Symbols in A Passage to India


Forster is a distinguished novelist both of those in present day English and earth literature history. All his life, his most important achievements are six novels and two shorter story collections. His will work ignite criticisms of distinctive views, amongst which specific associations and the theme of separateness, of fences and limitations are the most important complications that the writer always focuses on. Following the author’s two visits to India, the great novel A Passage to India (1924) was manufactured, which continues his preceding design, i.e. probing the issue of private partnership in a much more complex condition, and my article aims at getting a comparatively deeper discussion about the crisis of human partnership in A Passage to India. Notably, it is a novel by E. M. Forster set from the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence motion in the 1920s. In a word, it is a novel of cultural, social, psychological, and religious conflict arising predominantly from clashes amongst India’s native inhabitants and British imperialist occupiers. Altogether there are selected parts in this article highlighting on the author’s philosophy, the imperialism, racialism and colonization in A Passage to India from the point of view of symbolism.

The Use of Symbolism in A Passage to India:

As considerably as the definition goes, frequently, the word ‘symbol’ stands for some thing else, esp. a product item representing some thing summary- Center English symbole, creed, from Outdated French, from Latin symbolum, ‘token, mark’, from Greek sumbolon, ‘token for identification’ (by comparison with a counterpart). From the viewpoint of literary & literary important terms, it indicates an item, particular person, plan, and so on., used in a literary get the job done, film, and so on., to stand for or recommend some thing else with which it is associated possibly explicitly or in some much more delicate way. E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India is painted with the colour of a wide selection of symbols. They include-

       one. The Marabar Caves

           a. The Reverberation of the Cave

           b. The Echo Representing a Hindu Resonance

       two. The Image of the Eco-friendly Bird

       3. The Wasp Symbol

       4. Social Gatherings: Functions, Picnics, and Celebrations

       5. Mosque, Cave, Temple, and Weather conditions

       six. Nothing as a Metaphor

       7. The Infinite Sky

       eight. The Pankhawallah Image

       nine. The Snake Imagery

     10. The Collision of the Boats

     11. Other Insignificant Pictures

one. The Marabar Caves:

The imaginary caves in A Passage to India are modelled by E. M. Forster on precise caves about twelve miles from the city of Gaya in the point out of Bihar. Even so, the precise caves are identified as the Barabar Caves, not the Marabar Caves (Forster’s fictional title for them). A Buddhist leader of the second century B.C, getting liberal of other religions, purchased staff to slash the caves from rock faces as holy spots for monks of the Ajivika religion. There are four Barabar caves. Their even inner partitions manage expanded echoes. 

Forster’s A Passage to India is powerful with the kind of symbolic language that we frequently link with poetry in spite of the deep political themes of the novel. Forster depicts the manifestation of a blaze (in one particular of the much more incredible passages) from the incredibly reflective shell of a Marabar cave:

“The two flames strategy and attempt to unite, but simply cannot, because one particular of them breathes air, the other stone. A mirror inlaid with pretty colors divides the fans, fragile stars of pink and gray interpose, beautiful nebulae, shadings fainter than the tail of a comet or the midday moon, all the evanescent life of the granite, only right here visible. (two.12.4)

The Marabar Caves stand for all that is unfamiliar about purely natural earth. The caves are more mature than anything at all else on the earth and represent emptiness and meaninglessness—a factual void in the earth. They disregard both of those English and Indians to act as guides to them, and their odd and wonderful attractiveness and hazard disturb visitors. The caves’ odd attribute also has the power to make visitors these kinds of as Mrs. Moore and Adela deal with parts of on their own or the cosmos that they have not previously identified. The all-cutting down boom of the caves will cause Mrs. Moore to see the darker aspect of her mysticism—a declining guarantee to the earth of associations and a increasing ambivalence about God. Adela faces the shame and humiliation of her understanding that she and Ronny are not in point attracted to just about every other, and that she may be attracted to no one particular. In this sense, the caves both of those devastate meaning, in cutting down all remarks to the very same seem, and expose or explain the unspeakable, the aspects of the universe that the caves’ readers have not calculated till now.

