Symbols in A Passage to India


Forster is a distinguished novelist each in fashionable English and world literature historical past. All his life, his fundamental achievements are six novels and two brief story collections. His works ignite criticisms of various views, amongst which particular person relationships and the theme of separateness, of fences and obstacles are the primary issues that the writer all the time focuses on. After the writer’s two visits to India, the nice novel A Passage to India (1924) was produced, which continues his earlier fashion, i.e. probing the issue of non-public relationship in a extra sophisticated state of affairs, and my article goals at having a relatively deeper dialogue in regards to the disaster of human relationship in A Passage to India. Notably, it’s a novel by E. M. Forster set in opposition to the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence motion within the 1920s. In a phrase, it’s a novel of cultural, social, psychological, and non secular battle arising primarily from clashes between India’s native inhabitants and British imperialist occupiers. Altogether there are specific elements on this article highlighting on the writer’s philosophy, the imperialism, racialism and colonization in A Passage to India from the angle of symbolism.

The Use of Symbolism in A Passage to India:

So far as the definition goes, typically, the phrase ‘image’ stands for one thing else, esp. a fabric object representing one thing abstract- Center English symbole, creed, from Outdated French, from Latin symbolum, ‘token, mark’, from Greek sumbolon, ‘token for identification’ (by comparability with a counterpart). From the perspective of literary & literary important phrases, it signifies an object, particular person, concept, and so on., utilized in a literary work, movie, and so on., to face for or counsel one thing else with which it’s related both explicitly or in some extra refined method. E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India is painted with the color of a variety of symbols. They include-

       1. The Marabar Caves

           a. The Reverberation of the Cave

           b. The Echo Representing a Hindu Resonance

       2. The Picture of the Inexperienced Hen

       three. The Wasp Image

       four. Social Occasions: Events, Picnics, and Celebrations

       5. Mosque, Cave, Temple, and Climate

       6. Nothing as a Metaphor

       7. The Infinite Sky

       eight. The Pankhawallah Picture

       9. The Snake Imagery

     10. The Collision of the Boats

     11. Different Insignificant Photographs

1. 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 town of Gaya within the state of Bihar. However, the precise caves are generally known as the Barabar Caves, not the Marabar Caves (Forster’s fictional title for them). A Buddhist chief of the second century B.C, being liberal of different religions, ordered staff to chop the caves from rock faces as holy locations for monks of the Ajivika faith. There are 4 Barabar caves. Their even internal partitions preserve expanded echoes. 

Forster’s A Passage to India is intense with the kind of symbolic language that we typically join with poetry despite the deep political themes of the novel. Forster depicts the manifestation of a blaze (in one of many extra wonderful passages) in opposition to the extraordinarily reflective shell of a Marabar cave:

“The 2 flames strategy and attempt to unite, however can’t, as a result of considered one of them breathes air, the opposite stone. A mirror inlaid with pretty colors divides the lovers, delicate stars of pink and gray interpose, beautiful nebulae, shadings fainter than the tail of a comet or the noon moon, all of the evanescent lifetime of the granite, solely right here seen. (2.12.four)

The Marabar Caves stand for all that’s unfamiliar about pure world. The caves are older than the rest on the earth and characterize vacancy and meaninglessness—a factual void within the earth. They disregard each English and Indians to behave as guides to them, and their strange attractiveness and hazard disturb vacationers. The caves’ unusual function additionally has the facility to make vacationers reminiscent of Mrs. Moore and Adela face elements of themselves or the cosmos that they haven’t previously acknowledged. The all-reducing growth of the caves causes Mrs. Moore to see the darker aspect of her mysticism—a declining promise to the world of relationships and a rising ambivalence about God. Adela faces the shame and humiliation of her understanding that she and Ronny are usually not actually attracted to one another, and that she may be drawn to nobody. On this sense, the caves each devastate which means, in lowering all remarks to the identical sound, and expose or describe the unspeakable, the facets of the universe that the caves’ guests haven’t measured till now.

