Printer Friendly

An Aristotelian Reading of the Feminine Voice-as-Revolution in E. M. Forster's A Passage To India.

"But the crisis was still to come."

--E. M. Forster, A Passage To India

A Passage To India is a novel about moments, those both historical and topical, within which the immediate context of an utterance develops meaning and power. As an historical novel, Passage is mired in and defined by competing voices concerning the British Empire at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1924, when Passage was published, the imperial situation in India was at best "irreconcilable" and at worst ignitable.(1) E. M. Forster positioned himself as a kind of humanist barometer between points East and West, predicting and at times cautioning against British ignorance and pretentiousness as the imperial machine faced mounting threats of insurrection among the colonies. Forster viewed Britain's audacious political stance as emblematic of its ongoing blindness toward this tension. In various essays written around the time of publication of A Passage To India, Forster frequently characterized Britain's attitude toward its struggling colonies as pedantic and dangerous; in Salute To The Orient.! Forster suggested, for example, that Britain's imperial motto was akin to "Johnny'd rather have us than anyone else" when in fact "Johnny'd like to see the death of the lot," according to Forster (Abinger Harvest 269).(2)

Despite his sardonic commentaries on Anglo-India, there was nothing glib about the depths to which these divisive events affected the author personally. India reflected more than Forster's own past: Forster's life in India was integral to his literary and private personae. A Passage To India is, in consequence, part and parcel of his attempt to articulate conflicts raging among nations and civilizations while perpetuating the collective ethos of Anglo-India in the 1920s. The crux of Forster's effort is an interrogation of hegemonic rhetoric; Passage is an attempt both to criticize and, more covertly, to stifle the authoritative voice of British rule. Forster achieves his profound critique of imperial rhetoric subtly through a tender exploration of cross-cultural friendship, and overtly through an imperial legal crisis precipitated by the intangible experiences of the newly-arrived Briton, Adela Quested. It is this civic crisis,(3) fueled by Adela Quested's gender and nationality, that is the catalyst for anti-imperial consciousness between the novel's male protagonists, Cyril Fielding and Dr. Aziz.

In A Passage to India Adela Quested, described by the narrator as a "priggish" New Woman driven by personal/marital and cultural/national identity crises to "see the real India," becomes a vehicle of linguistic, legalistic, and eventually cultural subversion (A Passage To India 22).(4) From the moment that Adela is retrieved from the Marabar hills after her unsettling ordeal there, the official narrative of guilt begins to form within the British camp. It is clear from the outset that gender is to be their rallying point. For instance, the truth, as Fielding Sees it, is immediately waylaid by the Englishmen at the Club "speaking of `women and children'--that phrase that exempts the male from sanity when it has been repeated a few times" (184). Thus upon Dr. Aziz's return to Chandrapore from the Marabar the British have already devised an emotionally charged story of what happened based upon sketchy reports from Adela.

The reliability of Adela's memory is questioned by Fielding and, accordingly, by the reader. Yet despite Adela's apparent infirmity, the British act on the assumption that their account of the events is true. I want to focus here on the significance of the fact that in the end Adela does not comply with this contrived official story. She chooses instead to denounce the charges levied against Aziz, thereby reducing the primacy and stature of the British legal system and giving impetus to a wave of riots following the announcement of the verdict. During this moment of cultural crisis in the novel, Forster uncovers the fallacy of imperial Britain's univocality by converting British legal speech into a techne of anti-imperial rhetoric through Adela's disruptive testimony.(5)

Aristotle's theory of rhetoric, written to comply with male-oriented civic systems, provides sensitive heuristics for understanding Adela's manipulation of androcentric rhetoric in the courtroom. Recognizing that the Rhetoric was important to the development of British jurisprudence, we see in A Passage To India that the feminine(6) utterance is revolutionary in that it renegotiates Victorian social spheres by employing a woman's voice to disrupt the chauvinistic and racist legal traditions undergirding the British Empire. Most significantly, Adela's rhetorical autonomy and her inversion of Aristotelian discourse at the trial become by association part of Forster's own narrative apparatus for criticizing the ethnocentricity and misogyny he sees as imbued in the British imperial legal system.