The  Reverberation of the Cave

No make a difference what the seem is, e.g., sneezes, whistles, shouts, sound and so on. return the equivalent echo in the very first of the Marabar Caves: boum, or a variation of it these kinds of as ou-boum. This echo reveals to ridicule the Hindu plan that the total universe, and anything in it, consists of a individual spirit, Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmin or Brahma). Even the human soul, identified as atman by Hindus, is section of this spirit. As a result, a whistle is a sneeze and a sneeze is a soul, considering that all are Brahman—that is, all are the very same essence. The echo frightens Mrs. Moore because she unclearly realizes that it symbolizes a power that decreases anything to equality—a dull, bare sameness. Even biblical terms that she experienced lived by develop into section of the Brahman and as a result reduce their meaning, as noted by the narrator in the very last paragraph of Chapter fourteen. Mrs. Moore thinks about the cave-incident and attempts to write a letter to her small children, Stella and Ralph. 

“[S]uddenly, at the edge of her thoughts, Faith appeared, lousy small talkative Christianity, and she realized that all its divine terms from “Permit there be Mild” to “It is concluded” only amounted to boum. Then she was terrified above an place greater than standard the universe, in no way comprehensible to her intellect, provided no repose to her soul . . . .”

Following that, her knowledge in the cave difficulties her, and she becomes negative-tempered and unhappy. Her life and anything she thinks in reduce their meaning like the biblical terms. India experienced charmed her when she arrived in the country but now it drives her back again. Its exciting thriller has turned into the “muddle” spoken of by other Britons.  No, she does not curse the country and its folks as Key Callendar and Mrs. Turton do. Nor does she get Adela’s aspect from Aziz in the days top up to the demo. But, she can no for a longer period tolerate India it is much too substantially for her. She decides to depart she does not even hold out to give proof for Aziz.

“Why ought to I be in the witness box?”

she later states to her son Ronny.

“I have practically nothing to do with your ludicrous regulation courts.”

The narrator then experiences Heaslop’s views:

“She was by no suggests the dear previous lady outsiders meant, and India experienced introduced her out in the open.” 

She is oppressed by the Asian warmth, her overall health declines and she dies on the ship and becomes section of the large barrenness of the Indian Ocean. 

Adela Quested is captivated with India like Mrs. Moore when she arrives in the country. But, she fears that its unrestrained selection will transform her into just a further pessimistic, upset Anglo-Indian if she marries Ronny Heaslop and becomes an inhabitant of India. On the other hand, she sees a glow of optimism in Indian history, primarily in the particular person of the Mogul emperor Akbar (1542-1605), who dominated from 1556 till his dying. He set up modifications (to unite the widespread folks) that centralized govt functions. Furthermore, while he himself was a Muslim, he inspired conversation amongst folks of all religions—Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, and so on—and even attempted to start out a new religion that united parts of other religions. 

Adela asks Aziz in Chapter fourteen about Akbar, “[W]asn’t Akbar’s new religion incredibly high-quality? It was to embrace the total of India.” Aziz answers by saying that Akbar was a great ruler and Akbar’s program of a individual Indian religion was incorrect.

“Nothing at all embraces the total of India, practically nothing, practically nothing, and that was Akbar’s slip-up.”

Adela then states,

“I hope you happen to be not proper. There will have to be some thing universal in this country—I do not say religion, for I am not religious, but some thing, or how else are limitations to be broken down.”

She finishes up saying that with out a unifying power she would discover it complex as an Anglo-Indian to “steer clear of getting to be like them [Mrs. Turton and Mrs. Callendar].”

Afterward, she enters one particular of the upper caves on your own and scratches a wall and hears the echo. She later states that Aziz assaults her it is at this issue. She struggles back again with her field eyeglasses, escapes the cave, races as a result of a field of cactuses that tear her skin and insert needles in it, and returns to Chandrapore with Pass up Derek. She is confused, in a point out of fright. She commonly hears the echo immediately after her recovery. But, she has no trace about its meaning as opposed to Mrs. Moore. When she asks the previous female what it suggests, Mrs. Moore replies,

“If you do not know, you do not know I are unable to convey to you.”

She fails to comprehend the seem and becomes like the other English men and gals who simply cannot comprehend Indians. She but commences to problem her possess insightfulness and commences to identify that she has wrongly blamed Aziz. But, Ronny and the other folks, who are working with her as an software to penalize the Indians, impact her that she was proper about Aziz.  On the other hand, she gathers the bravery at the demo to confess that she was incorrect and drops the rates. Then she leaves India much too. The leaving of Pass up Quested and Mrs. Moore predicts the historic British departure from India in 1947, which Forster may possibly have seen as unavoidable. 

