, is realistic and symbolic st
the same time. It is not fantasy as are his earlier plots nor is it melo-
dramatic or at all incredible. White sees A Passage to India as a novel
of ideas, but it is also realistic and probably.r-antip in the way it
treats certain primary ideas like Good and Evil and Life and Death. Ir
is these major events or principles in life that Forster has ideas about,
14 Gertrude White, in Rutherford, p. 63.
and that he expresses in symbolic plot. Social relations, man's de-
ficiencies, politics--these matters he leaves to satire. Forster is
definitely concerned with the "separations and gaps" between men that
Whitman speaks of in his poem, "Passage to India," but he is also con-
cerned with the fissures between man and metaphysical reality (as is
Whitman, although in a less skeptical way) or whether this metaphysical
reality is one great gap--a void. Here he and Whitman part company.5
Not only is Forster skeptical about man's ability to form community with
his brothers; he is also doubtful about the benevolence or even existence
of an ultimate Truly Primal Oneness. Paradoxically, he is not so sure
of his doubts that he can rule out altogether the possibility of an
eternal reality that might be called God. "Properly read," says Waggo-
ner, "Forster's novels are disillusioning: they open up fissures in the
structure of our secular faith, fissures through which we may glimpse
the dark vistas that surround and contain our easy, well-lighted world
of security . .They repeat, with many variations in many keys, the
theme of Eliot's Four Quartets: 'Dark, dark, dark, they all go into the
dark.'"6 Whitman's fissures and gaps widen and crack in Forster's novel.
One way we learn this is through plot that represents disturbances of
ideal order and that exhibits characters acting as though evil happens
not out of them but through them. Take note of Elizabeth Bowen on this
concept: "Though [the characters] do not generate evil, they do, like
Whitman's "Passage to India" reads: "All these separations and
gaps shall be taken up and hook'd and link'd together,/. .. Nanture
and man shall be disjoin'd and diffused no more,/ The true son of Cod
shall absolutely fuse them" (Sec. 5). It is generally thought that
Forster named his novel after Whitman's poem, significantly naming
"A" "passage to India." His single possibility of passage is vastly
less hopeful than Whitman's broader, more confident discussion.
Waggoner, in Bradbury, Collection, p. 85.
blocked gutters, receive, store, and exhale it."17
The idea that moral evil is impossible for man to eradicate (an
idea that Waggoner and Thomson see in Forster's fiction) constitutes a
disturbance of what we like to think of as moral order, a disturbance
akin to that produced by the sudden deaths in earlier novels. The kind
of evil Forster writes about is a transcendent principle, not emanating
from the heart or mind of man, nor eradicable through social or politi-
cal reform, nor at all something we can eliminate from human intercourse
by means of religion or ethics. Humans encounter it but are not its
source. It simply exists, as does the principle of good that Western
man finds much easier to accept. That evil exists separately from and
transcendent of man is made perfectly clear in Passage. Fielding, for
example, feels after Aziz' arrest that "the evil was propagating in
every direction, it seemed to have an existence of its own, apart from
anything done or said by individuals" (p. 187). "He felt that a mass
of madness had arisen and tried to overwhelm them all; it had to be
shoved back into its pit somehow" (p. 163). Adela, too, feels it:
"Evil was loose . .she could even hear it entering the lives of
others" (p. 194). Mrs. Moore feels "increasingly (vision or nightmare?)
that, although people are important, the relations between them are not,"
and she feels this with such force "that it seemed itself a relationship,
itself a person who was trying to take hold of her hand" (p. 135).
Evil and good stem from the same origins, in Godbole's view. His
way of expressing this idea shocks Fielding: "When evil occurs, it ex-
17 Bowen quoted by Thomson, p. 48, from p. 25 of her Collected
Impressions (New York, 1950). Thomson discusses evil's "inhabiting"
the selves of numerous characters throughout Forster's fiction, but
see the chapter entitled "Novel as Archetype" for evil in the charac-
ters of A Passage to India.
presses the whole of the universe. Similarly when good occurs," says
Godbole. "You're preaching that evil and good are the same," complains
Fielding, "irritated," but Godbole refutes this charge. "[Evil and good]
are not what we think them, they are what they are . . Good and evil
are different, as their names imply. But, in my own humble opinion, they
are both of them aspects of my Lord. He is present in the one, absent
in the other, and the difference between presence and absence is great,
as great as my feeble mind can grasp. Yet absence implies presence, ab-
sence is not non-existence .." (p. 178).18
In conceiving of good and evil as everlasting, nonhuman, but living
principles, Forster departs from the Victorian liberalism and Bloomsbury
optimism that inhabit part of his make-up. His is a stand certainly
divorced from any confidence that man can better his condition and over-
come the forces making him miserable, a stand allied to the Puritan con-
viction that man's fate is chosen for him by God, the Calvinist belief
in the elect and the damned. Montgomery Belgion's much-maligned essay
on Forster's system of "diabolically" discriminating between the "sheep
and the goats" makes this very point, although the consensus rejects
Belgion's proposition and claims Forster is too tolerant of human frail-
ty to make such a damning distinction.9 This last claim is valid if
we look at Forster's fiction as if it is only a realistic assessment of
18 This last comment is often quoted to buttress the contention that
Forster's skepticism is not cynicism. It shows that Godbole, at least,
does not take God's absence to mean he does not exist.
