Understanding The Explanation Of Empires English Literature Essay


The British Empire was always known as "The Empire on which the sun never sets". It was the largest empire in history for over a century, and the primary international power. The expression was used, with deviations, to depict international empires such as the "Ancient Roman, Spanish and British empires… etc." in which one section of their territory is constantly in "daylight". (Wikipedia)

In this essay, I will define and explain empire, and then I will analyze and exemplify imperialism with its different types. After that I will show how Edward Said (The Discourse of the Orient) reacted toward imperialism and I will explain, define, illustrate, and exemplify different meanings of Orientalism and its relation to A Passage to India. Furthermore, I will show how the empire in the novel is reflected in the landscape (through the "British Civil Station", "Mosque", "Temple" and "Caves") with examples. Moreover, I will indicate how Sara Suleri (The Geography of A Passage to India) interpret the landscape in A Passage to India. In addition, I will reveal how Forster depicts his characters and shows their different views and attitude in different situations: such as, Roony, Mrs. Moore, Adela, Dr. Aziz, Mr. & Mrs. Turton, Godbole, and Fielding. Finally, my point of view will be the conclusion of the essay and I will indicate how E.M. Forster reacts toward imperialism.

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E.M. Forster's A Passage to India was written during the acme of British imperialism. His novel shows the power and universal control of Britain in the early 20th century as it views the British colonization of India. Also, it elucidates the superiority and pride of the British attitude in which it is attached to "the nation's status as a global power". (Lewis, 2008)

First let us explain the meaning of empire. It is an ancient, popular, and intricate concept which many people are familiar with such as Byzantium Empire…etc. The notion "derives from the Latin imperium". (Wikipedia) Merriam Webster dictionary "defines empire as a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority; especially: one having an emperor as chief of state (Webster), while imperialism describes the attitudes of the rulers". Raymond Williams indicates that imperialism is "a political system in which colonies are governed from an imperial centre, for economic but also for other reasons held to be important, then the subsequent grant of independence or self-government to these colonies can be described as 'the end of imperialism'". (Allen & adapted by Davies, pp. 4, 8) This means that, the empire is one state or nation controls other countries and sometimes it can possess more than one territory such as the British Empire and French Empire in Africa and Asia. While the way the colonizers treat and deal with conquered people, spreading their cultural and values, and exploiting their wealth is called imperialism. Whenever the empire starts to lose its territories and gain independence, this will be called as the end of the empire.

Furthermore, "imperialism" can be practice through three different types. The first one can be exercise through political or armed way "(direct imperialism)", which means that the imperial authority conquest the "local and national government" and administration of a specific territory such as in Ireland. (Allen & adapted by Davies, p. 4) The second type can be practice via economic procedures "(indirect imperialism)", in which the "concerned" province is legitimately independent but connected to the colonial authority by usually "unequal trade relations", such as using all country's wealth (diamonds, spices, minerals, gas, all natural resources, not only that but also using human as a resource in their army such as in India, all its wealth were used be the British empire). (Wikipedia) In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries enormous treasures collected from "cheap labor and natural resources" were shipped from "Africa and Asia" to assist British noble community. (Allen & adapted by Davies, p. 4)

The last category is the cultural imperialism, which is "indicated by existing or traditional ways of life and ways of thinking [that] are subordinated to the culture of the imperialists." (Wikipedia) This was through education. English literature performed a principal part in extending the English civilization, such as the case in India in which the British administration flooded the Indian market with English books and suppressed the Indian books. Despite the fact that the first two types of imperialism (political and economic) can be ended with end of the empire the last type (cultural) remains. (Allen & adapted by Davies, pp. 5-6, 8)

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Consequently, there were some reactions toward imperialism such as Edward Said and his significant and "controversial book", Orientalism. The expression is used to depict a widespread Western convention, "both academic and artistic, of prejudiced outsider explanations of the East, formed by the outlook of European imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries". For Edward Said, Western familiarity with the East is aroused from presupposed "archetypes", and not from "facts or reality". Western visualizes all "Eastern" communities as basically alike and unalike to their communities. It is about the way West observe East and the way they have power over them. (Wikipedia)

Said gives three definitions for Orientalism: the first one is defined as an "academic" discipline so, "anyone teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient is an Orientalist". (Rossington & adapted by Davies, p.57) For example Dr Aziz saw in Mrs. Moore a person who has a skill to identify whom she likes and dislikes, he told her "'You understand me, you know what I feel. Oh, if others resembled you!'…I only know whether I like or dislike them.' 'Then you are an Oriental.'". (Novel, p. 20) The second one defined as follows: "Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between "the Orient" and (most of the time) "the Occident"" Which means as Said indicated, it is a way of outlook, visible in all types of writing in which it ought "to contrast the Orient and the Occident". (Rossington & adapted by Davies, pp.57-8).