The  Reverberation of the Cave

It doesn’t matter what the sound is, e.g., sneezes, whistles, shouts, noise and so on. return the equal echo within the first of the Marabar Caves: boum, or a variation of it reminiscent of ou-boum. This echo exhibits to ridicule the Hindu concept that the entire universe, and the whole lot in it, consists of a specific spirit, Brahman (to not be confused with Brahmin or Brahma). Even the human soul, referred to as atman by Hindus, is a part of this spirit. Subsequently, a whistle is a sneeze and a sneeze is a soul, since all are Brahman—that’s, all are the identical essence. The echo frightens Mrs. Moore as a result of she unclearly realizes that it symbolizes an influence that decreases the whole lot to equality—a uninteresting, naked sameness. Even biblical phrases that she had lived by develop into a part of the Brahman and thus lose their which means, as reported by the narrator within the final paragraph of Chapter 14. Mrs. Moore thinks in regards to the cave-incident and tries to put in writing a letter to her youngsters, Stella and Ralph. 

“[S]uddenly, on the fringe of her thoughts, Faith appeared, poor little talkative Christianity, and he or she knew that every one its divine phrases from “Let there be Gentle” to “It’s completed” solely amounted to boum. Then she was terrified over an space bigger than regular; the universe, by no means understandable to her mind, supplied no repose to her soul . . . .”

After that, her expertise within the cave troubles her, and he or she turns into bad-tempered and unhappy. Her life and the whole lot she believes in lose their which means just like the biblical phrases. India had charmed her when she arrived within the nation however now it drives her again. Its attention-grabbing thriller has was the “muddle” spoken of by different Britons.  No, she doesn’t curse the nation and its folks as Main Callendar and Mrs. Turton do. Nor does she take Adela’s aspect in opposition to Aziz within the days main as much as the trial. However, she will now not tolerate India; it’s an excessive amount of for her. She decides to depart; she doesn’t even wait to provide proof for Aziz.

“Why ought to I be within the witness field?”

she later says to her son Ronny.

“I’ve nothing to do along with your ludicrous regulation courts.”

The narrator then stories Heaslop’s ideas:

“She was on no account the pricey outdated woman outsiders supposed, and India had introduced her out within the open.” 

She is oppressed by the Asian warmth, her well being declines and he or she dies on the ship and turns into a part of the massive barrenness of the Indian Ocean. 

Adela Quested is obsessed with India like Mrs. Moore when she arrives within the nation. However, she fears that its unrestrained selection will flip her into simply one other pessimistic, disenchanted Anglo-Indian if she marries Ronny Heaslop and turns into an inhabitant of India. Nonetheless, she sees a shine of optimism in Indian historical past, particularly within the particular person of the Mogul emperor Akbar (1542-1605), who dominated from 1556 till his loss of life. He arrange modifications (to unite the frequent folks) that centralized authorities features. Moreover, although he himself was a Muslim, he inspired dialog between folks of all religions—Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, and so forth—and even tried to start a brand new faith that united elements of different religions. 

Adela asks Aziz in Chapter 14 about Akbar, “[W]asn’t Akbar’s new faith very tremendous? It was to embrace the entire of India.” Aziz solutions by saying that Akbar was an incredible ruler and Akbar’s plan of a specific Indian faith was incorrect.

“Nothing embraces the entire of India, nothing, nothing, and that was Akbar’s mistake.”

Adela then says,

“I hope you are not proper. There must be one thing common on this nation—I do not say faith, for I am not non secular, however one thing, or how else are obstacles to be damaged down.”

She finally ends up saying that with no unifying energy she would discover it sophisticated as an Anglo-Indian to “keep away from changing into like them [Mrs. Turton and Mrs. Callendar].”

Afterward, she enters one of many higher caves alone and scratches a wall and hears the echo. She later says that Aziz assaults her it’s at this level. She struggles again along with her discipline glasses, escapes the cave, races by means of a discipline of cactuses that tear her pores and skin and insert needles in it, and returns to Chandrapore with Miss Derek. She is confused, in a state of fright. She continuously hears the echo after her restoration. However, she has no trace relating to its which means not like Mrs. Moore. When she asks the outdated girl what it means, Mrs. Moore replies,

“If you do not know, you do not know; I can not let you know.”

She fails to grasp the sound and turns into like the opposite English women and men who can’t perceive Indians. She but begins to query her personal insightfulness and begins to acknowledge that she has wrongly blamed Aziz. However, Ronny and the others, who’re utilizing her as an device to penalize the Indians, affect her that she was appropriate about Aziz.  Nonetheless, she gathers the bravery on the trial to admit that she was flawed and drops the costs. Then she leaves India too. The leaving of Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore predicts the historic British departure from India in 1947, which Forster might maybe have seen as unavoidable. 