19 Says Belgion: "For Mr. Forster, it seems evident, you are either
born a sheep or a goat, and, whichever it is, that you are doomed to re-
main. There is no hope for you." "The Diabolism of E. M. Forstrr," The
Criterion (October, 1934). Trilling, like most critics viewing Forster's
work as realistic, says Forster creates characters that are both sheep
and goat.He says: ".. the fact is that in Forster there is a
human beings. Sharp as he is with his satire, Forster is never so in-
tolerant as to overlook a character's redeeming qualities. His mythic
vision, however, sees good and evil not as human characteristics but as
principles that exist on their own, a view which would account for his
tolerance of even "goats." And, as Godbole's remark shows, evil cannot
claim permanent victory over human life. Evil comes in the absence of
God, but God's absence does not mean he does not exist. In A Passage
to India evil is crucial to plot as the factor precipitating all inci-
dents contingent upon the Caves and the Hot Weather. But evil is no
more gratuitous in this novel than in the more "melodramatic" plots of
Forster's earlier career, although its position as prime motivator of
human behavior vacillates. The principle of good surges forward alter-
nately with that of evil in Forster as it does in Beethoven, not triumph-
ing as it does in the Fifth Symphony but at least mitigating the effects
of evil. The Marabar, we remember, "did not break up a continent or
even dislocate a district." Their evil has receded, has remained incom-
plete and non-victorious. The truth we are left with is what Bowen found
so lucid in Forster, a truth that shows dual but not fuzzy, a refinement
and complexity of the more dogmatically held viewpoints presented in the
early work. In the way that the truth so readily articulable becomes more
complex and suggestive in his last novel, the symbolic plotting that was
unequivocal in its message earlier becomes undogmatic and multifarious
in this last work. It is truly symbolic, not signlike. The story line
of A Passage to India is no less mythic than the obviously mythic plots
deep and important irresolution over the question of whether the world is
one of good and evil, sheep and goats, or one of good-and-evil, of sheep
who are somehow goats and goats who are somehow sheep" (pp. 111-12).
and mythological allusions of the early novels. In fact, it is even
more traditionally mythic, especially in its central incident, the trip
to the Marabar Caves. Forster indicated the essential mythicness of the
novel's plot when he stressed in the Paris Interviews the necessity he
felt to build a plot around "a solid mass ahead, a mountain over or
through which the story must somehow go."20 This sense of the essenti-
ality of an obstacle over or through which humans must struggle is mythic.
The archetypal pattern of growth toward maturity is one kind of mythic
struggle; another is the pursuit of a spiritual goal. The search or
quest myth often takes the form of initiation. Such a journey through
anguish and despair or through the evils of the mature world forms the
basic plot for representative works of Western literature from Beowulf
to Dante's The Divine Comedy to Mann's The Magic Mountain, and in Ameri-
can short stories like Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" or "My Kinsman
Major Molineux." In "Young Goodman Brown," for instance, the innocent
makes a journey that is typical of initiation myths, the "journey that
must be made through the woods at night--the experiencing of evil, neces-
sary to an understanding of life." The archetypal initiation process
may take figurative form or literal, whether its goal is spiritual (per-
haps a Holy Grail) or psychological or philosophic.
Subordinate to the journey that is central to the plot of A Passage
to India is the subplot that also has a mythic model: the task pattern.
Neumann tells us that the archetypal hero's first task in the most archaic
form we can trace it is the dragon fight.22 Fielding is the hero who
20 Forster in Writers at Work, pp. 26-27.
David J. Burrows, Frederick Lapides, and John Shawcross, Myths
and Motifs in Literature (New York: Free Press, Macmillan, 1973), p. 135,
takes on a figurative dragon--the dragon of the British Empire at work
in India. Fielding feels he has a task to perform, one of archetypal
proportions: to help this globe of men reach one another "by the help
of good will plus culture and intelligence" (p. 62). His self-imposed
mission is no less than to overcome the separations and gaps that Whit-
man sings of as man's great task. Within the novel's scope this mission
fails. After the Marabar and the trial, Fielding's aspirations taper
off; he is then content to "plod along as best he can" (p. 318). Field-
ing is not so far outside society or his former goals as to become a
Stranger like Camus' or a man who lives underground like Ellison's.
But he fails to complete his task and falls short of mythic attain-
ment, which makes him an antihero of a sort. "Today," says Burrows,
"at a time when literature often presents not heroes but antiheroes,
protagonists may ruin the task they are to perform so as to oppose the
mythically heroic."23 Not that Fielding purposefully ruins his task,
but his failing to accomplish it makes him antiheroic. A man of intel-
ligence and good will himself, who consciously strives to live by his
principles, he nevertheless fails to establish what Margaret Schlegel
in Howards End calls "the rainbow bridge," despite his romping from one
side to another at Bridge parties and despite his symbolic attenmpt to
bridge the gap between peoples with his personal relationship to Azsi.
(Our knowing that Britain and India exacerbated their separations and
gaps and parted political company probably underscores this interpreta-
tion of the novel's events.)
Second only to the beneficent influence of ancestors and mythic
places, "personal relations" have been Forster's great hope in all his
23 Burrows, p. 135.
fiction until A Passage to India. Here he plays personal relations as
"his last trump card," as Rising phrases'it, and the card fails. Rising
offers some cause for hope in spite of the failure of personal relations,
however: personal relations are of this world, whereas only by li'fting
onto a higher plane of existence after withdrawing from this world can
a spiritually receptive character (Mrs. Moore) become one with the uni-
verse. As Thomson puts it, "A personal relation implies exclusion; it
is a double image of the individual in isolation. But a spiritual re-
lationship reveals what one man has in common with another man, and with
all men; it is a microcosmic image of the brotherhood of man."24 That
Forster had some such thought in mind is indicated by Fielding's pro-
dicament at the novel's close. "You and I and Miss Quested," he remarks
to Aziz, "are, roughly speaking, not after anything. We jog on as de-
cently as we can, you a little in front--a laudable little party" (p. 318).
His wife, he notes, "is after something. . [she] is not with us."