The last meaning of Orientalism is something "more historically and materially." Orientalism can be illustrated and examined as the "corporate institution for dealing with the Orient - dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient." (Rossington & adapted by Davies, p. 58 and Reader, p. 260) This definition gives a deeper interpretation to Orientalism. It is a kind of organization that observes, researches, recounts, and conquers the East.

Now let us move to see how the empire is mirrored in the landscape. Forster depicted the setting in A Passage to India in "geographically and politically stratified" way. For example, he describes the British Civil Station and the Indian area in a way that shows "apartheid" and put the novel in imperial site. In portraying Indian area he wrote: "in the bazaars there is no painting and scarcely any carving. The very wood seems made of mud, the inhabitants of mud moving so abased…etc. Houses do fall, people are drowned and left rotting etc..." (Novel, p. 5) Whereas, in portraying the British Civil Station he wrote: "Inland, the prospect alters. There is an oval maidan, and a long sallow hospital. Houses belonging to Eurasians stand on the high ground by the railway station. 'On this second rise is laid out the little Civil Station, and viewed hence Chandrapore appears to be a totally different place. It is a city of gardens…It is a tropical pleasance,…etc." (Novel, pp. 5-6) The conflict between the two cultures is very obvious and shows a sense of imperialism, while the Civil Station was shown as clean and in the "tops of tree which screen what passes below" (Novel, p.6) whereas, Indian areas are described as "dirty" and below. (Allen & adapted by Davies, p. 16)

The second setting and the first section in the novel is the mosque. It is a vital holy and "social facet of the Islamic religion that conveys the ideal simplicity and purity of Islam". (Rood, 1994) Cleanliness is an important element within the mosque and insists that shoes be taken off before coming into it. This law was announced in the encounter between Dr. Aziz and the Mrs. Moore. Aziz finds "sanctuary" in the mosque and, troubled by the access of an Englishwoman, Aziz violently "warns" her not to defile his holy place with her shoes "madam, this is a mosque, you have no right here at all; you should have taken off your shoes; this is a holy place for Moslems." (Novel, p. 17) Furthermore, he is taken by the beautiful architecture of the mosque and he wish one day he will be able to build his own. Also, Aziz feels that the mosque is still "unsullied by the Anglo-Indian influence" and he knows that most of English people would never bother themselves and take their shoes as respecting for the mosque. "'Of course, but so few ladies take the trouble, especially if thinking no one is there to see.'." (Gradesaver & Novel, p. 17)  

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The third and the most significant setting in the novel is the "Marabar caves", in which Dr. Aziz "promises to show Mrs. Moore and Adela." "Caves" is the title of the second section and known as the climax of the novel which represents a huge clash between British and Indians. The journey to the caves is a disgraceful event in which Adela accuses Dr. Aziz of "assaulting". They represent an Indian symbolic that has a kind of "transcendent amoral world" and they are symbolic for the "alien" "otherness" of India itself: intricate, uncontrollable, puzzled, inner spiritual and mysterious. The echoes "(boum)" of the cave haunt Adela and make her hallucinates. Also, they made Mrs. Moore loses all the traditional principles of Christianity and all other aspects of life."but suddenly, at the edge of her mind, Religion appeared, poor little talkative Christianity, and she knew that all its civine words from 'Let there be light' to 'It is finished' only amounted to 'boum'…etc." (Allen & adapted by Davies, pp. 35-6, Novel, pp. 137-39)