It is not enough to calculate Adela's kairos(7) in the witness box as rhetorical, revolutionary, or even Aristotelian without first capturing, at least cursorily, the historical moment that informed the writing and publication of A Passage To India. Between March of 1921 and January of 1922, Forster was for the second time a lone Englishman traveling Anglo-India.(8) Prior to and during this visit, nationalist agitation, spearheaded by Gandhi's civil disobedience movement, had begun to threaten the British machine in India. Concerns over Indian nationalism had occupied the British imperial psyche since the 1857 Mutiny. Yet the subsequent impossibility of English/Indian relations mirrored, as Forster describes so adroitly in Passage, the actions of two flames that "strive to unite, but cannot, because one of them breathes air, and the other stone" (125). In other words, Forster was sadly aware that tensions between the occupiers and the occupied would remain, with terrific tension, as long as Britain's "eclipse of power" progressed throughout the interwar imperial world.

The British Raj was instructed to placate the nationalists, though they were warned against underestimating the political power of the movement. The post-war climate was such that the Empire hardly could retain a tyrannical presence in India. What it could and did do, however, was encourage an attitude among Anglo-Indians not unlike that articulated by Mrs. Turton at the "Bridge Party" in Passage, who claims that "`you' re superior to everyone in India except one or two of the Ranis, and they're on an equality'" (40). Forster's own insights into the topoi(9) or social and legal strategies of the Raj were more sophisticated than those supplied by the Burra Sahib's wife. Shortly after returning from India in January of 1922, Forster wrote: "Excluded from our clubs, [the Indian] has never been introduced to the West in the social sense, as to a possible friend. We have thrown grammar and neckties at him, and smiled while he put them on wrongly--that is all" (qtd. in Das 21). The cultural and political divisions imbibed in India, then, were for Forster beyond that which "Bridge Parties" could possibly mend.

Kieran Dolin suggests that Forster in A Passage to India undermines the myopic posture of Anglo-India by offering, as the title of her article suggests, a "critique of imperialist law." I want to follow through with Dolin's assertion and argue that although Forster himself knew little about British legal processes and even less of imperial law, he nonetheless married British law with British society in generating the climax of the novel. Indeed, according to Dolin, just as the "gaps in Adela's story are readily filled by the community around her," so "the narrative presented by the prosecution at the subsequent trial is a collective one" (339). The reader who is initially unaware of the actual occurrences at the Marabar watches, as Fielding does, from an estranged and helpless position as rash accusations, informed by virulent anti-Indian sentiment among the Raj, surge through the British camp. Adela's gender--rather than the basic violation of her personhood--makes her predicament valuable to the Raj: the narrator reminds us that Adela's "position and not her character" garners her sympathy from the British; after all, "she was the English girl who had had the terrible experience ... for whom too much could not be done" (212). Therefore, Anglo-India's explanation of Adela's situation lends support to the gendered constructs of Empire, reifying "all that is worth fighting and dying for" among the English gentry holed up at the Club--or, British cultural indelibility symbolized by the refined and chaste (white, upper class) British woman.(10)

Commensurate with the overblown chivalry of the Raj is their equally idealistic legal strategy against Aziz. In formulating their evidence against Aziz, the British, including Adela's fiance and Chandrapore Magistrate Ronny and the Chandrapore Superintendent Mr. McBryde, believe that Adela's testimony offered at trial as proof will condemn Aziz, quell revolt, and provoke sterner measures against intercultural mingling. But early in the novel Fielding and the Indian contingent are skeptical as to whether Adela's words in the witness box will be her own. Fielding demands to speak with Adela to assuage his worries but is told by Mr. McBryde that Adela will remain secluded until after the trial. Mr. McBryde reminds Fielding that Adela "`tells her own story'" (171) and that her testimony should therefore not be doubted. To this Fielding retorts prophetically, "`I know, but she tells it to you'" (171), thereby rebuking McBryde's belief that Adela's views coincide with those projected uniformly by the Anglo-Indians. In conceiving of Adela's words and thoughts as they do, the Raj act on the assumption that Adela's Britishness and gender will compel her to corroborate the erroneous story crafted furiously by her compatriots.