Stella has ideas and aspirations he cannot share; "indeed," he says,
"when I'm away from her I think them ridiculous. When I'm with her, I
feel different, I feel half dead and half blind" (o. 318). Here again
Fielding voices the suspicion that he is missing the submerged part of
life's iceberg, sounding like a devotee of the conviction prevalent among
certain schools of psychology that rational, scientific, logical Western
man perceives only a small part of total reality. Before a personal
relation can become a "microcosmic image of the brotherhood of man,"
there must be a spiritual bond, a universal merging of at least parts
of the individual entities, and Fielding senses that the beginnings of
such a spiritual bond have formed between him and his wife since their
24 Thomson, p. 221.
visit to Mau. Mau, the setting for the "Temple" section of the novel,
a Hindu state where Hinuism works its effects (temporary though they
may be), is literally and metaphorically far from official, westernized
Chandrapore. Here Fielding can say, "There seemed a link between them
at last--that link outside either participant that is necessary to every
relationship" (p. 318). Between him and Aziz no such spiritual bond
arises, only a modified detente. The petering out of friendship be-
tween them (and also of the affinity between Fielding and Adela that
also fades) is an objective correlative, then, of Forster's changed
ideas on the efficacy of purely human personal relations; Mrs. Moore has
expressed their diminished value when seen from the standpoint of time:
"centuries of carnal embracement, yet man is no nearer to understanding
man" (p. 135). Fielding's failure to complete his self-imposed task on
this globe is an element of plot reflecting this same conviction. Be-
cause the plot does not cement the friendship of East and West, and be-
cause it allows no one principle, whether evil or good, to prevail, it
objectifies the idea that man cannot control his relations with other
men, that nations and people will remain forever torn by strife unless
they forge the necessary spiritual links. The author has posed this
question very early in the book through narrative commentary: "All in-
vitations must proceed from heaven perhaps; perhaps it is futile for
men to initiate their own unity, they do but wider. the gulfs between
them by the attempt" (p. 37).
Because Fielding's relation with Stella has taken on a spiritual
tone, the plot takes an upward swing, objectifying a less pessimistic
facet of the same idea. And because neither tendency--toward separation
from Aziz or toward unity with Stella--is declared certain, the ending.
remains open, objectifying yet another attitude of the Forsterian
mind: the skeptical, modern, we-shall-see attitude. Forster's plot-
ting follows mythical models only to a point. The questers are still
searching as earth and sky say, "No, not there," and No, not yet,"
Aziz' portion of the story can also be seen as myth, but it is myth
parodied as well as incomplete. Thomson lightly suggests:
Aziz' career could be seen as a parody of the hero's
experience. Mrs. Moore in the mosque is the shadowy
figure who must be propitiated. This done, the hero
sets out on his journey to the Marabar--with an entour-
age. The journey culminates in a cave with no mark-
ings, in nothing, and in non-union with a false bride-
mother, Adela. In attempting to return the hero is
captured and imprisoned by the Anglo-Indians, the dei-
ties or rulers of the nothing-world. All of which is
followed by trial and escape.25
Thomson does not feel that seeing Aziz' career as a parody of myth is
"a profitable way of looking at Aziz's nature and destiny," however.
Nor do I. But the suggestion of myth is there. Its parody is implied
consistently in the slightly mocking tone of voice that narrates Aziz'
activites. In spite of the obvious sympathy with which the narrator
looks upon Aziz, the narrative stand indicates a slight withholding from
total commitment to him. Always there is the ironic countertone. For
example, as Aziz lies sick, the narrator comments: "Aziz fell ill as he
foretold--slightly ill. Three days later he lay abed in his bungalow,
pretending to be very ill" (p. 100). Nor can one tell whether ccr:ments
like, "It was Sunday, always an equivocal day in the East, and an excuse
for slacking," comes from Aziz' mind or the narrator's, or from the one
filtered through the other. This sort of impossible-to-attribute coimmen-
25 Thomson, p. 290, n. 6.
tary underlines the antiheroic sequence of events in Aziz' life. His
"tragedy" evolves into a tragicomedy. The reader sees it and him with
sympathy but also with ridicule, his journey through life as less than
archetypally heroic. In fact, we are told that in the courtroom he
seems "negligible, devoid of signifiance, dry like a bone, and though
he was 'guilty' no atmosphere of sin surrounded him" (p. 220). Even
Aziz' guilt, then, is incomplete. It does not.:catry the .transcendent
principle of evil.
The major incident of Aziz' life is narrated with a detective-
story suspense that casts a popular aura about the tale: we are told
that Adela goes into a cave "thinking with half of her mind 'sight-
seeing bores me,' and wondering with the other half about marriage"
(p. 153). Aziz, shocked by Adela's asking whether he has more than one
wife, lets go her hand and plunges into one of any number of caves "to
recover his balance." When he returns he finds the guide alone. Upset
at having lost track of Adela, he finds that Fielding has arrived with
Miss Derek in her car. Aziz is only slightly put off at hearing that
Adela has returned to Chandrapore with Miss Derek, resigning himself to
his disappointment by thinking, ironically, "Guests must do as they wish,
or they become prisoners" (p. 157). There is little hint of disaster
until the train brings him and his party from the eighteenth-century
Indian countryside back into the twentieth-century town and he is peremp-
torily- arrested (p. 161). The manuscripts of Passage show that Forster
reworked this part of the novel over and over. The end result is an un-
derstating of the poitentousness of the Caves incident. Aziz' shock
and the rest of his personal story thus seems less a parodied myth than
simply a suspenseful semi-mystery.
If one sees Aziz' journey to the Marabar as a mythic search for
a hero's goal (and Thomson feels that if anyone in this novel were to
be called the hero it would be Aziz), he must admit that the quest is
fated for frustration. Aziz' role as harbinger of modern science in a
primitive world also atrophies as the novel proceeds. Doctor Aziz, the
narrator points out, found his profession fascinating "at times, but he
required it to be exciting, and it was his hand, not his mind, that was
scientific. The knife he loved and used skilfully, and he also liked
pumping in the latest serums. But the boredom of regime and hygiene
repelled him, and after inoculating a man for enteric, he would go away
and drink unfiltered water himself" (p. 53). After the trial he moves
to Mau, where British officialdom has not penetrated. There his surgi-
cal skills go unused, his instruments rusting: "Nominally under a Hindu
doctor, he was really chief medicine man to the court. He had to drop
inoculation and such Western whims, but even at Chandrapore his profes-
sion had been a game, centered around the operating table, and here in
the backwoods he let his instruments rust, ran his little hospital at
half steam, and caused no undue alarm" (p. 292).
