The Individual and Society: Colonial Representations





The Individual and Society: Colonial Representations

The British government in India had a large impact on the social, economic, and political life for the Indians. There were profound differences between the white and Indian societies, with the Indians oppressed by the colonial system at the time. E. M Forster’s novel, A Passage to India portrays the struggle of the Indians against the British rule, and their longing for freedom. The protagonist in the story, Dr. Aziz struggles with the inequalities he experiences because of being an Indian amidst the British community (Narayan &Pico Iyer 45). He is misleadingly accused of raping Adela, a young British woman. As the events unfold throughout the story, it becomes apparent that the relationship between the natives and the colonialists will always be strained as long as they continue occupying India.

The Indian fight against the British was a movement important to several novelists. R. K Narayan, an Indian novelist wrote the novel, Waiting for Mahatma. The story is about Sriram, a young 20-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother in a village called Maguldi. He meets Bharati, a beautiful girl, at the village and falls in love with her. She is actively involved in Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement, which is a civil rebellion that demands for the British withdrawal from India. Because of his live for her, he leaves his grandmother and follows her in the campaign for the movement. He slowly becomes an active member of the anti-British extremists, and at some point goes to jail only to reunite with Bharati later. The novel, just like A Passage to India has an anti-climax ending, as Sriram’s story ends during India’s Partition, and Aziz and Fielding cannot be friends while still in India. These endings are strong indications that the relationship between India and British has been severed by the movements and uprisings against the colonizers.

In Forster’s novel, the resistance against the colonial system is not portrayed as active as in Narayan’s novel. The Englishmen have oppressed the Indians, and Aziz appears to be increasingly growing tired of the maltreatment in ther own country by intruders. However, despite the differences between the two races, he still manages to strike a friendship with Fielding, which is unusual to everyone. Fielding even defends Aziz when is falsely accused of raping Adela when they visit the Marabar caves (Forster 87). Generally, the novel depicts the British as the enemies, for even Adela, the young woman who has a romantic interest in Aziz, accuses him of raping her when his response to her question suggests he undeniably has more than one wife. The message being delivered by the story is that freedom would have been achieved for the Indians, only if the colonialists treated them in the same manner Fielding treated Aziz.

On the other hand, Waiting for Mahatma portrays a violent struggle for freedom for Indians. Sriram, as young as he is, is willing to join the movement, something that is completely new to him. His decision is largely influenced by love, and with time, he becomes committed to the association to the extent he becomes involved in some underground activities, which land him in jail. This is a strong indication of the sacrifice Indians were willing to go through during their fight for freedom and self-rule. The novel represents the very active struggle by the Indians, as opposed to the rather silent and hushed struggles in Forster’s story. Sriram reunites with Bharati after he leaves prison and marries her (Bhatnagar 25). However, despite this happy union, it appears as thought he country is still undergoing political oppression and strife, as it happens in 1947 during India’s partition, which was on of the most violent episodes in Indian history.

Dr. Aziz and Sriram are the protagonists in both novels, and are alike in a number of ways. They are both imperfect as the main characters. Dr, Aziz seems to be an unforgiving person. Adela accuses him of raping her during their expedition (Forster & Aditya 57). The truth is that she feels bad that he is offended when he asks her if he has more than one wife, while is has secretly developed a love interest for him. When she accuses him of rape, he is arrested. At the trial, he is declared innocent, and he is unable to forgive her, and is infuriated when he leaves that Fielding still maintains his friendship with her even after she return to England. He is also unsettled to learn that he also married Mrs. Moore’s daughter. This is a strong suggestion that he expects the white man to desert his people and pledge allegiance to Indians, which is impossible. This also shows that he can be irrational due to anger. Sriram is equally flawed. Having lived with his grandmother all his life, he seems to be negatively spontaneous because he leaves her forlorn and pursues Bharati. Eventually, his intentions are not, but it still does not erase the fact that he deserts his grandmother despite her not supporting the idea of him leaving.

There are conspicuous differences between the two characters. Notwithstanding the sour relationship between the Indians and the colonialists, Dr. Aziz manages to maintain a friendship with Fielding, a British official, who supports him during trial. This depicts Aziz as a man who practices humanism and applied his ideologies. Sriram on the other hand, hastily joins the movement without ever interacting with the colonizers to learn that some of them mean no harm. This action makes him appear to be a judgmental individual and one who is hasty to make decisions, which is unwise. Such a character seems to work against him because at some point he is arrested and is taken to jail.

Dr. Aziz meets Adela who has come to visit India and experience the non-British aspects of the country. With time, their friendship blossoms and Dr. Aziz begins to perceive her as a kind and respectful British, unlike her fellow compatriots. However, after the incident at the cave and his arrest it becomes apparent to him that she is just like the rest of the colonialists. Raping a woman is considered a serious crime and she decides to use it against him, fully aware of the consequences that would befall him especially because he was Indian. This is an indication of how biased the colonial system is. Bharati on the other hand is perceived as a noble woman for she is fighting for her country in spite of being a woman, who is considered to be below the man in an Indian context. Her involvement in the movement shows the commitment of the Indians to the course.

Adela approaches India with the hope of experiencing the Indian culture. However, when she suspects that he has more than one wife, which she inwardly disapproves, she storms out and has him arrested for rape. Polygamous marriage is a cultural aspect in the Muslim community that cannot be overlooked. Since she does not subscribe to these beliefs, she uses her social status and race to vindicate an innocent man, which reinforces the sour relationship between the two countries. Sriram and Bharati are young, wild, and rebellious. Such traits make an individual prone to making mistakes, just as Sriram does, which jeopardizes the entire course. Their carelessness and recklessness are potential threats to achieving goals set during by the movement.


Works Cited:

Bhatnagar, M K. New Insights into the Novels of R.k. Narayan. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers. 2008. Print.

Forster, E M, and Aditya Nandwani. E. M. Forster: A Passage to India. New Delhi: Anmol Publ. 2009. Print.

Forster, E M. A Passage to India. 2015. Print.

Narayan, R K, and Pico Iyer. Waiting for the Mahatma. 2010. Print.


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