Forster's narrative moves methodically from Fielding's anxiety to the Indians' fury to the Britons' pugnacity, resting finally with the ambiguous Adela herself. Here the novel breaks from detailing the intricacies of imperial legal maneuvers and focuses on Adela's faltering cultural identity. As Adela's concept of her own Britishness crumbles, as the very essence of her identity alters, her disenfranchisement in Anglo-India calcifies; armed only with her own voice, Adela goes to trial.


While Adela is yet in the hands of her English supporters, the bewildered tourist "vibrate[s] between hard commonsense and hysteria" (194), vacillating, in other words, over what to believe and how to behave. Like Fielding, the reader is never party to all of Adela's thoughts and conversations after the cave experience. Instead one suspects as Fielding does that at some level her words cannot "be her own," since her story becomes a valuable legal and cultural bulwark against which the Indians can do little more than sling thin accusations of falseness. After all, the Raj, though detested by many, still wield authority in Chandrapore, and their indignation carries with it the credibility of the powerful. So Aziz's camp have few allies among the Anglo-Indians save for Fielding and a largely disinterested Mrs. Moore, while Adela is pitied by a network of strange allies working en masse on her behalf.

Adela is converted initially by the fury surging throughout the imperial community; she does not immediately denounce her caretakers' claim that she is in fact the victim of attempted rape. Accordingly, in chapter twenty-two Adela confirms that a "sort of shadow" accosted her and that, fleeing from its suffocating grasp, she lashed out with her field glasses and then escaped down the thorny hill. Even here, as she is encircled by sympathetic Club members, Adela does not accuse a man but indicts a shadow--she does not describe an attack per se (as she says, "He never actually touched me once"), but merely a pulling, "bottling" force (194). Yet in this novel of enigmatic opposites, where humble punkah wallahs are gods and subalterns fraternize with supposed Indian reprobates, it seems fitting that this shadowy tale is wrought from the same mind that had once so eschewed irrational fictions.

The narrative also tells us that in the care of the McBrydes Adela's "natural honesty of mind" has been subdued and that she is "always trying to `think the incident out'" rather than face the empty reality of the persistent echo (194). Thus in Adela's pre-trial psyche the mysterious binaries common to the novel are perhaps best represented. Adela's conscious understanding, for instance, emulates the logic contrived by McBryde et al., while her private insights deceive her with uncharacteristic uncertainty: at moments "She felt that it was her crime, until the intellect, reawakening, pointed out to her that she was inaccurate here, and set her again upon her sterile round" (195). The "intellect" as it is presented here conforms to British rationale, which suggests that a native Indian is the necessary culprit against the signifying body of British culture. Unfortunately, this same intellectual consciousness is informed as well by wild mistruths, prejudices, and sexist conflations of woman and nation that spring up following Dr. Aziz's arrest.

