A Passage to India
by E.M. Forster
A Passage to India Life, Consciousness, Existence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)
[Fielding] foresaw that besides being a tragedy, there would be a muddle; already he saw several tiresome little knots, and each time his eye returned to them, they were larger. Born in freedom, he was not afraid of the muddle, but he recognized its existence. (2.19.18)
After Aziz is arrested, Fielding realizes that the whole situation is a "muddle" in addition to being a "tragedy." The tragic part is that an innocent man (Aziz) is ruined. The muddle part? Well, in addition to the general panic and turmoil in Chandrapore, nothing redeeming is going to come out of the whole situation. And the novel bears him out. When Adela withdraws her charge, she isn't any happier, and nobody thinks of her as a heroine: she's just a girl who messed up a whole lot of lives. When Aziz is cleared, he doesn't experience any profound improvement in his circumstances. In fact, he ends up working for a lot less money in Mau. Fielding's comment alerts the reader to the fact that the novel isn't going to be coming out with any happy endings.
"[…] All perform a good action, when one is performed, and when an evil action is performed, all perform it [….] Good and evil are different, as their names imply. But, in my own humble opinion, they are both of them aspects of my Lord. He is present in the one, absent in the other, and the difference between presence and absence is great, as great as my feeble mind can grasp. Yet absence implies presence, absence is not non-existence, and we are therefore entitled to repeat, 'Come, come, come, come.'" (2.19.45, 50)
Godbole's ethical philosophy presented here sounds like a huge muddle. We normally think of good and evil as polar opposites; how could they both be "aspects" of God? How can presence and absence, another set of opposites, be different and the same at the same time? When Godbole says that "absence is not non-existence," he's not totally off his rocker. For example, just because your classmate is absent from class does not mean that he doesn't exist. He's just not existing in a place where you can see him. What Godbole is offering here is a way of looking at the world that includes, rather than excludes, the muddle, a way of looking at the world that doesn't deny that the muddle exists, but embraces the muddle as a necessary part of life.
But in the twilight of the double vision, a spiritual muddledom is set up for which no high-sounding words can be found […] What had spoken to her in that scoured-out cavity of granite? What dwelt in the first of the caves? Something very old and very small. Before time, it was before space also. Something snub-nosed, incapable of generosity – the undying worm itself […] The unspeakable attempt presented itself to her as love: in a cave, in a church – Boum, it amounts to the same. Visions are supposed to entail profundity, but – Wait till you get one, dear reader! (2.23. 2-3)
The consequences of Mrs. Moore's sonic confusion in Quote #3 are spelled out in more detail in this passage. The novel directly addresses the reader here for the only time in the novel – it seems to drive home the point that sometimes, profound insights don't offer a higher sense of purpose or meaning in life. It could just be a glance into the deep abyss of meaninglessness. Thus the "unspeakable attempt" – Adela's alleged rape – is confused with love, and caves may as well be churches – everything's the same because everything is nothing, meaningless, senseless.