Term Paper: History Through Fiction India

Pages: 6 (1828 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Topic: History - Asian  ·  Buy for $19.77

¶ … British occupation of India was the showcase of modern imperialism and the conflicts that result when two such cultures clash. In E.M. Foster's insightful novel "A Passage to India," we can develop a much better holistic picture of how Muslims and Indians lived under British rule. The book begins and ends with a simple question, can the English and Indian races become friends despite the dominant relationship between the two. The answer he provides is "no, not yet," a prophetic look at the history of the Indian-British conflict and eventual revolution. The problem inherent within relationships involving colonialism is the development of a "master-servant" complex. The British by their cultural standards are far superior and civilized compared to the Indians. As a result, the development of imperialism within the country also created a sense of fealty on the part of Indians. It is this complex that ultimately creates the hyperbole within Muslims and Indians under British occupation. In analyzing "A Passage to India," we begin to have a better understanding of the context of British occupation, not as a complete evil or destructive force, but an event that creates extremes within the Indian population. Muslims and Indians lived a life of servitude under British colonial rule, in which they either chose to be extremist loyalists or revolutionaries.

For those who feel themselves enslaved by British rule, the constant desire to be treated as equals fans the flames of revolution. This is especially true in analyzing the character of Aziz. Aziz presents an interesting character within "A Passage to India"; he is a culturally aware and intelligent individual who has not been completely demoralized by British occupation. However, he has grown weary of the inequality in status between the British and Indians. Although he apparently accepts and understands that such a barrier exists, he chaffs at the edges of this dilemma. Aziz is obviously scornful of the English, choosing to either look upon them comically or ignore them outright. However in his interactions with Ms. Moore, he shows a renewed interest in the English when he is treated with kindness and equality. It is evident that for Aziz, the complex of master-servant is at the root of his distain for the British. However, he wishes desperately to be accepted by them at the same time. For Muslims and Indians who felt the pressure of subjugation during British occupation, the feelings towards revolution started much as Aziz's began. Resentment towards British colonialism was very strong within this era, and has been evidenced by several factors. First, Muslims and Indians began revolutionary activity well before the formation of the Indian National Congress and Gandhi. Underground and unilateral efforts to revolutionize against the British failed up to that point largely because they lacked united effort. For Aziz, the need for revolution was but a seed until later into the novel where he "sees proof of their wickedness." Indeed, throughout the early stages of the book, Aziz presents himself as the positive model present of a liberal humanism. He believes that British rule of India, could be a possible outcome of life as long as the English and Indians treated each other as equals and worthy individuals who can connect to each other. It is through the trial and the eventual controversies that it wrought which turned Aziz away from such feelings.

The truth of colonialism within this era is that it forced individuals to chose sides, whether with the English, or with the natives. The reason that there is such a polarization is that the British never treats colonials as equals because of their belief in their cultural and military infallibility. As a result, Muslims and Indians were consistently subjected to a strong inferiority complex. This is ultimately what leads some, such as Aziz, to a state of complete disgust and denial of the government. Aziz ultimately moves far away from the city life of India to become the personal doctor of a Raja. In his actions he forsakes the British, but even more so, he forsakes his friendship with Fielding and the rest of the occupied Indians. The complex that most Indians developed under British rule was not only disassociation from the British, but also disassociation from British Loyalists. The conflict within Indians living under imperialism was not only an external one, but a consistent internal struggle against self and identity as well. It is the combination of both these factors that fosters the problems associated with colonialism.

For another part of those under British rule a feeling of strong loyalist develops. The concept of loyalist can be defined as complete loyalty to the English government and system of imperialism. For these individuals, represented in the novel as Fielding, the occupation of the English is not an attempt at enslavement, but a cultural experiment that seeks to bridge the connection between the English and the Indians. The development of loyalist among the native population is a particular product of British imperialism; they oftentimes depend on the development of such a complex to maintain order and governance within their colonies. In order to foster loyalist, the British educates both Indians and Muslims under British cultural doctrine and through their own educational system. As a result, these individuals are brought up to believe in the superiority of British culture and government over their own. In effect creating a "we're better off now" complex that strongly instills a sense of British pride within them. Fielding represents the epitome of this belief, because even though he is consistently slandered by the British and sees the evils that they perpetuate through the master-servant complex. He chooses to either ignore these signs or see them as aberrations to the reality of how India actually is. His loyalist complex can be seen in several of his actions. First, he befriends Ms. Moore and Adela and invites them to tea. His surprise at the genuine friendship of these two women and his eagerness to befriend them reveals a deep yearning for acceptance by the British colonials. Second, his respect for Adela following her trial was indicative of his belief in the best in the British. Fielding, much like most loyalists are extremely forgiving of the British. They develop within them a belief that the ills perpetuated by the British are tolerable ills when compared to the civility and benefits of British occupation. Thus even though Adela almost caused the death of one of his friend, Aziz, he still chooses to admire and befriend her. This action in itself signifies the loyalist mentality, the desire to always trust in British action and the view their positives on a pedestal while attempting to ignore or explain away their ills. Finally, Fielding commits the ultimate act of loyalist by taking a British wife. In his actions, Aziz judges him to be a complete traitor. For Fielding this represents the epochs of achievement because he has completely submerged himself as a European. The ability to become a member of the British class through marriage shows something about his particular station in life.

The loyalist mentality was especially strong in the historical context of British rule among Muslims and Indians. Throughout the early 20th century, the Indian empire was primarily ruled by a small class of British citizens and the majority was Indian governors. However, these Indian magistrates went through the British school system, many of them raised in primarily British areas or in England itself. As a result, the subjugation of the population occurred not through the dichotomy of British vs. Indians, but an internal struggle. In analyzing the British strategy for colonialism, this is one of the principle devices used to stave off revolution and rebellion. Precisely because the front of governance rests within the native population, internal conflict rather than external conflict is the focus within India in the early 20th century. The conflict between loyalists and revolutionists ensured that the country as a whole was split as to which path to pursue. The inevitable result is inaction.

The clash of loyalist and revolutionists results in the inevitable tensions over British colonialism. This is evidenced in the climax of "A Passage to India" when Adela accuses Aziz of attempting to rape her. For Aziz, the consummate revolutionary, the action of rejecting Adela is an external representation of his inability to accept British cultural indoctrination. Even though he fosters hope in the earlier parts of the book in accepting the British especially if they treat him as an equal. In his rejection, he reveals himself to be a purist. The trial becomes the battle ground between imperialism and revolution. Those who support Aziz lends themselves to a feeling of strong commitment to their native country, while at the same time the English community sees this as a strong indication of the "wild" nature of colonials. The respective Indian and English communities delineate where individuals stand with Indians on both sides of the conflict. In particular is the conflict between Fielding and Aziz,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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