These prejudices become apparent when the Major, addressing Club members, claims that Adela's chaperone Mohammed Latif had been bribed by the "prisoner" to shirk his duty, and the dawdling Godbole had staged his own tardiness to facilitate Aziz's planned attack (187-88). Through the dissemination of these and other stories, cynicism prevails in the Anglo-Indian Camp. In their hyperbolic state, the McBrydes and Ronny, the principal guards of Adela's health and safety, wait until Adela is barely well to prime her for trial. The guardians' caustic view of British/Indian relations is conveyed to Adela at this precarious moment during her recovery: she learns of the near-riot, the threat posed to the civil station and, finally, the intricacies of her upcoming court appearance, each of which results from her accusation against Aziz. As Adela weeps helplessly before them, struck by the massive implications of her vague assertion, Mr. McBryde informs Adela casually of a letter addressed to her from Fielding which he admits to opening during her illness. Although McBryde has violated the sanctity of Adela's private correspondence, he excuses the "peculiar circumstances" behind his appropriation of the letter by condemning Fielding's behavior to Ronny at the Club (198). Adela, incensed by this new but decontextualized information, is compelled to reaffirm her commitment to the official story and, regretting all he "had already to bear ... for my sake," begs Ronny's forgiveness for the disastrous circumstances she has brought upon both him and the Raj (198).

As her rushed recovery unfolds before us, it becomes apparent that Adela's crowded mind is hindered from calmly rehearsing the confusion at the Marabar. Moreover, Adela begins to ask for Mrs. Moore who, it seems, is the only potential fail-safe to her addled conscience. Adela's desire to commiserate with Mrs. Moore, the only other victim of the Marabar's indiscriminate echo, is important to Adela's mental state because her longing signifies her need for empathetic guidance outside of, and emotional escape from, the Anglo-Indian contingent. But in fact Adela's confinement to "this atmosphere of grief and depression" (195) is left unabated by her attempted discourse with Mrs. Moore, whose apathetic greeting of both Ronny and Adela bewilders and dismays the couple.

But Adela's uncomfortable interaction with Mrs. Moore is surprisingly cathartic since Mrs. Moore's ambivalence actually prompts Adela's true memories partially to return. For instance, Ronny, who is blinded to Adela's needs by his own mounting anxieties about the trial, demands of his mother that she testify alongside Adela, "`to confirm,'" he says, "`certain points in our evidence'" (201). Yet Mrs. Moore responds indignantly to this idea. While she claims "I'll have nothing to do with your ludicrous law courts'" and dismisses her son as petty and misinformed, Mrs. Moore inadvertently draws Adela's support in refuting Ronny's ill-timed demands. In a pivotal moment of self-awareness, Adela inserts herself suddenly between mother and son, declaring that Mrs. Moore's "`evidence is not the least essential'" even though, in his ignorance of Adela's true feelings, Ronny is sure that "`she would want to give it'" (201). At this important but nonetheless understated juncture in the novel, Adela asserts Aziz's innocence to Ronny, realizing the extent to which her trauma, masked by hazy memories and emotions, has been appropriated by and manipulated within the Anglo-Indian community in order to reinforce British rule in Chandrapore. Not surprisingly, Adela's claims are consistently undermined by Ronny who counters her logic by questioning her state of mind: "`I don't quite know what you're saying, and I don't think you do,'" he assures his fiance abruptly (203). Yet Ronny is not the only one perplexed by Adela's sudden and emotional renunciation of Aziz's guilt. In reaching her conclusions about Aziz, Adela herself conflates Mrs. Moore's opinion of Aziz's innocence with exonerating statements from Fielding's letter. Here the narrative discloses Adela's susceptibility to outside influence, noting that Adela is quite "open to every suggestion" from anyone--from Mrs. Moore, her son, Fielding, and other members of the Raj (204). It is not until Adela is actually in the witness box and able to speak for herself that her authentic memory of the events is permitted to surface.

The trial itself is decidedly polemical. Das presides, to the dismay of"the ladies of Chandrapore" who find his power over Adela unpropitious (207); Amritrao is dramatic; the onlookers for both parties ejaculate inciteful commentary throughout. In Aristotelian terms, we might say that the rhetor at trial is Mr. McBryde, who becomes a representative of all things British, opposing the Indian defendant and his radical nationalist lawyer. McBryde--who, we are told, "left eloquence to the defense" (219)--signifies the "collective narrative" described by Dolin and consecrated by Anglo-Indian society. Put simply, he approaches Adela's testimony from his position as "spokesman ... for the public [imperial] domain," to co-opt Lloyd Bitzer's notion of the public spokesperson (74). Invention does occur between the rhetor and his auditor, Adela, at trial, but their interaction does not supply the useful testimony that McBryde expects it will. Rather, Adela is the one to invent meaning and judgment from proof, ambushing Anglo-India by inverting McBryde's legal discourse to procure judgment against him and his Empire.

