Study Guide

A Passage to India Writing Style

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Writing Style

Sophisticated, Poetic

Despite the heavy political themes of the novel, Forster's A Passage to India is dense with the kind of figurative language that we usually associate with poetry. In one of the more breathtaking passages, Forster describes the reflection of a flame against the highly reflective surface of a Marabar cave:

The two flames approach and strive to unite, but cannot, because one of them breathes air, the other stone. A mirror inlaid with lovely colours divides the lovers, delicate stars of pink and grey interpose, exquisite nebulae, shadings fainter than the tail of a comet or the midday moon, all the evanescent life of the granite, only here visible. (2.12.4)

Swoon. To bring the cold, hard granite to "evanescent life," the novel makes us see how the flames bring out the different shades of color refracted off the minerals in the stone. By describing the myriad inflections of color in granite, the narrator doesn't take away anything from granite. In fact, it does the complete opposite by making an ordinary material extraordinary. Forster's writing style serves one of the general themes of the novel: art is a way of giving form to the "muddle," of helping us make sense of the world around us. The best works of art use form not to exclude the muddle, but to embrace the muddle, to always direct the reader's attention beyond the comfortable safety of the familiar, to the unfamiliar and strange.

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