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The Real In India Or The Real India? The One And The Other

The Letter, Issue 31, Summer 2004, Pages 24 - 42


Ros Woods

E.M. Forster's A Passage To India is often regarded as a social or political commentary on the British in India, but according to Forster himself, it is much more than that. It is '...the search of the human race for a more lasting home, about the universe as embodied in the Indian earth and the Indian sky, about the horror lurking in the Marabar Caves and the release symbolised by the birth of Krishna'.[1]

Mrs. Moore is an elderly English lady who travels to India with her young companion and prospective daughter-in-law, Adela Quested. They take a trip to the mysterious Marabar Caves, which are famous for their interior mirrored surface and strange echo. Both women will suffer from a 'fright', a traumatic experience following the visit. But it is Mrs. Moore who will suffer from an irreversible breakdown. It is shocking that she does so, primarily because Forster presents her to us as somebody to whom this should not have happened. It is through the drama of this crisis of the soul that he explores the interplay between idealised notions of 'truth', 'love', and 'God', on the one hand, and fantasy, illusion, and disillusion, on the other. The outcome for both ladies, following the 'fright' will be different. Mrs. Moore, much older, is looking back on her life, as she struggles to get a sense of what it was all about. Miss Quested, on the other hand is looking ahead, to her marriage to Mrs. Moore's son Ronny, and wonders in anticipation 'what it will all be about?'

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