Study Guide

A Passage to India Power

By E.M. Forster

Power

Part 1, Chapter 2

The roads, named after victorious generals and intersecting at right angles, were symbolic of the net Great Britain had thrown over India. He felt caught in their meshes. (1.2.46)

The rigid angles marked out by the colonial roads stand in for the lines that the English draw to organize and manage their colony. Aziz feels the effects of the British Empire at a deep, psychological level, feeling personally trapped by colonial life.

Part 1, Chapter 3

A community that bows the knee to a Viceroy and believes that the divinity that hedges a king can be transplanted, must feel some reverence for any viceregal substitute. At Chandrapore the Turtons were little gods; soon they would retire to some suburban villa, and die exiled from glory. (1.3.36)

This passage casts an ironic eye toward the Turtons, who may lord their position in society over everyone in their particular province of India as if they were gods. And as Ronny Heaslop says, India likes its gods (see the first quote under "Justice and Judgment"). But when they return to England, their human ordinariness will return, and they will revert to run-of-the-mill retirees.

Part 1, Chapter 4

And there were circles even beyond these – people wore nothing but a loin-cloth, people who wore not even that, and spent their lives in knocking two sticks together before a scarlet doll – humanity grading and drifting beyond the educated vision, until no earthly vision can embrace it. (1.4.12)

This quote asks the reader to consider how it would be possible to create a society that respects the needs of even the very neediest of human beings, human beings whose lives are so meager that they don't register on the consciousness of a Turton or McBryde, or even more enlightened characters such as Adela and Fielding.

Part 1, Chapter 5
Mrs. Moore

One touch of regret – not the canny substitute but the t rue regret from the heart – would have made him a different man, and the British Empire a different institution.

"I'm going to argue, and indeed dictate," she said, clinking her rings. "The English are out here to be pleasant." (1.5.94)

The passage suggests that Ronny's attitude is representative of the British Empire's as a whole toward its "civilizing mission." By questioning Ronny, Mrs. Moore questions the whole notion of a civilizing mission here. Ronny's callous attitude toward Indians suggests that the civilizing mission is just an excuse to gain power, and no more.

Part 1, Chapter 6

[Major Callendar] never realized that the educated Indians visited one another constantly, and were weaving, however painfully, a new social fabric. (1.6.7)

Because they view Indians as essentially passive and unable to act, British administrators such as Major Callendar can't see that Indians are organizing for their independence. Ironically, these different religious groups are finally able to come together because they have a common enemy – the British Empire.

Part 1, Chapter 9

Hamidullah had called in on his way to a worrying committee of notables, nationalist in tendency, where Hindus, Moslems, two Sikhs, two Parsis, a Jain and a Native Christian tried to like one another more than came natural to them. As long as someone abused the English, all went well, but nothing constructive had been achieved, and if the English were to leave India, the committee would vanish also. (1.9.38)

This passage shows how difficult it was to bridge the numerous religious differences among the Indians, despite their having a common enemy in the British. As history bears out, some of these differences were insuperable: 1947 marked the year that India gained its independence at the same time that Pakistan was separated off as an independent Muslim state.

"No Indian gentleman approves chucking out as a proper thing. Here we differ from those other nations. We are so spiritual."

[…]

"I don't consider us spiritual. We can't co-ordinate, we can't co-ordinate, it only comes to that […]" (I.9.112)

The Indians have a debate as to why they aren't a nation. Ram Chand argues that it's because Indians hate "chucking out" anybody; they are by nature an inclusive people, and a nation necessarily excludes people when it draws its boundaries. Hamidullah believes it's because they can't get their act together.

Part 2, Chapter 20

The dread of having to call in the troops was vivid to [Turton]; soldiers put one thing straight, but leave a dozen others crooked, and they love to humiliate the civilian administration. (2.20.20)

Turton's dilemma shows how complicated the situation in India was as the military and the civil administration have different approaches to dealing with the colonial situation. The military views force as the necessary – and only – means of negotiating with Indians, while the civilian administration is obligated to maintain British civil institutions such as due process and civil rights.

Part 2, Chapter 24

A new spirit seemed abroad, a rearrangement, which no one in the stern little band of whites could explain. (2.24.24)

Aziz's trial is another occasion for Indians to band together, another stitch in the "social fabric" that Callendar refuses to believe exists in Quote #5. This "new spirit" signals a "rearrangement," a potential change in the colonial situation, as Indians grow more and more assertive. And we're not just talking the educated Indian class, such as Aziz and Hamidullah: everybody from the Sweepers who clean the toilets to the purdah women holding hunger strikes are involved.

Part 3, Chapter 34

This pose of "seeing India" which had seduced him to Miss Quested at Chandrapore was only a form of ruling India; no sympathy lay behind it […] (3.34.4)

At Mau, Aziz cynically considers Adela's tourism as just another form of surveillance, that is, of checking in on the "natives."