The Echo Representing a Hindu Resonance

Undoubtedly, the most unforgettable determine of speech in A Passage to India is onomatopoeia: the boum echo in the caves. It calls to thoughts the om seem recited by Hindus and Buddhists. “Encyclopaedia Britannica” states about this seem, 

“The syllable Om is composed of the three seems a-u-m (in Sanskrit, the vowels a and u coalesce to develop into o), which represent a number of essential triads: the three worlds of earth, environment, and heaven the three key Hindu gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva and the three sacred Vedic scriptures, Rg, Yajur, and Sama. As a result, Om mystically embodies the essence of the entire universe. It is uttered at the beginning and end of Hindu prayers, chants, and meditation and is freely used in Buddhist and Jaina ritual also.”

Different critics have stated the three sections in various manners. Gertrude M. White thinks that the splitting up of the novel into Mosque, Caves and Temple match with thesis, antithesis and synthesis of the Hegelian dialectics. On the other hand, G. D. Allen refuses her disagreement saying that the three sections stand for the methods of get the job done of information and of like (as specified in Hindu philosophy) as properly as Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. As said by Wilbur L. Cross, Forster has tried to portray “the native as he seems to himself, as he seems to the British official and as he definitely is when his thoughts is uncovered, presenting a civilization which the West can disturb but will in no way acquire.” While R. A. Brower is of the check out that “the interaction amongst Britons and Indians, are much more frequently the possibility of understanding associations amongst say two folks.”

On the other hand, most of these explanations are 50 {469fbd2a1ee88191e096179cc3b18dcd2f090ab0264e51958993cd96293477f9}-finished and drop shorter to comprehend Forster’s essential objective. The point is that the three sections symbolize the three stages of man’s non secular expedition. Forster experienced promoted the partnership of the seen and the unseen in Howards Finish and he observes the dissimilar methods in which this affiliation can be ideal identified. The unnoticed has an impact on the social, non secular, and psychological lives of the folks and Forster seems for setting up the way in which this impact is preserved ideal.

two. The Image of the Eco-friendly Bird:

Both of those Adela and Ronny concur for the very first time (in Chapter VII) to end their engagement instantly, they see a environmentally friendly hen sitting in the tree over them. On the other hand, they are absolutely unable to establish the hen. Adela thinks that the hen represents the unidentifiable attribute of all of India: just when she thinks she can comprehend any attribute of India, that characteristic alters or vanishes. In this sense, the environmentally friendly hen represents the muddle of India. The hen, in a further capacity, indicates an unusual anxiety amongst the English and Indians. The English are preoccupied with information, literalness, and naming, and they use these products as a suggests of attaining and retaining supremacy. In contrast, the Indians are much more thoughtful about nuance, undertone, and the emotions behind terms. The Indians establish that tags can blind one particular to major points and differences while the English demand for cataloging stuffs. The unidentifiable environmentally friendly hen proposes the inappropriateness of the English mania with categorization and order with the shifting value of India alone in fact the land is a hundred Indias that disregard tagging and understanding.

3. The Wasp Symbol:

The wasp becomes visible a range of times in A Passage to India, frequently together with the Hindu plan of the oneness of all dwelling items. The wasp is frequently represented as the most affordable creature the Hindus integrate into their plan of popular unity. Mrs. Moore is intimately associated with the wasp, as she finds one particular in her room and becomes grateful of it. Her tranquil regard for the wasp reveals her possess candidness to the Hindu plan of collectivity, and to the mysticism and indescribable excellence of India all round. Even so, the wasp also symbolizes the limits of the Hindu vision as the wasp is the most affordable creature that the Hindus consider about. The vision is not a heal-all, but only a prospect for harmony and understanding in India.

4. Social Gatherings Functions, Picnics, and Celebrations:

A range of negative events appear in A Passage to India we witness events these kinds of as, the Turtons’ Bridge Bash, Fielding’s tea party, and Aziz’s picnic. All of these events develop into terribly unsuccessful. Generally, these disastrous events function as photos for the British Empire in the guide.

The novel offers that just about every of these events go in vain because of the British have to have for exclusion, for hierarchies, for societal constraints, and for location up an us-versus-them that eternally constructs an us as superior than them. Racial discrimination is an addition of this desire for segregation, and empire is also no exception to it, which is based mostly on the conventional that we are exceptional, much more educated, much more up to day, much more dominant than them. Aziz’s misfortune of a picnic is just a wonderful illustration of how vicious the British longing for segregation can be. Even so, this longing for segregation is not confined to the British single-handedly. The guide unlocks as Mohurram, a Muslim celebration, advancements. The Mohurram riots were related with manifestations in favor of Aziz for the period of the demo. However, prior to the demo, the Mohurram complications referred to the unavoidable twists amongst the Muslims and the Hindus about the procession way The Mohurram riots are an metaphor for the religious factionalism that continues to terrorize the South Asian subcontinent even today. Opposite to these unsuccessful social situations, enable us get a swift appear at the Gokul Ashtami fiesta, which is a celebration set up to fail. The function rejoices all beings, unique of not a soul and practically nothing, not even the smallest of insects or the silliest of jokes Godbole remembers Mrs. Moore (back again in Chandrapore) and a wasp he does not get in contact with some elevated command in his non secular trance.

