Monday, April 27, 2015

Book 64- A Passage to India (99th Book)

A Passage to India, by E.M. Forester is book 64 on the novel 100 list. I still marvel that I am plugging away all these years later since I have a habit of abandoning projects part way through. I did a photo a day project for half a year until I eventually abandoned it and I have given up on shows in the last season because I have moved on from them. I am hopeful that this book and blog project will continue on to the end since I am now well over half way through the list of 100 books.

I liked A Passage to India. The novel is very clearly a novel about ideas and the way that the world is. Although the novel at times seems a bit preachy about racism, religion and what makes us human, the characters are truly human so it doesn't seem forced or fake. I liked this novel and found the characters very engaging. Adela Quested is a very human character and many of the other characters Aziz, Mr. Fielding, Mrs Moore serve a purpose more than just helping the story along. The characters reactions and actions are authentic to human life and their motivations are very real.

The story follows Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested on a tour through India as they set about seeing if Adela could marry Mrs. Moore's son Ronny. Both want to see the "real India" beyond what the Anglo-Indians who live in India want to see. This desire, though genuine, is very English in nature and leads to the eventual crisis that shapes the novel.

I didn't realize something very cool about the novel while I read it, but it was pointed out to me after reading the short description of the book by Daniel S. Burt in The Novel 100. The novel is laid out in 3 sections for the seasons of India (cool, hot, wet) and the three sections also mirror the three major religions of India (Muslim, Christian and Hindu). On the surface this is a novel about the racial and religious tensions in British India (with racism being the easiest theme to pick up on), but the true theme of the novel is the divisions that divide people from having authentic relationships.

Aziz is someone who constantly strives to have authentic relationships with people and he has several throughout the book despite his comic blunder that get in the way. He meets Mrs. Moore in a Mosque and after his initial blunder they are able to communicate on a real level and move past the roles they are expected to play. He also finds a friend in Mr Fielding who is an Anglo-Indian who refuses to side with his race when a crisis arrives.

I found the crisis that happens in Marabar Hills very telling of what happens so much in our society. People side with the majority of voices and let emotion take them away. I learned about the concept of group think in my Psychology 101 class at university and it has been very real for me ever since. The theory basically states that conformity happens in a group so that any dissenting points of view are suppressed and people make decisions that they would never make if they were left to their own devices. There were two good quotes in the novel that illustrate this point of view.

"He was still after facts, though the herd had decided on emotion"

"evil was propagating in every direction, it seemed to have an existence of its own, apart from anything that was done or said by individuals."

Over all this was a good read. I would recommend it to others and I think both the message and story are worth the time and effort of others. That is something that I can't say for all the novels on the list so when I find both in one book I am quite happy.  One of the discoveries I have made during this novel challenge is that a good story has to be coupled with a good theme for me to rate a book highly. Each on their own is not enough to make a classic in my opinion. Good literature will be engaging and thought provoking.

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