By John Beer (eds.)
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Extra info for A Passage to India: Essays in Interpretation
Where criticism has not applauded the novel's humanist political perceptions, it has scorned its equivocations and limitations; it should now address itself to the counter-discourse generated by the text, which in its global perspective refuses the received representation of the relationship between the metropolitan culture and its peripheries, and interrogates the premises, purposes and goals of a civilisation dedicated to world hegemony. II The symmetrical design and integrative symbolism of A Passage to India confirm Forster's wish to make a coherent statement about human realities through art - for him the one internally harmonious, material entity in the universe, creating order from the chaos of a permanently disarranged planet2 - while the deeper structure to the novel holds open-ended, paradoxical and multivalent meanings, discharging ideas and images which cannot be contained within the confines of the formal pattern.
Because of this, there is a vacuum at the core of the political fiction. Forster, always a cultural relativist, was amused at the rhetoric of a 'high imperial vision' and came to applaud the colonial people kicking against imperialist hegemony, 3 but just as liberalism was unable to produce a fundamental critique of Western colonialism, so is a consciousness of imperialism's historical dimensions absent from A Passage to India. Imperialism inflicted a catastrophic dislocation on the worlds it conquered and colonised, generated new forms of tension within the metropolitan countries and brought the West into a condition of permanent antagonism with other civilisations; yet about this very epitome of contemporary conflict the novel is evasive.
If one had spoken vileness in that place, or quoted lofty poetry, the comment would have been the same 'ou-boum'. If one had spoken with the tongues of angels and pleaded for all the unhappiness and misunderstanding in the world, past, present, and to come, for all the misery men must undergo whatever their opinion and position, and however much they dodge or bluff- it would amount to the same, the serpent would descend and return to the ceiling. (pp. 160-1) How can we explain or understand these 'echoes'?
A Passage to India: Essays in Interpretation by John Beer (eds.)