Humanism in A Passage to India

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With Liberal Humanism the use of reason, compromise and rational discussion are the major virtues. It seeks to remove the economic disadvantages, believes that man’s individualism and self-interest lead up to general welfare of the community and bring about social justice, harmony and progress.

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The urge of bridging the differences between the East and West and exploring the barriers of race, of class, of age and gender seems to be E.M. Forster’s prime concern in “A Passage to India”.

The novel with its philosophical and religious dimensions is related to the general predicament of humanity. Thus, at the very beginning, Forster speaks about breakdown of communication between two cultural groups, between the rulers and ruled, between the imperialists and the natives. The ‘Bridge Party’ gives hint to Forester’s liberal humanism. Each of these sections of the novel serves as a significant symbol for the idea that Forester wishes to convey. Weather it is in the first part, “Mosque”, overtures of friendship is made. Or when the hot weather comes in the second part it precipitates the crisis and separation. In the third part, the coming of the monsoon falls at the same time as the birth of Sri Krishna, and at this juncture of the festival Fielding, Aziz, Mrs. Moore’s children, and professor Godbole appear to be close to each other in the warm shallow water of the rain and lake.

A Passage to India also shows that Forester had curiosity about music, people and places. It also points out that he had a free mind and a complete disregard for authority. He had ‘belief in human race’. Thus, his interest in human relationship establishes him as a liberal humanist.

Forester’s tone in the novel is clearly sympathetic towards human beings, irrespective of creed, color and class. Since it deals with humanistic values. As he reveals the devastating pugnacity of today’s evils, he therefore suggested a relaxation of will. This was the literary mission of Forester, if he at all had any mission, a mission at once humanitarian.

At the end of “A Passage of India”, we find alternation of friendship and hatred between Aziz and Fielding showing no sure sign of true friendship between them. The earth, the temples, the jails, the palace, the birds, in short everything around them told them “in their hundred voices’, that so long as there would remain hatred and animosity subdued and unconscious though, there would be no possibility of peace and true friendship between them. Everything around them, therefore, cried out: “No, not yet”.

Forster did not believe in God, but in man; again, he did not believe in machine; in man; and; further he did not believe in immortal soul, but in the ontological authenticity of conscious and independent being that is man. It is here the Pythagorean dictum of humanism ‘man is the measure of all things’ and Forster’s ‘belief in man’ hold parallel to each other. The novel is marked by gentle irony, skepticism, tolerance and the spirit of liberal humanism.

Sources:

  • Al-Quaderi and Sakiba Ferdousi, “Liberal Humanism and the Concept of Race in E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India”, Volume 1 No.2, January 2009 http://journal.library.du.ac.bd/index.php?journal=JS&page=article&op=viewFile&path[]=930&path[]=890
  • Medalie D. (2002) Liberal-Humanism. In: E. M. Forster’s Modernism. Palgrave Macmillan, London https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230504288_1
29 April 2022

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