Study Guide

A Passage to India Friendship

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Before the Beatles traveled to India to tootle with Ravi Shankar, Forster had already been, loving up the subcontinent. Faced with the machinery of the British Empire and the daunting task of Indian nation-building, A Passage to India asks us to consider friendship as the solution to these incredibly complex political issues. ("All you need is love," anyone?) What makes the novel interesting, however, is its candor regarding all of the barriers the characters face in establishing their friendships, particularly with Aziz and Fielding, who are unable to bridge their cultural and political differences despite their affection for one another. Significantly, Aziz only considers Mrs. Moore and Professor Godbole as his true friends, one of whom is dead, and the other is, well, in his own mental universe, a galaxy far, far away from ordinary human interaction.

Questions About Friendship

  1. Take a look at the numerous relationships in the novel. Which would you characterize as true friendships? Why? Consider, for example, Aziz and Mrs. Moore, Aziz and Fielding, and Adela and Aziz.
  2. What are some of the factors preventing characters who clearly like each other from becoming great friends?
  3. Here's a hefty one: in what way can we see friendship as an alternative to imperialism or nationalism in the novel? Do you think Forster is just being way too idealistic, or do you think there's anything to the idea (expressed by Fielding) that good will plus culture and intelligence will built a better world?

Chew on This

Because of its idealization of friendships beyond reciprocity – such as that between Aziz and the absent Mrs. Moore – A Passage to India cannot represent the possibility of true friendships in this world, as exemplified in the fraught relationship between Aziz and Fielding.

In A Passage to India, friendships model the possibility of a mutually beneficial cultural exchange between Britain and India that does not entail the exploitative institution of empire.

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