His goal in undertaking the Marabar picnic was to build on his
already-formed relationship with Mrs. Moore. (Perhaps one should not
say that he had a goal in planning the trip because he was actually
trapped into it by his own words spoken unthinkingly. But to think of
his part in the plot as mythic at all we must play down the realistic
human foibles he displays and underscore the symbolic suggestions,) The
story of the frustrated picnic, the failure of his and Fielding's attempt
at friendship, and his and Mrs. Moore's failure to spread brotherly love--
all are perfectly credible realistically. These credible, realistic
failures also serve as symbols of such failures, as parodies or in-
completions of mythic ideals.
On the other hand, one needs little imagination to see the central
story line, the journey that Mrs. Moore and Adela make to the Cave, as
myth. Theirs is a mythic quest; only its frustrated goals mark it as
myth failed. Though the journey's goal remains unattained for either,
their journey is necessary to the consequences--a necessary cause, not
merely a contributing cause. Barrett says, "Mrs. Moore is not at the
center of the plot, nor does she launch the crucial actions; but all the
plot flows past and around her, and what happens to her in the process
is the story within the story of the novel."26 Whether Mrs. Moore or
Adela (or Aziz, or even Fielding) is the main carrier of the plot is
difficult to say. It is Adela whose actions make the story move; it is
she who rouses Anglo-India against Aziz and she who rectifies her mis-
take. But Mrs. Moore moves Adela in some occult way to realize her
mistake; it is Mrs. Moore who is the central "idea-carrier," for as Stone
says, the main idea is that "physically of the same environment, we are
also psychically one."27 It is Mrs. Moore, with her wish to "be one with
the universe," who expresses this idea.
As all myth embodies antitheses, the Marabar journey condense into
Mrs. Moore's experience the opposites of good and evil. Burrows describes
the mythic opposites found in the journey motif, as in all myth:"Beneath
all myths is a basic belief in opposites, by which is meant the elements
of the collective psyche. These unite as the binary groups of Eros and
Thanatos, of good and evil, of man and woman, of love and hate, of order
26 Barrett, p. 296.
27 Stone, p. 339.
and chaos, and so on. The journey is thus the attempt to balance these
opposites within man himself, or within the community."28 For Mrs.Moore
the opposites combined in this mythic journey are Eros and Thanatos,
good and evil, love and hate, order and chaos--with Thanatos, evil, hate,
and chaos predominating. (For Adela the opposites are more clearly
sexual: of man and woman.) Mrs. Moore has thoughts of death and conscious-
ly wishes to withdraw from life. Her mind has been on the temporality
and carnality of physical love; as the train carries them closer to the
Marabar she finds suddenly that love and all personal relations seem un-
important. After her disagreeable few moments in the Cave her cynicism
deepens into a profound malaise; she realizes she does not "want to write
to her children, didn't want to communicate with anyone, not even with
God. She lost all interest, even in Aziz (p. 150). Per-
sonal relations even with her loved ones no longer matter. Even a per-
sonal relation with God has lost its attraction and significance. Chaos
seems to rule over order, and it is the echo that defines the chaos: "The
crush and smells she could forget, but the echo began in some indesc:rib-
able way to undermine her hold on life" (p. 149). The Marabar's evil
is not even romantic to her--the Cave is a petty abyss housing a serpent
of eternity made of maggots instead of a magnificent devil. "Devils
are of the North, and poems can be written about them, but no one could
romanticize the Marabar because it robbed infinity and eternity of their
vastness, the only quality that accommodates them to mankind" (p. 150).
At the Marabar everything amounts to the same: "Everything exists, noth-
ing has value" (p. 149). "The wonderful India of her opening weeks, with
its cool nights and acceptable hints of infinity, had vanished" (p. 158).
28 Burrows, p. 224.
Mrs. Moore's moment of vision, although not immediately attended
by the usual soaring into the empyrean that has attended Forster's
eternal moments before this novel, is nevertheless what Wilde calls a
"structural counterpart to what may be called Forster's philosophy of
the great moment. . It provides the otherwise commonplace, realistic
world of the novel with an atmosphere of strangeness; it pulls and tugs
at the normal arrangement of things and leaves everything slightly dis-
ordered."29 The result of this sort of tugging and straining, which,
we will remember, Forster identified as the hallmark of fantasy, is "to
throw both the characters and the reader back on, to use Forster's own
words, 'whatever transcends our abilities.'"30 This "whatever transcends
our abilities" is the second of the dual levels of life, the life of
values as opposed to and separate from daily life. Mrs. Moore, one
feels, has been at or near the boundaries of life,31 close to the divi-
ding line between daily life and other life "that may be of greater im-
portance," as Mrs. Wilcox of Howards End was. Mrs. Moore's glimpse of
the Dionysian constitutes an eternal moment, even though it is not at
first freeing or beatific. Instead it is shattering to her peace of
mind, to her faith in God, to her conviction that love is important.
It brings about a change in her kindly nature that is almost melodrama-
tic because its cause is not clear. Forster has seemingly here "scorned
the fetish of 'adequate motivation.'" Her trip to the Marabar is a
29 Wilde, p. 17.
3Gillen, 149, quoting Forster in Aspects of the Novel, p. 110.
SBarrett says that by the time Forster wrote A Passage to India
he had been at or "at least near the boundaries of life, and had come
back purged of illusions and more detached" (p. 308).
"journey through dream or nightmare, a journey through a sea of darkness
and twilight to a strange other world. But on this journey there is no
hero and no goal. The chapel perilous--Forster does not mention so or-
derly a Western concept--is a cave, an absolutely empty cave."32 True,
the cave which substitutes for the chapel perilous is absolutely empty,
but emptiness, we remember, is not necessarily evil, especially in East-
ern thought where emptiness may be valued over the full. Nor is the twi-
light into which Mrs. Moore has sunk, the "twilight of the.double vision,"
totally dark. Twilight, Thomson notes, is "a state in which light is
absent but the existence of light is implied."33 The wording parallels
Godbole's definition of the absence of God as related to evil: "Absence
implies presence, absence is not non-existence" (p. 178). Although Mrs.