The Echo Representing a Hindu Resonance

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

“The syllable Om consists of the three sounds a-u-m (in Sanskrit, the vowels a and u coalesce to develop into o), which characterize a number of essential triads: the three worlds of earth, environment, and heaven; the three main Hindu gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; and the three sacred Vedic scriptures, Rg, Yajur, and Sama. Thus, Om mystically embodies the essence of your complete universe. It’s uttered at first and finish of Hindu prayers, chants, and meditation and is freely utilized in Buddhist and Jaina ritual additionally.”

Totally different critics have defined 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. Nonetheless, G. D. Allen refuses her disagreement saying that the three sections stand for the methods of labor of information and of affection (as laid out in Hindu philosophy) in addition to Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. As stated by Wilbur L. Cross, Forster has tried to painting “the native as he seems to himself, as he seems to the British official and as he actually is when his thoughts is revealed, presenting a civilization which the West can disturb however won’t ever purchase.” Whereas R. A. Brower is of the view that “the communication between Britons and Indians, are extra typically the potential for understanding relationships between say two individuals.”

Nonetheless, most of those explanations are half-done and fall brief to appreciate Forster’s elementary objective. The actual fact is that the three sections symbolize the three levels of man’s non secular expedition. Forster had promoted the connection of the seen and the unseen in Howards Finish and he observes the dissimilar methods during which this affiliation will be greatest acknowledged. The unnoticed has an affect on the social, non secular, and emotional lives of the folks and Forster appears for establishing the best way during which this affect is maintained greatest.

2. The Picture of the Inexperienced Hen:

Each Adela and Ronny agree for the primary time (in Chapter VII) to finish their engagement; out of the blue, they see a inexperienced chicken sitting within the tree above them. Nonetheless, they’re completely unable to establish the chicken. Adela thinks that the chicken represents the unidentifiable function of all of India: simply when she thinks she will understand any function of India, that attribute alters or vanishes. On this sense, the inexperienced chicken represents the muddle of India. The chicken, in one other capability, signifies an uncommon anxiousness between the English and Indians. The English are preoccupied with data, literalness, and naming, and so they use these gadgets as a method of gaining and sustaining supremacy. In distinction, the Indians are extra considerate about nuance, undertone, and the emotions behind phrases. The Indians establish that tags can blind one to important info and variations whereas the English demand for cataloging stuffs. The unidentifiable inexperienced chicken proposes the inappropriateness of the English mania with categorization and order with the shifting worth of India itself; really the land is a hundred Indias that disregard tagging and understanding.

three. The Wasp Image:

The wasp turns into seen various occasions in A Passage to India, typically together with the Hindu concept of the oneness of all dwelling issues. The wasp is mostly represented because the lowest creature the Hindus combine into their concept of widespread unity. Mrs. Moore is intimately related to the wasp, as she finds one in her room and turns into grateful of it. Her quiet regard for the wasp exhibits her personal candidness to the Hindu concept of collectivity, and to the mysticism and indescribable excellence of India general. However, the wasp additionally symbolizes the bounds of the Hindu imaginative and prescient because the wasp is the bottom creature that the Hindus take into consideration. The imaginative and prescient just isn’t a cure-all, however solely a prospect for concord and understanding in India.

four. Social Occasions; Events, Picnics, and Celebrations:

A lot of dangerous events seem in A Passage to India; we witness events reminiscent of, the Turtons’ Bridge Get together, Fielding’s tea occasion, and Aziz’s picnic. All of those occasions develop into terribly unsuccessful. Usually, these disastrous events perform as pictures for the British Empire within the e-book.

The novel presents that every of those occasions go in useless due to the British want for exclusion, for hierarchies, for societal restrictions, and for organising an us-versus-them that eternally constructs an us as higher than them. Racial discrimination is an addition of this want for segregation, and empire can be no exception to it, which is predicated on the usual that we are superior, extra educated, extra updated, extra dominant than them. Aziz’s misfortune of a picnic is only a fabulous instance of how vicious the British eager for segregation will be. However, this eager for segregation just isn’t restricted to the British single-handedly. The e-book unlocks as Mohurram, a Muslim celebration, advances. The Mohurram riots have been linked with manifestations in favor of Aziz at some point of the trial. Nonetheless, previous to the trial, the Mohurram issues referred to the unavoidable twists between the Muslims and the Hindus relating to the procession path The Mohurram riots are an metaphor for the non secular factionalism that continues to terrorize the South Asian subcontinent even in the present day. Opposite to those failed social events, allow us to take a fast have a look at the Gokul Ashtami fiesta, which is a celebration arrange to fail. The occasion rejoices all beings, unique of not a soul and nothing, not even the smallest of bugs or the silliest of jokes; Godbole remembers Mrs. Moore (again in Chandrapore) and a wasp; he doesn’t get in contact with some elevated command in his non secular trance.

