In a land that seems nothing extraordinary, nothing spectacular, nothing drawing the eye with any particular remembrance, E. M. Forster sets the stage for the inhabitants in A Passage to India in an unexpected yet rather brilliant way. In a land where not even one of their most highly notable attractions is given much heed, the Marabar Caves represents something much more profound than the natives gives it credit for. With the expansive all powerful clear sky above, whom the people have a great reverence and trust for, down below on their level is all disorder and confusion due to a chamber in the earth that holds multitudinous sections of caves which the inhabitants have never given much contemplation. The Marabar Caves is a metaphor for the way of thinking the people in this story portray, thus creating confusion and disaster. In this story, the murky waters which the inhabitants tread, whether from ignorance or malice, is what causes the muddle, more specifically, the separation of two great peoples, the ways in which human nature creates the muddle, and the openness to understand one another in order to step out of the murky water and into clarity.
In A Passage to India, there is a considerable separation of two peoples; a great divide. Whether this separation is caused through ignorance or malice, it is quite clear that it exists and causes great upheaval and barriers between the two peoples. The barriers which keep these two peoples apart are in the form of race, different cultures, nationality, religion and gender. Although there is a clear separation, one of the peoples would choose to believe that they are bringing togetherness and ultimate happiness for all. When the British first moved into Indian land, Mr. Arockiam said that “Their original intention was not conquest but commerce. They took land from farmers and forced them to grow things which had high commercial value in England and levied heavy taxes on them… They glorified their culture by re-writing Indian history. These were some of the adverse effects of British trade” (Arockiam). Whether the British truly believed they were doing good for all or just themselves, they clearly created an estrangement between all of them and the Indian culture. Forster said that “experiences, not character divided them” (Forster 91). Essentially, they are all human and alike, except that it is also human nature to muck up the water and make situations more complicated than they need to be, thus creating the human muddle.
What once, or could have been a serene and tranquil pool of glassy water, has turned into a muddle by humans who track in ill-conceived prejudices and misunderstandings, thus mucking up the water and transforming the once mirror like pool, into a muddy wasteland where the truth is covered up and where it is difficult to see or understand anything. The barriers that divide these two peoples is what also causes the great prejudices and misunderstandings to emerge. These prejudices and misunderstandings were abundantly clear as we saw the treatment towards the Indians by the English who claimed that “England holds India for her good” (Forster 121). What good was it to pose as gods to the natives and have them grovel? Aziz said that “guests must do as they wish, or they become prisoners” (Forster 173). Technically, the English were the guests and did what they wanted, but the Indians became the prisoners never free of judgment or persecution. Ronny said that “no one who’s here matters; those who matter don’t come” (Forster 39). That is interesting considering they are the ones who came to Indian land in the first place. We see and feel the prejudices as Aziz is sent to jail for a crime he did not commit just based on the confused words of an Englishwomen. It seemed that no one cared if he was innocent because he was an Indian, and you can’t favor the words of an Indian over and Englishman. Misunderstandings are abounding as people from a whole other world come to a land they can’t understand and try to fit what they see into their own understandings, which causes fault and disarray. We see this when Adela comes and questions everything from what she’s heard and her limited experiences. She asks questions that were insulting to Indian culture and didn’t even realize it. She caused chaos in an already unbalanced society without thinking it through. In the beginning of the story Adela said that “I want to see the real India” (Forster 22), however, once she got it, it was too much for her to conceive, thus she makes huge mistakes that causes great harm. The ability to open one’s mind to all the possibilities, can bring about a time of understanding and peace.
Openness and realizing that one is not the center of the universe, is what causes clarity to abound and clean up the muddle that has been present for too long. “Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talk that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in hope of justifying their own existence” (Forster 146). This is describing the main reason a muddle forms, and why a person must be open to new and different notions in order for true clarity. Two characters in this story had the privilege of seeing truth for what it was, therefore being able not be stuck in the muddle. Mrs. Moore and Mr. Fielding were able to get passed the muck in the water, the muck telling them that they are better than anyone who’s different to them, and they were able to step into clear waters and shed a decent example for the rest. Mrs. Moore was able to see the real India just by giving up her preconceived notions and by just relaxing. While Adela was searching for the true India, she did not see the forest for the trees, for India was all around her, if she opened her eyes and mind. Mrs. Moore got to experience India because she gave respect to a culture that was not her own, even when she herself was terrified by her experience in the Marabar Caves. She was plunged into the muddle and scared but she climbed out alive. Mrs. Moore was privileged to have a mind that saw truth, for even she said early on in the story that “Because India is part of the earth. And God has put us on the earth in order to be pleasant to each other. God… is… love” (Forster 53). Fielding was another such privileged person to see and understand the world as it is, yes there are differences between people, but it doesn’t have to separate them. Mr. Fielding said that “I believe in teaching people to be individuals, and to understand other individuals. It’s the only thing I do believe in” (Forster 131). He also said that “The harmony between the works of man and the earth that upholds them, the civilization that has escaped the muddle, the spirit in the reasonable form with flesh and blood subsiding” (Forster). Mr. Fielding was an exceptional man who recognized the muddle for what it was, but also realized that it is not a determining factor for separation. The muddle only makes one think that the world is separated by different cultures and race. Within the muddle, one can only see the trees and not the entirety of the forest. With clarity through understanding, one sees the truth, that separation is just an illusion and that everything is connected.
In the story, A Passage to India, Forster shows the truth of the muddle, more specifically the illusion of separation the muddle can bring, the ways in which human nature creates the muddle through tracking in their boots covered in muddy prejudices and misunderstandings, and how one can escape the muddle through understanding and be able to see the world clearly for what it is. In a land where people are looking in all the dark caves for the true India, or some kind of answer of fulfillment, one just needs to look up into the sky for clarity, for the simple answer that we are all connected, even though we don’t act like it. The truth is, that we are all trees. Granted, not all trees are the same; trees may be shorter, have different color leaves, some may produce fruit or homes to animals, but that doesn’t change the fact that you need all of those different trees to make up the forest. People make the muddle that makes it difficult to see, but once the fog lifts and the world becomes unmystified, one will see that we are all connected
Arockiam, M. “Indian English–a progressive propeller.” Language In India, Oct. 2013, p. 76+.
Literature Resource Center, go.galegroup.com.proxy144.nclive.org/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=nclive&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA349722203&asid=e17a3a32a25d0df91b747c110df786be. Accessed 14 Apr. 2017.
Forster, E. M. A Passage to India. Harcourt, Inc. New York. 1984. Print.