Moore's vision has been incomplete and her passage to India unfinished
(she has "not seen the right places"), she has, if we accept Rising's
interpretation, progressed in the process of aufheben. Aufheben is
never finished, always incomplete, but not a hopeless process by any
means. Light is implied. The Marabar's evil and negation, even though
they send Mrs. Moore into despair, are no more complete than the good-
nes and kindness with which she has tried to live her life. Not only
as images in their own right but also as influences on the plot, the
Caves fail to make their evil emanations total and final. Again, as
Mrs. Moore herself says, "there are so many kinds of failure" (p. 52).
Mrs. Moore realizes she has failed to spread her gospel of love, but its
opposite--a gospel of evil and hatred-has also failed, leaving the pro-
cess of aufheben ongoing.
32 Thomson, p. 222.
33 Ibid., p. 233.
For Adela the failure is her unrealized self. The journey repre-
sents her need to explore and acknowledge the Dionysian, which includes
the sexual side of her personality that has been repressed all her life.
The Dionysian also includes a move toward oneness with all the world, a
metaphysical merging that is the spiritual equivalent of a psychological
merging of conscious with unconscious. "The journey," Burrows tells us,
"and the quest motifs relate to the fall into experience. Ultimately,
though, the quest hopes to find the Self through uniting the conscious
with the unconscious."34 In modern psychological terms the quest signi-
fies this search for self (and surely Adela's surname is suggestive:
Quested). For Adela the journey to the Marabar is a fall into experi-
ence. If we read the incident as psychological realism (which is close-
ly related to myth, both having psychic sources), we see that in' the
Cave she recognizes her fear of physical love and her lack of whole
love for Ronny or Ronny's for her. The footholds in the rock suggest
this deficiency to her, for they remind her of the accident in the Na-
wab's car, an accident that aroused the "spurious unity" between herself
and Ronny. The incompleted circle of the semi-circular foothold marks
underline the incompleteness of her love for Ronny. The Marabar of
course represents the unconscious in her case, as any cave, being an
archetypal image of the unconscious, can do. Thus it is not difficult
to see her visit there as a confrontation with heretofore unrecognized
elements of her instinctive, Dionysian self.
Such an archetypal journey in myth can have beneficial or disastrous
consequences: "The voyage through life to attempt to acquire the treasure,
Burrows, p. 135.
35 See Dauner, "What Happened in the Cave?"
or the lost Eden, or the Self," writes Burrows, takes the quester
"through various exploits, various avenues of life (stages of develop-
ment), through despond (evil, death, the underworld) either not to e-
merge from the darkness or to progress to the desired heavenly path of
light."36 Mrs. Moore's progress is upward after her initial downward
path and physical death, but Adela's upward progress is extremely slight.
Her subliminal attempt to acquire her whole self concludes in almost
total frustration: "It's as if I ran my finger along that polished wall
in the dark, and cannot get further. I am up against something," she
tells Fielding (p. 263). She and Fielding decide the life of the stars
is "not for the likes of them." They hold back from entering into the
Dionysian joy of existence, from Primordial Being, and hold fast to the
controlled and the rational. A "scientific" explanation almost satis-
fies them: hallucination or telepathy may have caused her conviction
that Aziz had attacked her:
The pert, meagre word fell to the ground. Telepathy?
What an explanation! Better withdraw it, and Adela did
so. She was at the end of her spiritual tether, and so
was he. Were there worlds beyond which they could never
touch, or did all that is possible enter their conscious-
ness? They could not tell. They only realized that their
outlook was more or less similar, and found in this a sat-
isfaction. Perhaps life is a mystery, not a muddle; they
could not tell. Perhaps the hundred Indias which fuss
and squabble so tiresomely are one, and the universe they
mirror is one. They had not the apparatus for judging.
The narrative persona who relays their thoughts seems far removed from
these two, far wiser and wider of perspective. Decades ahead of the cur-
rent awareness that humans seldom let all that is possible enter their
consciousness, Forster is also ahead of our present vogue, for he also
36 ows, p. 457.
Burrows, p. 457.
retains a respect for reason, a retention that is recently evident
again in our own culture. As he presents a strong case for acknowledg-
ing the Dionysian, he never forsakes the rational Apollonian approach
even as he seems to castigate the conventional Englishman as a repressed
Calvinist. He sees life whole but also steadily.
Fielding and Adela see it steadily but not whole. After they
agree that "the dead don't live again," "There was a moment's silence,
such as often follows the triumph of rationalism" (p. 241). But Adela's
initiation in the Cave, the initiatory hut, has gained her at least some
recognition of her deficiencies ("My instincts never help me"), and she
has opened herself to Mrs. Moore's occult influence enough to place
herself back at the Cave on that fatal day to relive it, not simply
to remember it. (Indeed, the immediacy with which her experience is
relayed to the reader plays a significant part in the Caves' presential
reality.) Her moment of receptivity to the Unseen is followed by honest
intellectual probing of her own motives and behavior. She is almost
back where she started, a "queer, honest girl" who takes notes on every
experience in life. ("Plans had been a passion with her since girlhood"
--pp. 136-36.) At the end of her spiritual tether, Adela has at least
stretched it a little before she returns to England and a life of "cul-
tural refinement." (An Adela Quested is mentioned in Howards End as a
member of Margaret Schlegel's Bloomsburylike circle in an almost Faulk-
nerian interweaving of characters and places.) Carl Jung's essay on
"Synchronicity" gives us a metascientific explanation of how communica-
tion between Adela and the dead Mrs. Moore could have come about--if
we need one. But as myth, the journey to the Cave with Adela's conse-
quent fall into experience and Mrs. Moore's fall into disillusionment
before enlightenment seems poetically, mythically true without any ex-
planation from the rational world. Yet as myth the journey falls short.