5. Mosque, Cave, Temple, and Climate:

E.M. Forster divided the novel not merely into chapters, however it’s also separated into three elements entitled “Mosque,” “Cave,” and “Temple.” The elements are additionally ordered by the three seasons in India:

     a) “Mosque” takes place through the cool climate,

     b) “Cave” through the sizzling climate, and

     c) “Temple” through the wet season.

These half divisions situate the tone for the occasions described in every half. The primary a part of the novel, in “Mosque,” Aziz’s indication to the structure of the mosque as that of “name and response” synchronizes with the frequent temper of this a part of the novel, the place persons are assembly one another at totally different societal features. Individuals are usually peaceable and open just like the chilly climate.

Quite the opposite, the climax of the novel is discovered within the “Cave” part of the novel. Happening through the sizzling climate, emotions are irritated, and no person appears to have the ability to assume quietly and logically. The entire inhabitants of Chandrapore is turned flawed method up as riots and dysfunction encircle the trial simply as Mrs. Moore’s grip on life was in peril by her data of vacancy contained in the cave.

Lastly, the “Temple” half tries to comb away the confusion of the “Cave” part with its torrential rains. The chapter rejoices the Hindu perception of the oneness of all issues with Godbole on the Gokul Ashtami celebration in relation to the Hindu motif of the temple, and offers us with a shaky understanding between Fielding and Aziz.

6. Nothing as a Metaphor:

Nothing within the novel is actually one thing in a twist that Godbole would certainly be happy about- it’s a image nothing. The novel begins with the phrase “nothing” in its first sentence. You may need noticed that the novel seems gripped with breaches and cracks. The novel is sort of deliberate like a donut, with a big gap the place Adela’s expertise within the cave needs to be. However, if you consider it, though nothing is written about Adela’s understanding within the cave, it doesn’t point out that nothing occurred or that nothing will be stated. Really, it’s maybe essentially the most outstanding a part of the e-book precisely given that it’s omitted. Because the narrator feedback that the Marabar Caves are extraordinary. The extraordinariness of nothing is unquestionably one of many stranger and certainly forceful motifs within the novel.

7. The Infinite Sky as a Important Image:

The reappearance of the infinite sky above just isn’t meaningless. The writer has deliberately accomplished so with a view to presenting a deeper which means by means of it. It occurs within the successive chapters and its descriptions appear to be vigorous characters to us. It goes with out saying that the sky is so limitless that it holds all issues collectively and could possibly be interpreted as a logo of inclusiveness, but it surely additionally represents the massive space of both British colonial management or the unimaginable hugeness of India itself, to an incredible extent.

eight. The Pankhawallah Picture:

This unimportant lowborn labourer is fortunately awarded with energy and attractiveness. He’s not conscious in any respect how far he matches into the society the place he toils involuntarily for a meager quantity in order to take care of himself and nearly definitely a household. He doesn’t acknowledge the seriousness of the emergency that has disturbed the individuals who had crowded encircling him within the court docket room. This detachment of the modest labourer has struck a blow on the small-minded working of her delirium-shrouded mind and provoked a sort of goodness of considering in Adela. In consequence, her viewpoint and imaginative and prescient seems to be widened.

9. The Snake Imagery

George H. Thomson wrote a scholarly article in regards to the snake image prevalent in A Passage to India; the very article appeared in “English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920”. In keeping with him, the novel pivots on the mighty distinction between two settings: the wasteland world of ‘Caves’ and the rain soaked jungle world of ‘Temple’. The wasteland world, on the centre of which is the Marabar Hills and caves, signifies the absence of God and signifies his nonexistence. The jungle world, on the centre of which is Mau and its nice non secular pageant, signifies the presence of God. This theme of presence and absence of God, adumbrated within the novel by Godbole and mirrored within the main symbols, is bolstered by a wide range of minor symbols.

