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Themes

A Passage to India turns again and again to India as a country so vast, so diverse, and so exotic that it cannot be fathomed by the puny human mind. India is contrasted with England, which is presented as a small, charming island that doesn't overwhelm you with its neat valleys and lakes. England is homey and familiar; India is uncanny and strange. England is modern, progressive, civilized; India is both primitive and infinitely more civilized, bearing the ruins of numerous ancient and modern civilizations. In the novel, even the Indian characters have trouble grasping what India is all about. The mysterious Marabar Caves stand in for India as a whole: an entity that is certainly extraordinary but about which not much can be said. The novel itself seems torn between championing India's rich history and disparaging its muddled diversity.

Questions About Contrasting Regions

  1. How is India as a country represented in the novel? What are some of the characteristics of its geography, its landscape, and its cities?
  2. How are English characters affected by their experience of India? What does India do to their state of mind, their emotions, the way they look at the world?
  3. How is India depicted as foreign, exotic, and different from England?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

A Passage to India attempts to encompass the vast cultural and geographical diversity of India at the same time that it constantly reminds the reader of the futility of such a project.

Forster's novel consistently represents India as so alien that it is virtually unrepresentable to the "Western" mind.

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