Forster portrays vividly a skeptical modern's idea of myth. He allows
us to see the inner essentials of the life by values, covering this ker-
nel with realistic husks of daily life. Yet one is never sure whether
after stripping off the husks that kernel is vital as myth. Places like
the Marabar Caves and India live within and even outside the book, but
the indeterminate ending of the plot, the trailing off into incompletion
of all the tasks started, belittle the primeval reality resurrected in
those mythic places and cast a modern Pyrrhonism on their vitality.
Thus the rise-fall-rise pattern that E. K. Brown sees as the
novel's overall structure finishes with only a slight rise:
Three big blocks of sound--that is what A Passage to
India consists of. A first block in which evil creeps
about weakly, and the secret understanding of the heart
is easily dominant. A second block, very long, and very
dark, in which evil streams forth from the caves and
lays waste most everything about, but yet meets an oppo-
sition, indecisive in some ways, but unyielding, in the
contemplative insight of Professor Godbole, and the intu-
itive fidelity of Mrs. Moore. A third block in which ev-
il is forced to recede, summarily, and spectacularly, not
by the secret understanding of the heart, but by the
strength on which the secret understanding of the heart
depends, contemplative insight, intuitive fidelity. Then
the final reminder, that good has merely obliged evil
to recede as good receded before evil a little before.
The three parts of A Passage to India, says Brown, are in balance as they
interweave.38 That the parts do interweave, the three big blocks of
sound treating the same themes in different ways, one cannot doubt.
This novel is clearly an art work of unified form and exquisitely wrcught
3Brown, in Bradbury, Collection, p. 158.
detail. But because the upward lift at its close is less definitive
and less hopeful than we have been led to expect by the establishing of
true rapport between Aziz and Mrs. Moore in Part I, and then by the re-
establishing of that rapport between Mrs. Moore's son Ralph and Aziz in
Part III, the three parts are actually thrown a little out of balance.
The novel's pattern, like that of a yantra, provides an instrument for
aiding that contemplative insight by which Professor Godbole establishes
a Hindu hope for salvation. But the rise of that pattern is neither
regular nor trenchant.
Forster himself acknowledged this lack of balance when he
said he added the "Temple" section because he "needed a lump" to balance
the novel architecturally. "But the lump sticks out a little too much,"
he added. This lump sticks out a little too much because it counter-
mands the mood of the second large part in which "evil streams forth
from the caves and lays waste most everything about." But it also is
itself countermanded by the definite re-establishing of the fissures and
gaps in the last few pages. The metaphysical oneness of Mrs. Moore and
the universe, the indwelling of the Hindu spirit that transfigures mo-
mentarily all those taking part in the festival--these tenuous asser-
tions of unity are left to stand. But the unity in everyday life among
everyday people that has been brought about by the "baptismal" waters
of the tank at Mau--that unity is questioned. The doubt remains, as
Crews phrases it, whether the English and Indians have been "drenched
in Hindu love or simply drenched."40 The authorial voice says the
"divisions of daily life were returning" (p. 321). As Fielding and
Forster in Writers at Work, p. 28.
Crews, p. 151.
Aziz ride together for the last time, even the natural world pulls them
apart. The scenery, "though it smiled, fell like a gravestone on any
human hope" (p. 321). They wrangle about politics; Fielding mocks Aziz'
idealistic (but, as it turns out, quite realistic) hope for a unified
India capable of ejecting its foreign conquerors: "India a nation: What
an apotheosis!" (p. 322). The gap here between Fielding's condescension
and the authorial persona's perspective provides an irony that denigrates
the once-tolerant Fielding's swing to the right.41 Aziz encourages his
own horse to rear, but lets his affection for Fielding overcome him one
last time: "he rode against him furiously--'and then,' he concluded,
half kissing him, 'you and I shall be friends'" (p. 322).
Thus what Robert Langbaum calls, interestingly, the "Apollonian
hope" of Part I--the hope of breaching the "gap between India and
England through the friendship of enlightened individuals--notably the
friendship of Aziz with Fielding and Mrs. Moore"--is touched upon again
but played down.42 This hope has broken down in "Caves," says Langbaum,
before "irrational forces." That irrational forces emanate from the
Marabar Caves few will doubt. That the nature of these forces is purely
malevolent, however, is in doubt, since the narrator and certain events
of plot deny it. Mrs. Moore's encounter with these Dionysian, irrational
forces, for example, is a kind of Fortunate Fall for she eventually becomes
one with the universe if we are to take at all seriously Godbole's efforts
to impel her to that place of all-completeness, or, in terms more palatab.le
4This irony was remarkably accurate, for India did become a nation
standing on its own in 1948. Forster's contemporaries seldom suspected
his irony, however.
Robert Langbaum, The Modern Spirit (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1970), p. 144.
to a reasoning Western Apollonian audience, Rising's idea that Hegel's
aufheben illuminates Mrs. Moore's behavior. Even the second big block
of sound where evil streams forth darkly is not entirely pessimistic
simply because it is irrational. Nietzsche would say that modern man's
only hope is with the irrational and Dionysian, and Forster follows him
to a point. Having preached in all his fiction and dramatizing in A
Passage to India the folly and incompletion of life lived according
to reason alone, Forster also acknowledges--by way of artistic structure--
the dangers of slipping into pure feeling. That way lies madness, he
seems to say, not the madness of Christianity's practice of narrow ex-
clusion so it will be left with something for itself (p. 38), nor the
madness of "reasonable" Western man who cannot endure "the lantern of
reason if it is exhibited for one moment longer than decreed" (p. 165),
but the madness of over-emotionality that the abandonment of reason
brings. Like Nietzsche, Forster aims in the long run for a blend of
the Apollonian and the Dionysian, a blend of the kind Nietzsche extols
in ancient Greek tragedy, a blend that makes the Truly Existent Primal
Unity of the Dionysian apprehendable to mankind. Forster never "says
so" in this novel, but his highly structured plot and his careful work-
ing of design in molding his Dionysian material say it for him.