The importance of snakes and pictures of snakes within the novel will illustrate Forster’s cautious deployment of such minor symbols. However, in assessing the snake imagery in relation to the presence and absence of God, it is very important keep in mind that the event of this theme is in lots of respects, non-theological. The concept of presence and absence is generalized and finds expression within the high quality and nature of the reality-unreality encountered within the Indian universe.

Close to the shut of the novel, Aziz and Fielding go for a journey within the Mau jungle. As they close to the tip of their journey, we learn:

“They splashed by means of butterflies and frogs; nice timber with leaves like plates rose among the many brushwood. The divisions of day by day life have been returning, the shrine had nearly shut” (p.321).

For Aziz and Fielding, who’ve come collectively within the closing gestures of the Mau pageant, the god has prolonged his temple even to the Mau jungle. That is essential in evaluating a element talked about earlier of their journey:

“Presently, the bottom opened into full daylight and so they noticed a grassy slope vibrant with butterflies, additionally a cobra, which crawled throughout doing nothing specifically, and disappeared amongst some custard apple timber” (p. 317).

That is the very first snake to look within the novel. With two trivial exceptions, it’s also the primary actual snake to be talked about in a novel well-furnished with references to snakes, scorpions, serpents, and dragons. The exceptions are the snake stated to have been lower in two by the kitchen boy and the extremely toxic Russell’s Viper stated to have been present in a classroom at Authorities School. The primary is an off-the-cuff illustration of the superstitions of the uneducated Indian, the second is an illustration of the absence of order and affordable likelihood on the planet of ‘Caves’. Aside from these, all of the snakes, serpents, and monsters are nonexistent.

Initially of the story, Aziz—as an afterthought—mentions to Mrs. Moore the risks of snakes from the Marabar. The context means that Aziz is improvising these snakes to swimsuit his feeling of the second (p. 21). Because it seems, nonetheless, the Marabar is a wealthy supply of snake pictures if not of precise snakes.

Because the expedition to the Marabar Hills will get underneath method, the nation is “invisible besides as a darkish motion within the darkness,” and within the sky “the celebs of the sprawling Scorpion had begun to pale” (p. 132). Later, perched on the elephant, Adela sees a snake; a black cobra, explains Aziz. However, Ronny’s binoculars, the image of the inquiring mind, divulge to Adela the twisted stump of a toddy-palm (p. 141). Contained in the cave,

“the putting of a match begins a bit of worm coiling… the cave is full of a snake composed of small snakes, which writhe independently” (pp. 147-148).

No matter is claimed within the cave, the remark is all the time the identical ‘ou-boum’, and the serpent descends and returns to the ceiling (pp. 149-150). After Aziz has misplaced himself among the many caves, he finds the place stuffed with grooves that lead “this fashion and that like snake-tracks” (p.154), and the expedition leaving the Marabar unwinds out of the hall (p. 159).


10. The Collision of the Boats:

The occupants (Ralph, Stella, and Fielding) get moist when the boats smash collectively near the floating picture of the Lord. This getting soaked has figurative significance that despite all endeavour, despite mosques, caves, temples, and the holy soil of the very outdated land of India, the varied cultural models can’t be included into a specific logical half.

11. Different Insignificant Photographs:

As soon as, a anonymous beast or Being strikes the Nawab Bahadur’s automobile. This means the immoral repression of the natives by the bureaucrats underneath the excuse of ruling them on the authority of regulation and honest dealing. This and different symbols combine the totally different and opposing particulars of the story collectively to permit them to gush right into a spacious present of giant human plea.


In the long run, the novel helps us to see how the sparkles disclose the unusual shades of color refracted off the minerals within the stone to deliver the frozen, laborious stone to evanescent life. Forster’s writing fashion serves one of many acquainted concepts of the novel: artwork is a method of giving form to the muddle, of serving to us make sense of the world round us. The most effective artworks use kind to not take away the muddle, however to carry it shut, to direct the readers’ consideration for eternity away from the undisturbed safety of the acquainted, to the unknown and unusual.

Works Cited:

Arnold, Edward. “A Passage to India”, Friday 20 June, 1924.

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

“Om”.  Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica On-line.Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Internet. 11 Could. 2012 <>.

Thomson, H. George. “English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920”, Quantity 9, Quantity 2, 1966, pp. 108-110 | 10.1353/elt.2010.1389.

Source by Md. Ziaul Haque