Literature Review Example: Cultural Conflict Based on Forsters - A Passage to India

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George Washington University
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Literature review
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The book documents the never-ending conflict between the British and Indians. The former colonized the latter; therefore, their relationship by nature remains antagonistic. This state of affairs in the Indian colony is the primary subject of the book. Nonetheless, the book takes on a psychological stance in conveying the events as they unfold. At the same time, the author portrays a somewhat omniscient view of the main characters through communicating their inner feelings, an approach that might be confusing for the reader. Markedly, the main action takes place in the Indian cities of Mau and Chandrapore, with the central theme focusing on the conflict that existed between the British and Indians through the main characters in the novel.

The first chapter of the book kicks off by explaining the geographical topography of the Indian cities that lie next to the Ganges. The religious importance of the river is explained with the unholy activities continuing inland being hinted by the non-holy bath steps. Additionally, the role of the Ganges in cleaning the land of decomposing excrescence of dead men is a disturbing reality revealed. Nonetheless, the presence of the Englishmen in Chandrapore is announced by the hospital, civil offices, and a railway. Moreover, the right-angled corners around the residential places exemplify the European touch. This clear alienation from the Indian ways remains the main disparity and source of conflict.

The second chapter opens with the introduction of Dr. Aziz, Mehmood Ali, and Hamidullah. The doctor is visiting Hamidullah to attend to his servant. The conflicting feelings among the Indians about the Englishman's presence in their native land are evident in discussion between Ali and Hamidullah. Additionally, the aspect of cultural conformity is explained by Aziz when he mentions that collaborators to the Englishmen are not to blame as it appears to be a cultural disposition that is bound to occur in the long run. Nonetheless, he notes that the Mrs. Red nose of the community does exist just like conformists; therefore, a varied opinion about the settlement of the foreigners in the land remains a highly debatable matter. More importantly, they note that despite the presumed barbaric nature of the Englishmen, one fact remains true that Queen Victoria was an exceptional leader. The importance of these matters of politics has enabled the three friends to commune for dinner.

The heights of conflicts are marked by the implication of Dr. Aziz in a sexual assault. The complexity of the issue is built upon Ms. Adela turning down a proposal to Ronny Heaslop. Additionally, the relationship of the women to the Indians remains questionable throughout the plot. The resultant of this association is the reason that fans the conflict that seeks to destroy the name of Aziz by labeling him a sexual offender in a community that upholds morals highly. The implications of these allegations have severe consequences to Aziz, a doctor from the Indian community. Therefore, in the said accusation, Dr. Aziz assaults Ms. Adela while visiting the Marabar Caves in the company of Mrs. Moore. This indictment has serious implications also on the already delicate relationship between the Indians and Britons.

Weiner (120) notes that the continued conflict between the Indians and Europeans drags from the past into the modern ages. He notes that migration and increasing friction remains a related affair. He also notes that the British presence in the Indian coastal towns remains an issue that motivated the move of many Britons to the region in the nineteenth century. Although the book is based on the past, the reality of oppression is an issue that arises from the move to exploit resources and opportunities from the new land. In fact, the British used religion as a means to scout for new resources and opportunities from India. This motivation remains the reason for the conflict in the book; the Britons move to India in the pretense of governing the people and offering medical help but, in essence, the railway lines preempted their hidden intent.

The cultural implications of the Britons settling in India is a significant cause of conflict. Cultural deprivation ensues the invasion by the colonial power a situation that gives rise to the introduction of modernized values. These new ways of life in most cases go against the belief and cultural disposition of the people of the land. As Cohn (37) notes, the position of Britain at the moment as a superpower position meant the social and economic power to effect change in the colonies. This control involves depletion of the existing paradigms and frameworks in the form of social constructs within the community and replacing it with a sort of alternative cultures. This step would require the discrediting of the existing symbols of nationality such as exceptional community leaders by labeling them as failures or outcasts just as they did with Dr. Aziz.

The basis of colonialism was driven by the expansion of control to new foreign lands. During the Berlin conference, European powerhouses gifted themselves areas in Africa and Asia without the consent of the locals. Although the move shows disregard for the natives, the reality of the matter is that the white people considered themselves a better race compared to occupants in these regions. Therefore, once the Britons arrived at Chandrapore, they changed the layout of the city right to the sharp corners. The move appears out of disregard to the Indians, who have dwelt in the city since time immemorial. Nonetheless, steps such as introducing the railway line and hospitals end up confusing some locals such as Hamidullah into believing that the whites came to benefit the Indians (Cooper and Ann Laura 15).

Markedly, the instability in Europe after the First World War called for the nations to take a stance in claiming their superiority over their neighbors. The move would then call for the enforcement of new ideals upon the natives. Therefore, away from subjugation and exploitation, the move to impose new cultural beliefs on the people would have serious implications as it was a step further in oppressing the natives. Although liberalists view the moves as an improvement of the society, the loss of cultural value means a degradation of the traditional ways.

Pitting Adela to accuse Dr. Aziz is a plot that backfires when the accuser confesses to perjury and defamation. This confession changes the course of the case leading to the acquittal of the accused. Nonetheless, what remains evident is the rejection Adela faces upon confessing to framing the doctor; dismissal from the British community who set her up for the case in the first place. Although the evidence initially shows how each community supports their own, the post-court case reaction of the Britons exemplifies their poor view of the Indians.


Works Cited

Chambers, Iain, and Lidia Curti, eds. The Post-Colonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons. Psychology Press, 1996.

Cohn, Bernard S. Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. Princeton University Press, 1996.

Cooper, Frederick, and Ann Laura Stoler, eds. Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Univ of California Press, 1997.

Forster, Edward Morgan. A passage to India. Pearson Education India, 1984.

Weiner, Myron. Sons of the Soil: Migration and Ethnic Conflict in India. Princeton University Press, 2015.


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