The last setting and the third part of the novel is the "Temple". The event took place in a Hindu state "Mau" some years after the trial. This part of the novel emphasizes the themes of "rebirth and reconciliation". The primary events are the Hindu festival celebrating the "rebirth of Krishna". In this part the story moves away from the political atmosphere to a "tension between the exoticism of India that felt by the sympathetic liberal traveler and pessimism of the liberal." (Allen & adapted by Davies, p.55)

The three "architectural" constructions: "Mosque," "Caves," and "Temple" present the aesthetics of Eastern and how it differs from the western. These sections show the structures of Indian culture. The architecture is mixed up, muddle and shapeless: inside combine into outside "gardens, earth and buildings" challenge each other. The structures look incomplete or dull in which it reflects the muddle of India. The mosque and the temple stand for the "Indian openness, mysticism, and friendship." Meanwhile, Forster depicted Venice to stand for the Western architecture in honor form, harmony and "complemented the earth on which they are built". (SparkNotes)

The critic Sara Suleri in her essay claims that the landscape in A Passage to India is a "defensive male representation of an impenetrable sexuality". She said that the "Caves" and the event that occurs in them are linked. Additionally, the "Mosque", "Caves", and "Temple" in A Passage to India acted mainly as chambers to include western feelings of that which is absent from the East. She believed that "Forster manipulates the image of landscape as metaphoric of that possible fulfilment which is continually on the verge of emptying into disappointment". Moreover, Suleri emphasis that Forster's sexuality plays a main element in the depiction of Adela, Fielding, and Dr. Aziz. She asserts that Adela acts like a channel or path for the "aborted eroticism between the European Fielding and the Indian Aziz". Also, she said that the way Forster gendered India gave a masculine shape for the "Imperialism". (Rossington & adapted by Davies, p. 64 and Reader, pp. 273-5)

Now let us move to the character and see how Forster portrayed them in the novel. Forster didn't describe Fielding as a "typical Englishman" or Dr. Aziz as a "typical Indian"; both are trapped among the cultures. As well, Mrs. Moore and Adela are not as a "typical Englishwomen". Whereas, Godbole is described as dimly absurd wearing "'waistcoat, dhoti, socks with clocks…as if he had reconciled the products of East and West.'" (Novel, p. 66) Additionally, Ronny Heaslop, and Mr. & Mrs. Turton represent the conventional image of English people. (Allen & adapted by Davies, p. 29)

Let me elucidate each character in depth. Ronny Heaslop is the Chandrapore city magistrate. His character shows the image of the ruling class of the nineteenth century British colonizers. Ronny "dehumanizes" himself with his continuous "ravings" about having more significant things to do in India than being nice to the citizens. He has "aloof" and cold behavior caring only about his supremacy over the Indians and his position at the "British Club". (Thurnau, 2005). He shows his hardness and rigidity support to his part as a magistrate in India and that was shown in his argument with his mother. "'We're out here to do justice and keep the peace. India isn't a drawing room.'...I am out here to work, mind, to hold this wretched country by force… I'm just a servant of the Government. . . .We're not pleasant in India, and we don't intend to be pleasant. We've something more important to do'". (Novel, p. 45)

In contrary, if we look at Mrs. Moore's character, we will find that she is totally different comparing to her son (Ronny). She is "sensitive and reflective" character. Actually, she fulfills a dual role in A Passage to India (literal and symbolic). As a "literal character" Mrs. Moore is a religious old woman with a good-heart. She relies on her heart to make judgment about people and tries to have a good relationship with Indian. She doesn't like the way her son treats Indian (Lewis, 2008 & Sparkesnote) For example, when she met Dr. Aziz in the mosque she was very kind to him and she invites him to enter the club with her, he answered "Indian are not allowed into the Chandrapore Club…" (Allen & adapted by Davies, p. 16, Novel, p. 20) She realize that majority of the British are prejudice to Indian. However, after the journey to Marabar caves, Mrs. Moore becomes "apathetic" and departs India without disturbing herself to "testify to Aziz's innocence". When she passed away on the way back to England symbolically her existence proceeds to be felt after her death. On Dr. Aziz's discharge, the Indian crowd announces her as "Esmiss Esmoor," making her as a "Hindu goddess". (SparkNote)

