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A Passage to India Questions
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What do the three parts of the novel A passage to India symbolize? Do you think it is suitable that final part of the nove, at the end which Aziz voiced his opinion of east and west meeting, takes place in the chapter named "Temple"?
You might have noticed that the novel is not only divided up into chapters, but it is also divided into three parts entitled "Mosque," "Cave," and "Temple." The parts are also organized by the three seasons in India: "Mosque" takes place during the cool weather, "Cave" during the hot weather, and "Temple" during the rainy season.
These part divisions set the tone for the events described in each part. In "Mosque," the first part of the novel, Aziz's reference to the architecture of the mosque as that of "call and response" harmonizes with the general tenor of this part of the novel, where people are meeting each other at various social functions. Like the cool weather, people are generally calm and friendly.
In contrast, the "Cave" section of the novel contains the climax of the novel. Taking place during the hot weather, emotions are inflamed, and nobody seems to be able to think coolly and rationally. Just as Mrs. Moore's hold on life was threatened by her experience of meaninglessness within the cave, the entire community of Chandrapore is turned upside down as riots and unrest surround the trial.
Finally, the "Temple" section attempts to wash away the chaos of the "Cave" section with its pouring rains. In keeping with the Hindu motif of the temple, the chapter celebrates the Hindu principle of the oneness of all things with Godbole at the Gokul Ashtami festival, and provides us with a reconciliation, though a tenuous one, between Fielding and Aziz.
Forster spends time detailing both Eastern and Western architecture in A Passage to India. Three architectural structures—though one is naturally occurring—provide the outline for the book’s three sections, “Mosque,” “Caves,” and “Temple.” Forster presents the aesthetics of Eastern and Western structures as indicative of the differences of the respective cultures as a whole. In India, architecture is confused and formless: interiors blend into exterior gardens, earth and buildings compete with each other, and structures appear unfinished or drab. As such, Indian architecture mirrors the muddle of India itself and what Forster sees as the Indians’ characteristic inattention to form and logic. Occasionally, however, Forster takes a positive view of Indian architecture. The mosque in Part I and temple in Part III represent the promise of Indian openness, mysticism, and friendship. Western architecture, meanwhile, is described during Fielding’s stop in Venice on his way to England. Venice’s structures, which Fielding sees as representative of Western architecture in general, honor form and proportion and complement the earth on which they are built. Fielding reads in this architecture the self-evident correctness of Western reason—an order that, he laments, his Indian friends would not recognize or appreciate.
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