5. Mosque, Cave, Temple, and Weather conditions:

E.M. Forster divided the novel not basically into chapters, but it is also divided into three parts entitled “Mosque,” “Cave,” and “Temple.” The parts are also purchased by the three seasons in India:

     a) “Mosque” takes position through the interesting climate,

     b) “Cave” through the hot climate, and

     c) “Temple” through the wet year.

These section divisions situate the tone for the events described in just about every section. The very first section of the novel, in “Mosque,” Aziz’s indication to the architecture of the mosque as that of “simply call and response” synchronizes with the widespread mood of this section of the novel, wherever folks are conference just about every other at distinctive societal functions. People are commonly tranquil and open like the chilly climate.

On the opposite, the climax of the novel is found in the “Cave” portion of the novel. Having position through the hot climate, emotions are irritated, and no person appears to be capable to consider quietly and logically. The total inhabitants of Chandrapore is turned incorrect way up as riots and dysfunction encircle the demo just as Mrs. Moore’s grip on life was in risk by her information of emptiness within the cave.

And lastly, the “Temple” section attempts to sweep absent the confusion of the “Cave” portion with its torrential rains. The chapter rejoices the Hindu belief of the oneness of all items with Godbole at the Gokul Ashtami celebration in relation to the Hindu motif of the temple, and provides us with a shaky understanding amongst Fielding and Aziz.

six. Nothing as a Metaphor:

Nothing at all in the novel is in point some thing in a twist that Godbole would undoubtedly be pleased about- it is a image practically nothing. The novel commences with the word “practically nothing” in its very first sentence. You may have noticed that the novel seems gripped with breaches and cracks. The novel is virtually prepared like a donut, with a massive gap wherever Adela’s knowledge in the cave ought to be. But, if you consider about it, even while practically nothing is penned about Adela’s understanding in the cave, it does not show that practically nothing happened or that practically nothing can be said. Essentially, it is possibly the most outstanding section of the guide precisely for the explanation that it is omitted. As the narrator feedback that the Marabar Caves are incredible. The extraordinariness of practically nothing is absolutely one particular of the stranger and undoubtedly forceful motifs in the novel.

7. The Infinite Sky as a Crucial Symbol:

The reappearance of the infinite sky over is not meaningless. The writer has intentionally finished so with a check out to presenting a deeper meaning as a result of it. It comes about in the successive chapters and its descriptions appear to be to be energetic characters to us. It goes with out saying that the sky is so limitless that it holds all items collectively and could be interpreted as a image of inclusiveness, but it also represents the large place of possibly British colonial command or the unimaginable hugeness of India alone, to a great extent.

eight. The Pankhawallah Image:

This unimportant lowborn labourer is the good news is awarded with power and attractiveness. He is not informed in any respect how considerably he suits into the society wherever he toils involuntarily for a meager amount so as to manage himself and virtually undoubtedly a loved ones. He does not identify the seriousness of the unexpected emergency that has disturbed the folks who experienced crowded encircling him in the courtroom room. This detachment of the modest labourer has struck a blow at the smaller-minded doing the job of her delirium-shrouded brain and provoked a kind of goodness of pondering in Adela. As a outcome, her viewpoint and vision turns out to be widened.

nine. The Snake Imagery

George H. Thomson wrote a scholarly article about the snake image widespread in A Passage to India the incredibly article appeared in “English Literature in Changeover, 1880-1920”. According to him, the novel pivots on the mighty contrast amongst two configurations: the wasteland earth of ‘Caves’ and the rain soaked jungle earth of ‘Temple’. The wasteland earth, at the centre of which is the Marabar Hills and caves, signifies the absence of God and indicates his nonexistence. The jungle earth, at the centre of which is Mau and its great religious pageant, signifies the presence of God. This theme of presence and absence of God, adumbrated in the novel by Godbole and mirrored in the key symbols, is strengthened by a selection of small symbols.

