A Passage to India

by E.M. Forster

I didn't like A Room with a View as much as I liked Howards End, and I didn't like Howards End as much as I liked A Passage to India. This only means that I agree with the order in which the Modern Library has ranked these three E.M. Forster novels. They're also, coincidentally, in the 'right' order chronologically, with A Passage to India the most 'modern' at 89 years old (at this writing). I've also found all Forster narratives—including this one—masterfully rooted in very strong senses of place.

No spoilers here because I want you to read it. But as an overview as to what you'll be facing when you get into the story... What is perfectly illustrated within the pages of A Passage to India is the after effect of what God wrought when he confounded the builders of the city of Babel. What THEY were left with was the proverbial "confusion of tongues." What WE are left with, in the modern era (Forster's or ours), is exponential confusion: not merely of language anymore but of culture. If you think you can't understand what a person from another country is saying, try understanding what it is that they mean, or where they're coming from, or what's important to them. More specifically to the cultures represented in A Passage to India: While breast-beating & wailing might look put on to some, rest assured that keeping a stiff upper lip & composure looks like just so much chicanery to others.

The only other thing I want to comment on is a delightful alternative interpretation within these pages of what we today would call sexism. When a male character disparages a female character in tones & words we would clearly label sexist, Forster presents us with a character who identifies the man's behavior as...are you ready for this?...snobbery. At the most basic level, it is simply one person proclaiming that he is better than another: That person is a snob! And our mistake might come in attributing that attitude to that fact that two different genders are involved...which brings us back to our discussion above of what happens when two different cultures are involved.

I'll shut up now because when you read A Passage to India, you will understand...after all...that all this only amounts to "boum."