Human Relationship in E.M. Forster's "A Passage to India"

A Passage to India is indeed a great work which has encompassed several significant topics that had some bearing upon the society during the British rule in India. But Forster’s greatest contribution lies in the fact that in this novel he has raised the problem of human relationship and has discussed the pros and cons of the same at great length. The major fault or lacuna of the British Empire was that the polished and highly tutored dignitaries who were empowered by the British imperialist Government to rule over the Indians failed to realize the value of human relationship. But Forester has again and again sought to pinpoint this axiomatic truth that of a need a solid human- relationship, the most essential need at the time of British-India. Forster wholeheartedly believed in the value of personal relation, ‘the holiness of the heart’s affection'. But he did not at all subscribe to the view upheld by Fielding that “the world is a globe of man who are trying to reach one another and can best do so with the help of goodwill pies culture and intelligence.” He had an altogether different idea about the personal relationship. According to him, all arduous attempts at building up personal relationship, during the British rule, were failed by the lack of true understanding and fellow-felling. The ambit of relations struck in  narrowness of the heart.                                                                                                                                               

Forster regarded this as a great problem which shook the very foundation of Anglo-Indian relationship. The English people suffered from a sense of superiority and they believed that the negative Indians could not be brought into the level of friendship and equal treatment. They could not be at par with the British people. This sense of vanity and the consequent lack of understanding created a permanent rife between the Indians and the English people. No amount of culture or intelligence or good gesture could bridge this yawning gap. Forster did tenaciously cling to the view that a healthy human relationship did not prevail opting to its peculiar tendency to crumble down and collapse. In the incipient section of the novel, Forster has very clearly shown the possibility of the formation of a personal relationship. Mrs. Moore and Aziz establish a ‘secret understanding of the heart’ in the solitude of the Mosque. Both of them escape from the trouble-tossed Chandra pore and take refuge in the quite atmosphere of the Mosque. Having been treated most contemptuously by the British authorities, Aziz has come to the Mosque after “shaking the dust of Anglo-India off his feet.” Mrs. Moore has also been terribly bored by the monotony of the club life and she has come to the Mosque which is completely immune from the toil and turmoil, fever and fret of Chandra pore. His purpose is to seek some panacea for her mind. Unlike her other counterparts in the novel ,Mrs. Moore is a lady of cultured mind and board heart. She has warmth of sympathy for the Indians. Aziz has very justly eulogized Mrs. Moore by saying that she is almost oriental in her attitude of sympathy towards the Indians. She gives a patient hearing to Aziz’s complaints against the autocracy of the British Government.

Similarly, Fielding and Aziz are also found to dispel the gloom of racial disparity. They are actuated by mental fellow feeling, goodwill and spontaneity of heart. Fielding has a genial personality and he possesses tolerance and a liberal attitude. Aziz in perfect affinity with Fielding is highly sensitive and impulsive by nature. Of course, they have had a lot of minor differences on many matters of common interest. But all these manor and insignificant differences are dissolved by their reciprocal understanding and friendship:

    “Fielding saw that something had gone wrong and equally that it had come right, but he didn’t fidget, being an optimist where personal relation were concerned and their talk rattled on as before.”
 Although a friendship between Aziz and Fielding is found to in the budding stage, the temperamental differences became a greater barrier. This possibility of a friendship and mutual understanding was totally marred by individual attitudes and values. Aziz is over-sensitive and highly imagina5tive while fielding is national and extremely logical. He never yields to any emotional fervor. Aziz is all the time found to be loosed away by imagination. He can extend the warmth of friendship which Fielding cannot accept. Thus, in a hearty company, they are found to ill-accord each other. In a pensive, emotionally charged and reminiscent mood, Aziz shows Fielding the photograph of his deceased if. But Fielding’s response is too cold to generate reciprocity between them.Misunderstanding crops up and they submit themselves to alienation. The balance is disturbed and the bond is broken. Fielding recoils to the British side and Aziz is seen to establish identification with the Indian nationalism.
Forster has explicitly shown in this novel that the human relationship is likely to collapse if the intrinsic quality of imagination, feeling and understanding is absent. His relationship should not have an ephemeral effect. It must be lasting and permanent. The conversation between Fielding and Adela sufficiently reveals the fact that limitation in respect of imagination, emotional still and logical or rational attitude in all matters produces a crippling effect on the heart:

Thus it becomes impossible to build a permanent, lasting and warm human relationship by overcoming the racial disparities and transcending the bounds of national sentiment. T he rationality and the lack of understanding germinate a narrowness of the heart and myopia. Forster has given ample illustrations of this in the novel:
 “ A Friendliness as of dwarfs shaking hands, was in the air.  Both man and woman were at the height of their powers-sensible, honest, even subtle. They spoke the same language and held the same opinions, and the variety of age and sex did nit divide them. ‘I want to go on living a bit,’ or ‘I don’t believe in God’, the words were followed by a curious backwash as though the Universe had displaced itself to fill up a tiny void or as though they had seen their own gestures from an immense height-dwarfs talking, shaking hands and assuring each other that they stood on the same footing of insight.”

Ref: 1. Movements in English Literature- C. Gillie      
     2. A Survey of English Literature-O Elton