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Portrayal of Racism in Forster’s ‘a Passage to India’


The following paper discusses portrayal of racism in ‘passage to India’ by bringing the relationship between the concept of racism and the contents of the novel. The analysis focuses to establish whether the content of the novel establishes at any point either resistance to racism, or it submits to the racism narratives. Racism in this concept will therefore be used to depict categorization of human beings as either civilized or primitive through a stereotype inscribed in the mind of human beings. As it will be discussed latter in the paper, Forster, the author, of the novel was much influenced by the doctrine of racism when he was writing the novel and this is well illustrated in various examples cited in the novel.

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This research paper will discuss portrayal of racism in ‘A Passage to India’ by considering the relationship of Forster’s novel to racialist doctrines, which are the coherent propositions that analysis whether either the novel has resisted, or submitted to a narrative of racialist. The term race has been used in this novel to categorize human beings physically, genetically and biologically. Race therefore is seen as a justification of how people are categorized under either civilized or primitive and therefore, the term should not be understood as a product of concept ’race’ but rather a basis that this concept depends on for the physical as well as the ideological support. The ideology of racism had its origin in Western Europe in eighteenth century and was witnessed even in the twentieth century and this suggests that, the author of the novel; Forster, was much influenced by the doctrine of the term racism in his writing of the novel. Forster implied that, it is of fundamental importance for human beings to exist in races; referring to human groupings comprised of members with common physical characteristics. In his novel ‘passage to India’, this implication is prominent in regard to distinction between the Indians, or English, and the Anglo-English. This has come out very clearly in the club’s narrative, where the Indian’s exclusion appears to bring a private Oasis for English Adele to exclaim: “I want to see the real India” (Forster, 1924 p.16). She further adds that, “I have on rare occasions had a chance to speak to an Indian since I landed to this place” (Forster, 1924, p.18)

Portrayal of racism

The observed separation is determined by physical difference, which separates the Indian race from the British, as a result of Indian having a darker skin and their hair being black. The framing of the encounter between Aziz and Mrs. Moore has been framed by this situation; however, according to the novel ‘passage to India’ by Forster, Mrs. Moore’s physical appearance has been used; disregarding that of Aziz, as a reference of difference. (Forster, 1924 p.13) argues that, “she appeared older even than Hamidullah, due to her white hair and red face”. When Forster makes comparison between Mrs. Moore and a native, it appears she is inscribed in the culture of Indian and therefore, Forster is seen to toy with the likelihood of reversing representation of the British India. At the same time, the Author portrays limitation of Mrs. Moore’s and Aziz’s scheme of physical separation. An example is when Mrs. Moore places ablution tank in the mosque between Aziz and herself (Forster, 1924 p.12). In addition to this, he constructs Mrs. Moore discursively as not similar to him by regarding her as oriental. This separation latter turns out to be physical when it is declared by Azis that, he is not included in admittance to chandrapore club (Forster, 1924 p. 15).

People who are inscribed in racism have their own values which follow a certain hierarchy that is unique. They have a tendency to perceive certain races as more superior and they are likely to classify their race as the best; using an imaginary scale in their stereotype. Research from the novel has shown that, this racist’s classification affects such people’s perception of the community in terms of aesthetics, intellects as well as their morals. Supporting evidence from the novel ‘passage to India” is well illustrated when Forster describes chandrapore; making this notion to be clearly visible. At river front, which is preferred by most citizens in India as a place to live, the negative representation is striking. “The street appears mean, the temples are also not effective and even the few houses that appears fine are hidden away in down alleys where they appear filthy and thus not pleasant to any guest” (Forster, 1924 p. 1). As far as aesthetic values are concerned, the situation regarding chandrapore does not impress Forster and he describes it as more or less filthy with a lot of stagnant mud; far from what he would expect.

Research in this novel has shown this kind of representation changing when Forster moves inland, which stations most of the English. “The second rise is characterized by little civil station well laid, and when viewed, chandrapore seems to be a completely different place. This is a city of gardens with a lot of tropical pleasure and also washed by a significant river” (Forster, 1924 pp 1-2). The superiority of the aesthetics is clearly shown at the situation and it well relate to the civil station architecture; which even shows how the English are mentally superior. “It has been sensibly planned, its blow has red brick club, at its back, there is a grocer and also a cemetery, the roads are aligned with bungalows that are well disposed making them intersects perpendicularly” (Forster, 1924 p.2). This picture is a clear indication of how the English are secluded from the Indian society. The situation portrays how the English have everything they want at their disposal in a fashion that is superior. The picture shown here resembles the Roman Empire’s classic, making the ‘English land’ appear not to share anything with the rest of the city except the sky that is overarching. From the research, it is clear that, if the English representation of chandrapore is portrayed as noble, then the Indian native side is depicted as savage as well as bestial. “Houses are shown to be falling; several people get drowned and finally left rotting while the town’s general outline is shown to be persisting. The general outline is seen to swell here and shrink at other places; resembling some low but rather indestructible manner of life” (Forster, 1924 p.1).


The picture created by Forster in his representation of chandrapore is that, the English are placed at the top of values that are seen to have been arranged in a certain hierarchy. This conception is however challenged by Forster’s introduction of a force that is superior, and which appears as if it cannot be reached by human capacity. “Everything and not just climate and seasons are settled by the sky, but when earth will be beautiful….. But when sky makes a choice, chandrapore bazaars can receive its glory or a pass of benediction from one horizon to the other. This can easily be done by the sky because it has the strength and is also enormous for this” (Forster, 1924 pp.2-3) Forster is also seen trying to find a bridge to connect the Indian culture and the English culture. Research has even shown him suggesting existence of forces that are beyond the control of human beings. He portrays these forces as able to separate Indian and English cultures and this is always the case even when human being tries to intervene so as to reduce the gap.


Forster, E (1924): A Passage to India: Harcourt brace Jovanovich: Penguin Books Ltd.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 29). Portrayal of Racism in Forster’s ‘a Passage to India’.

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"Portrayal of Racism in Forster’s ‘a Passage to India’." StudyCorgi, 29 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Portrayal of Racism in Forster’s ‘a Passage to India’." October 29, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Portrayal of Racism in Forster’s ‘a Passage to India’." October 29, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Portrayal of Racism in Forster’s ‘a Passage to India’." October 29, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Portrayal of Racism in Forster’s ‘a Passage to India’'. 29 October.

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