Levine says Forster found in the Caves the objective correla-
tive for Mrs. Moore's profound malaise.43 He has also found in his
plot an objective correlative for his own double vision of the world.
His vision sees the whole of life, including its Dionysian side with
all its ugliness and all its beauty, from a balanced Apollonian, steady,
if skeptical perspective.
4Levine, p. 88.
THE SPLIT IN CHARACTERIZATION: ARCHETYPAL AND REALISTIC
the plot, instead of finding human beings more or less cut to
its requirements, as they are in drama, finds them enormous, shadowy
and intractable, and three-fourths hidden like an iceberg.
--E. M. Forster
Forster's characters are one element in his fiction on which most
critics agree. Almost to a man, they find his characters to be of two
types that we might label "realistic" and "symbolic" or "archetypal."
The split between the two kinds is perhaps clearest in his short sto-
ries where the symbolic characters are like demi-gods in fantasy and
the realistic portrayals are all too true-to-life. In the early novels,
too, the characters who line up on the side of convention, celibacy,
organized religion--what Forster would call the "anti-life" people--
are consistently too inhibited, too rational, too devoted to form of
one kind or another, and Forster caricatures their devotion. They are
the Mr. Beebes, the Charlotte Bartletts, the Mrs. Herritons, the Pem-
brokes. "The type will be institutionalized in A Passage to India as
the wives of the English officials who regard the Indians with a vin-
dictive cruelty," says Trilling.1 They certainly must strike every
reader as accurate even though exaggerated; we know people very much
like them and enjoy seeing them impaled on Forster's rapier.
Trilling. These are the characters Trilling would classify
as Forster's "goats." See p. 48 and pp. 110-11.
Lined up on the other side are the pro-life people, the sheep in
the sheep-and-goats distinction. Most of these "good" people become
symbolic of or are strongly influenced by the Dionysian spirit. Those
who are substantially swayed by the redemptive, Dionysian, symbolic
characters find their lives fulfilled and their selves made whole in
early stories and novels that are almost all comic in spirit. The
Lucy Honeychurches, the Miss Rabys, the Margaret Schlegels are realis-
tically handled, whether their portraits are painted in depth or with
a few deft superficial strokes. It is the symbolic characters who influ-
ence these fortunate learners, the "intuitive," "redemptive," or "guar-
dian" characters, as they are variously called, who bear the charge of
unrealistic characterization. A study of Forster's narrative commentary
in all his novels will reveal that it is those characters not fully de-
lineated by the narrator's satiric comments who fail to materialize as
real persons. As satire shows us a character's faulty side, it makes
him realistic. It is the mythic characters who seem unrealistic. In
Forster's fiction, as Trilling says, "what is bad in life has indeed the
look of reality, but what is good has the appearance of myth."2
All of these symbolic, redemptive characters--whether drawing their
wisdom and strength from primarily earthy or spiritual sources--come un-
der critical attack as being incredible or inadequate as realistic, con-
vincing people. They are symbolic figures not particularly credible as
real persons. It is clear that to many critics, Forster's svmbolic
characters are counterparts of the universalized, "melodramatic" events
in his plots; these figures do not convince us they live in time as they
do convince us they live by values.
2 Trilling, p. 115.
A refusal to make characters realistic, however, is not necessarily
a failure to do so. Forster would not agree with Joseph Warren Beach
that "the primary end of fiction is the study of human nature in the con-
crete." Forster portrays a universalized reality that includes but is
not restricted to human nature, and he portrays it largely symbolically.
No doubt he would agree with Nietzsche, who thought our passion for natura-
listic detail came upon the world along with the demise of mythic tragedy:
. we see at work the power of this un-Dionysian,
myth-opposing spirit, when we turn our attention to
the prevalence of character representation. The cha-
racter must no longer be expanded into an eternal type,
but, on the contrary, must develop individually through
artistic subordinate traits and shadings, through the
nicest precision of all the lines, in such a manner
that the spectator is in general no longer conscious
of the myth, but of the vigorous truth to nature and
the artist's imitative power.4
Forster's characterizing methods reflect the split in his vision: they
are both realistic/satiric and symbolic/mythic.
What Nietzsche calls an eternal type Jung would call an archetypal
symbol in humanoid form. Some contemporary critics, alive to the power
that archetypal treatment can bring to fictional characters, appreciate,
as McDowell does, Forster's symbolic characters as felt presences instead
of esthetic failures:
In the tradition of romance with its archetypal figures,
Forster's books contain major characters that are often
more arresting as felt presences than for social rela-
tionships they exemplify. On occasion, Forster design-
edly sacrifices probability of motive in the interests
of ulterior truth. Characters like Gino Carella, Ste-
phen Wonham, and Ruth Wilcox lack sufficient substance
Joseph Warren Beach, The Twentieth-Century Novel (New York:
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1932), p. 74.
4Nietzsch, Philosophy, pp. 1043-1044.
Nietzsche, Philosophy, pp. 1043-1044.
as real people to be entirely convincing, yet as
presences they are not the esthetic failures that
some critics have declared them to be.
Phrases like "probability of motive" and "sufficient substance" belong
to realism, "ulterior truth" to symbolism. Archetypal or eternal cha-
racters may seem esthetic failures in a fictional world that is expected
to be realistic, but in their own symbolist fictional world they loom as
felt presences. A reader does not soon forget a character like Gino Ca-
rella or Stephen Wonham even though he may sense insufficient.. substance
in the characterization or wonder whether the character's motives and
actions are entirely credible.
But in the two kinds of characterization found in A Passage to
India we are really dealing with two kinds of split, the split between
realistic/satiric and symbolic/mythic characterization, and the split
between a given character's two sides, the Apollonian and Dionysian.
Each realistic characterization in a Forster novel or story can be
assessed as primarily Apollonian or Dionysian (or as primarily sheep
or goat.)6 And in most of his work all the characters, including the
idealized or mythic ones, can be judged to be realistic or typified.