The significance of snakes and photos of snakes in the novel will illustrate Forster’s watchful deployment of these kinds of small symbols. But, in examining the snake imagery in relation to the presence and absence of God, it is essential to bear in mind that the enhancement of this theme is in a lot of respects, non-theological. The plan of presence and absence is generalized and finds expression in the top quality and mother nature of the truth-unreality encountered in the Indian universe.

In the vicinity of the close of the novel, Aziz and Fielding go for a journey in the Mau jungle. As they near the end of their journey, we go through:

“They splashed as a result of butterflies and frogs great trees with leaves like plates rose amongst the brushwood. The divisions of every day life were returning, the shrine experienced virtually shut” (p.321).

For Aziz and Fielding, who have arrive collectively in the closing gestures of the Mau pageant, the god has extended his temple even to the Mau jungle. This is essential in analyzing a element pointed out before in their journey:

“Presently, the floor opened into entire daylight and they saw a grassy slope shiny with butterflies, also a cobra, which crawled throughout doing practically nothing in individual, and disappeared amongst some custard apple trees” (p. 317).

This is the very first precise snake to appear in the novel. With two trivial exceptions, it is also the very first true snake to be pointed out in a novel properly-furnished with references to snakes, scorpions, serpents, and dragons. The exceptions are the snake said to have been slash in two by the kitchen boy and the really poisonous Russell’s Viper said to have been found in a classroom at Government College or university. The very first is a relaxed illustration of the superstitions of the uneducated Indian, the second is an illustration of the absence of order and fair likelihood in the earth of ‘Caves’. Aside from these, all the snakes, serpents, and monsters are nonexistent.

At the beginning of the story, Aziz—as an afterthought—mentions to Mrs. Moore the dangers of snakes from the Marabar. The context indicates that Aziz is improvising these snakes to suit his experience of the second (p. 21). As it turns out, nevertheless, the Marabar is a wealthy supply of snake photos if not of precise snakes.

As the expedition to the Marabar Hills will get under way, the country is “invisible apart from as a darkish motion in the darkness,” and in the sky “the stars of the sprawling Scorpion experienced started to pale” (p. 132). Later, perched on the elephant, Adela sees a snake a black cobra, clarifies Aziz. But, Ronny’s binoculars, the image of the inquiring intellect, reveal to Adela the twisted stump of a toddy-palm (p. 141). Inside of the cave,

“the placing of a match commences a small worm coiling… the cave is stuffed with a snake composed of smaller snakes, which writhe independently” (pp. 147-148).

Regardless of what is said in the cave, the remark is always the very same ‘ou-boum’, and the serpent descends and returns to the ceiling (pp. 149-one hundred fifty). Following Aziz has misplaced himself amongst the caves, he finds the position entire of grooves that direct “this way and that like snake-tracks” (p.154), and the expedition leaving the Marabar unwinds out of the corridor (p. 159).


10. The Collision of the Boats:

The occupants (Ralph, Stella, and Fielding) get soaked when the boats smash collectively close to the floating graphic of the Lord. This obtaining soaked has figurative worth that in spite of all endeavour, in spite of mosques, caves, temples, and the holy soil of the incredibly previous land of India, the various cultural units simply cannot be involved into a individual logical section.

11. Other Insignificant Pictures:

The moment, a anonymous beast or Being strikes the Nawab Bahadur’s auto. This indicates the immoral repression of the natives by the bureaucrats under the excuse of ruling them on the authority of regulation and honest dealing. This and other symbols blend the distinctive and opposing information of the story collectively to allow for them to gush into a roomy present-day of large human plea.


In the end, the novel will help us to see how the sparkles disclose the odd shades of colour refracted off the minerals in the stone to convey the frozen, tough stone to evanescent life. Forster’s creating design serves one particular of the familiar suggestions of the novel: artwork is a way of offering shape to the muddle, of helping us make sense of the earth all over us. The ideal will work of artwork use sort not to remove the muddle, but to keep it close, to direct the readers’ consideration for eternity absent from the undisturbed security of the familiar, to the unfamiliar and odd.

Works Cited:

Arnold, Edward. “A Passage to India”, Friday twenty June, 1924. kingdom/publications/1924/jun/twenty/classics

Forster, E.M. A Passage to India. New York: Alfred K. Knopf, 1942.

“Om”.  Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica On the internet.Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. World-wide-web. 11 Could. 2012 <>.

Thomson, H. George. “English Literature in Changeover, 1880-1920”, Volume nine, Selection two, 1966, pp. 108-one hundred ten | 10.1353/elt.2010.1389.

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