Now let us move to another character (Adela Quested). She comes to India with the purpose of marrying Ronny Heaslop, but alters her mind many times and finally admits that she does not love him, and she will not marry him. She wanted to see the "real India" on the "intellectual ground" and make friendship with Indians. Adela has a kind of contradictory personality feature. The journey for the caves made Adela suffers from illusions and hallucinations. The echoes made her experience a conjuncture of "rationalism against spiritualism". She foolishly blames Dr. Aziz of raping her. (SparkNote)

Nevertheless, in the trial scene which is considered one of the important and crucial situations. Adela confesses that she made a mistake and that Dr. Aziz is innocent. The English officials were very frustrated and reluctantly and angrily withdraw the case. Suleri in her essay indicates to the "imperial English mind", she said that India can only be appeared as a sign of potential sexual assault; for the English people, India is nothing more than the fool act of "self-exposure", whose anger is too factual to allow for even the confidentiality of disgrace. (Gradesaver & Reader, p. 272)

The major character of the novel is Dr. Aziz. He appears to be a "mess of extremes and conflicts", an exemplification of the "muddle" of India. Aziz is impulsive, fickle, unstable, has different talents (physician and poet), and his idea and beliefs rapidly changing without notification. Aziz possesses a "sense of humor" that slants to "practical joking", changing by his manner of sarcasm toward the English. He is a real "Oriental", more concerned with emotions than "intellect". His relation with Fielding and Mrs. Moore tried to eliminate the hole between "East and West". However, the trial developed a hate inside Aziz toward British. At the end of the novel he arrives at a conclusion that Indians and British will never have true friends under English rule "No, not yet,' and the sky said, 'No, not there.'" (SparkNote & Novel, p. 306)

Another character is Mr. Turton. He is a "British government administrator and a generic representative of British authority" in Chandrapore. Despite the fact that Mr. Turton has been in India for long time, he does not know any thing about Indians. Furthermore, his wife Mrs. Turton is an arrogant and has an attitude of "snob". She favours to mix with British people of the Anglo-Indian community than to socialize with Indians except at official events. (SparkNote)

For example, the "Bridge Party" was superficial and failed. The way British people treated their guests (Indian) was terrible. Mrs. Turton was prejudice to Indian women, she said "Oh, those purdah women!" She refuses to go to them and reject to shake hands with any of the man except Nawab Bahadur "'I consider they ought to come over to me'". Also, she told Mrs. Moore "'You're superior to them, anyway. Don't forget that. You're superior to every one in India except one or two of the rains, and they're on an equality'". (Novel, pp. 37-38 & Allen & adapted by Davies, pp. 24-5)

Let us see how Forster depicted the character of Professor Narayan Godbole. Godbole is a professor at the college and stand for the Hindu doctrine. He is a very quiet character and doesn't talk a lot. He does not show any concerns or anxiety for the events around him, no matter how important. When Fielding asked him if he knew what happened to Aziz, he showed no emotion and told him that is his destiny and no body can change his faith. (Gradesaver & SparkNotes)

The last character which I consider him the most significant one is Cyril Fielding. Fielding is the principal of the government college in Chandrapore. He believes that education is a good thing for Indians and treats the native in a polite manner. He does not like the way British act toward the Indians. For Fielding the real India is not in the "British imperial range", but in the natives themselves. When Ronny inquires Fielding how one recognizes the "real India." Fielding's reply is "Try seeing Indians" (Thurnau, 2005 & Novel, p. 25). Moreover, he has a strong friendship with Dr. Aziz. When Aziz was accused of trying to rape Adela, he takes Aziz's side against the rest of the English in Chandrapore. Also, he said that he is so sure of Aziz's innocents that he would resin from the Club if found otherwise "'I am waiting for the verdict of the courts. If he is guilty I resign from my service, and leave India. I resign from the Club now.'" (Thurnau, 2005, Gradesaver, & Novel, p. 177)

To sum up, E.M. Forster depicted Britain as an arrogant and superior international power. However, he never said that Britain should not conquer India. But this depiction made many English people to be mad at him. Professor G. K. Das in the interview said that many "Anglo-Indian officers "were very angry about Forster's novel. They felt that Forster's ideas badly portrait the British mindset. In response, they throw the novel into the sea. Forster countered with saying, "How good for the sea". (Audio, CD 6, track 1) Moreover, I can feel that from Forster's point of view that the British system is the best thing for India.

Word Counts, 2688