5 McDowell, p. 135.
6Forster has admitted that his characters readily fall into the
two categories of sheep and goat, but has bemoaned the fact that read-
ers could so readily categorize them. The goats who will be condemned
to the left side of God are, in Forster's conceptualized world, those
who deny passion and feeling and live by conventional response. The
sheep are of course the "good" characters--the redemptive, symbolic
characters and those they "save." The natural attributes of the two
animals that serve as symbols dividing mankind into types, however,
offer considerable complication to this kind of categorizing. In Fors-
ter, the "good" people, or sheep, have many attributes usually assigned
to goats--such as indiscriminateness and sexual activity--and vice-
versa. We simply will follow the Biblical distinction as Forster did--
The interesting--and really remarkable--development in Forster's fic-
tion is that in his final novel the distinctions blur enough that critics
no longer speak of unrealistic or incredible characterization for even
the most highly symbolic figures. In A Passage to India, especially in
Mrs. Moore, one of the novel's two "guardians" (of what is actually the
Dionysian spirit), we find such a fine amalgam of realism and symbolism
that critical complaints fade away. Perhaps like Blake, who found that
his contemporary audience did not fully comprehend his meaning in his
short poems and so devised a private mythology of his own to communicate
his ideas, Forster turned to a new method to communicate his dual view
more fully.7 He was running against the grain of his realism-attuned
times and his readers did not take his stories as accounts of "ulterior
truth" but as moral pointers for life here on earth, and they seemed to
resent his "didacticism." In A Passage to India, however, Forster has
had great success in meeting the cry of "incredible characterization"
without muddying ulterior truth.
The archetypal, symbolic characters of Passage are not simply tri-
umphs of symbolism. Sometimes Godbole borders on caricature, for exam-
ple, and at times Mrs. Moore's realism prevents our "soaring" with her
as Brown claims we soar with Mrs. Wilcox. In this novel Forster achieves
the most effective blend of realism and symbolism in all his fiction.
To assess the directions of his split, however, we must pull apart -this
amalgam and examine its constituents.
Not puzzling but perfectly clear is Forster's judgment of Anglo-
Indians. Their primary--and sometimes only--ingredient is the "undeve--
Blake was probably not successful in this aim, for he became, it
is generally agreed, more--not less--abstruse.
loped heart." Forster made a point of distinguishing between the un-
developed heart and the cold one--"the difference is important," he
said. I cannot agree with Thomson when he sees Forster's good and bad
characters as one-dimensional, and says that it is only in his nonfic-
tion that Forster severely modifies his version of a sheep-or-goat huma-
nity. Nor can I agree entirely with Trilling when he stresses the
"compromise" Forster makes when judging a character's morality. Rather,
both critics are right; each stresses one side of Forster's double view.
Forster exported to India the heavily disciplined and conventional
Sawston and London of Edwardian England. In his Anglo-Indians the goat
is so obvious that Forster has often been accused of being unfair to
British colonials. But.;Trilling is right; even in them we find extenu-
ating qualities. Ronny Heaslop, for instance, protege of the British
"ruling race," embodies all their inhibitions and prejudices, yet emerges
as an earnest if limited young man. With his red. nose and stiff upper
lip in time of adversity (as when Adela breaks her engagement to him),
Ronny does indeed seem a caricature of the minor British colonial offi-
cial. Accused by his mother of trying to pose as a god, as she claims
Englishmen in India like to do, Ronny breaks out, "rather pathetically":
"Oh, look here .. what do you and Adela want me to do? I'm not a
missionary or a Labour Member or a vague sentimental sympathetic literary
man. I'm just a servant of the Government;.it's the profession you
Forster, "Notes on the English Character," in Abinger Harvest,
p. 13. Forster's seeing the English heart as undeveloped is related to
his espousal of feeling and passion, which are Dionysian, "un-English"
qualities. "For it is not that the Englishman can't feel--it is that he
is afraid to feel. He has been taught at his public school that fee.ing
is bad form. He must not express great joy or sorrow ." (p. 13).
Thomson, p. 48; Trilling, p. 111. Says Trilling: "In A Roo.:.
wanted me to choose myself, and that's that. We're not pleasant in
India, and we don't intend to be pleasant. We've something more impor-
tant to do" (p. 50). This statement indicts Ronny as anti-humane, anti-
sympathy, anti-literature, serious charges in Forster's view. But even
Ronny, possibly of all the novel's characters the closest to a villain,
is not all goat. His pompousness is softened by his earnestness. Imme-
diately after allowing Ronny's own words to castigate him, Forster rushes
in to subtract from that judgment so that we see.his heart as undeveloped
rather than cold:
He spoke sincerely. Every day he worked hard in the
court trying to decide which of the two untrue accounts
was the less untrue, trying to dispense justice fear-
lessly, to protect the weak against the less weak, the
incoherent against the plausible, surrounded by lies and
flattery. That morning he had convicted a railway clerk
of overcharging the pilgrims for their tickets, and a
Pathan of attempted rape. He expected no gratitude, no
recognition for this, and both clerk and Pathan might ap-
peal, bribe their witnesses more effectually in the inter-
val, and get their sentences reversed. It was his duty.
Forster's support of Ronny rings rather half-heartedly, it is true. But
he does seem to defend the Briton in his frustrating position. Ronny is
only one of those realistic/satiric characterizations in whom Forster's
split is a split between scorn and compassion or tolerance, a perspec-
tive that sees each person as good-and-evil. Because Ronny's portrayal
with a View [Forster] compromises--as it is the novelist's right to com-
promise--between these two views [that the world is one of good and evil,
or one of good-and-evil]. Mr. Beebe is goat, Charlotte is a coat with
a sheep hidden somehow within her, she is good-and-evil. And this uncer-
tainty about moral judgment will haunt Forster's intellectual life; en
the whole, the view which sees life as good-and-evil will gain over the
other, but will never be completely in control (pp. 111-12). Trilling,
too, we see, acknowledges Forster's persistent double vision.
As an aside, please notice Ronny's surname, Heaslop. Is Forster
playing with "He's a slop"?