Student Research Projects

Colonial Mimicry and The Loss of Religions Identity in A Passage to India

Student Rebecca Lazzeri, '17
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department English
Course ENG 489: Senior Thesis

Abstract

E.M. Forster\'s A Passage to India illustrates the deepening rift between native religions in India: Islam and Hinduism. While secular critics and Hindu nationalist historians argue whether there was truly a fundamental division between religion in Indian society, Cynthia Talbot writes in Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self: Hindu-Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India that the conflicts between the two groups did not occur until Britain\'s own constructs dominated the colonized society and created division. As Forster examines both religious groups as they interact with the English, the impact of British constructs becomes clear in the character of Aziz. Homi Bhabha, postcolonial theorist and critic examines the role of the colonized as they envision power and simultaneously mimic colonial power in his theoretical work The Location of Culture. Forster\'s text exposes through Aziz that in the act of mimicry, the societal British constructs infiltrate the native\'s behavior, and cause the native to lose his or her own identity construction, and this is particularly impacts the traditionally middle-class educated Muslim, who had already been in a position of power in India. Forster reveals India as a deeply spiritual land, yet after the encounter with the English, Aziz becomes estranged from his homeland and his Hindu compatriots. He becomes void of spirituality as he loses his own ability to function as an independent, but operates only in the shadow of the British. A Passage to India suggests that this system is ineffective, particularly the function of mimicry within the Marabar caves, and ultimately at the end of the novel, Aziz must retreat to a place called Mau, where his Indian-Muslim identity is put to rest and he dwells within a Hindu dominated society because he can no longer identity with the spirituality of India which once had unified him with the land.