Theme / Conflict of Culture / Social Conflict in A Passage to India :
Conflict covers the major space of the story of “A Passage to India”. The novel aspects of the clash between religious, between groups, and even between individuals. Every relationship grows nervously and crumbles, in the end, leaving a bitter memory. Thus, the rift seems to be inevitable and there is no way to bridge the gap even between two individuals. Hence, the theme of separateness, of barriers runs through the novel and two cultures appear to stand poles apart.
In the very beginning, a group of Muslims discusses the possibility of any friendship with English. The English in their opinion, lose much of the refinement of their manners and behavior after two years stay in India while an Englishwoman takes only six months. Thus, the Muslim maintain an attitude of antagonism towards the English on the individual level too, the Indian feel withdrawn from the ruling class. Hamidullah says that he is insulted by the city magistrate in the court. Aziz is fed up with his boss who takes pleasure in harassing him. The party, given by the collector, proves a complete failure. It serves no purpose at all because no communication takes place between the Indians and the English at the party.
The attitude of the city Magistrate, Ronny Heaslop, is typical of the entire white bureaucracy. Most of the Indians in Ronny’s opinion, are seditious at heart whether they speak in a boastful or humble tone, there is always some motive behind their remarks. He rightly thinks that the Indians, consider the whiter a brutal conqueror. He feels upset to learn that his mother and Adela have accepted Aziz’s invitation to visit the caves. In fact, Indians are not reliable and they should refrain from mixing with the native people. Ronny feels that the English are in India not to behave pleasantly but to do the justice and keep the peace. It leaves little scope for the warmth of feeling and mellowed heart. Mrs. Moore and Adela speak strongly against the cold reserve and influence of the ruling class. The English people in India behave as if they were Gods. Thus, the cleavage between the rulers and the rules have come to exist and any stitch will fall short of whiting the two.
The incidents which happened in the caves uncover the malice hidden beneath. The charge made against Aziz and his trial in the court reveal the prejudices of both the races. The whole white community except Mrs. Moore and Mr. Cyril Fielding has no doubt that Aziz is guilty. The collector repeats his old assertion that the two races should never try to become intimate socially. Mr. McBryde is more arrogant and holds the view that the records of mutiny and not the Bhagavad Gita should be guided for the Englishmen in India. The English ladies are unanimous in their view about Aziz’s guilt. Mrs. Turton sheds tears on Adela misery, though she had never been known to weep ever before. When Adela withdraws the charge against Aziz, Major Callendar shouts that collision of the individual against the machinery of the government and against the prejudices of an alien race, nor do the Indians fail to retaliate, they all combine against the English to defend Aziz. The Indians make no secret of their dislike for English master, the Indian children throw stones at the collector’s ear, no doubt even the native people get hold of every opportunity to renounce the foreigners.
The glut between the east and the west is emphasized in various ways. The loud announcement of the cleavage comes at the close of the novel when Aziz declares that no friendship is possible between the two people till India becomes free. In spite of his reverence for dead Mrs. Moore, his diking for Fielding and all his forgiveness of Adela, Aziz fails to restrict his hostility to the English. A critic rightly puts to – it is a care of mass misunderstanding of different complexioned, different speaking, different minded people staring at one another myopically across a ravine.
The novel conveys the message that the glut between the two cultures races is that the Englishman has an ‘undeveloped heart’ while the Indian has an ‘undeveloped head’. Even the Hindus and the Muslims who are united at the time of trial, represent two different cultured and cannot become one. The annual riot is a routine phenomenon and Ronny justifies the presence of the Englishmen on the Indian soil on the this Hindus themselves. In this connection, E.M. Forster says “The fissures in the Indian soil and infinite: Hinduism, so solid from a distance, is riven into sects and clans”. In short, the native Indian scene to offer a spectacle of social conflict and lack of understanding.