McBryde fails not only to predict Adela's response, but also to influence her recollection of the supposed attack made against her inside the caves. McBryde has no innate sense of the "inventional situation" occurring between himself and Adela as he asks her questions about the incident at the Marabar.(11) And because to Aristotle "moral character, so to say, constitutes the most effective means of proof' (1.2.4), Adela's version of the events becomes all the more threatening to the imperial establishment once she is presented with McBryde's authoritative rhetoric. The imperial rhetoric fails when the Superintendent assumes rather than persuades; in essence, McBryde sees Adela's situation as important but her humanity as trivial to his desired set of legal proofs. In fact, part of what Forster is illuminating with the trial scene is the dehumanizing effect of imperial systems and the extent to which women and other underlings of Empire are viewed as little more than buttresses to the colonial paradigm of virtues. Accordingly, McBryde understands Adela's own story as secondary to his overall argument against Aziz, and he is unable to cull significant parts of Adela's epistemology in order to generate the needed verbal evidence to convict the defendant (using, in Aristotle's terms, "atechnic" or inartistic proof, or pistis, to do so).

Here McBryde reveals not only his indifference toward a British woman's viewpoint, but also his ignorance (or, at the very least, forgetfulness) of basic public, Aristotelian discourse, the legalistic techne which has influenced to its core British civic rhetoric. According to Aristotelian theories of rhetoric, being aware of an auditor's topoi is essential for the rhetor to create "lines, or strategies, of argument" in a trial (Kennedy 190). Lacking this awareness, McBryde unwittingly provides Adela with the rhetorical agency she needs to negate imperial rhetorical, legal, and cultural dominance at trial. And significantly, McBryde is the first among the Anglo-Indians to ask Adela outright and in a public setting about what actually occurred in the caves.

Adela is not technically an auditor; rather, she is a witness, a proof for the prosecution. However, her refusal to appease McBryde and the cadre of Anglo-Indians effectively exonerates Aziz the way a jury might acquit a defendant at a trial, simultaneously vilifying the Empire and McBryde's verbal strategies in court. Moreover, Adela becomes an auditor in the Aristotelian sense in that her testimony also judges British legal superiority to be fraudulent and unstable.(12) McBryde's lengthy association with the chauvinistic Raj precipitates his failure to persuade Adela, whose epistemology he has at once ignored and underestimated. And if, as Lloyd Bitzer has argued, a rhetor personifies "the public's fund of knowledge" and echoes "[its] maxims ... honors its heroes; rehearses its traditions, performs its rituals," then McBryde represents the ethos of the Empire itself to Adela, which is revealed to her as a pretentious institution based in inequality (74). McBryde's errors in judgment provide Adela with the impetus she needs to shatter the lie against Aziz and falsify the underlying lie of imperialism in India. Adela bristles against McBryde's assumptive examination of her, and as she begins to speak, she "arms" herself, so the narrative says, against the sure destruction her words will produce, both in her own life and in that essentialist world of her compatriots' making:

As soon as she rose to reply, and heard the sound of her own voice ... A new and unknown sensation protected her, like magnificent armour. She didn't think what had happened or even remember in the ordinary way of memory, but she returned to the Marabar Hills, and spoke from them across a sort of darkness to Mr. McBryde. The fatal day recurred, in every detail.... Questions were asked, and to each she found the exact reply. (228)

The exactness of Adela's reply is also key, since McBryde's unwitting verbal prompts at the trial apparently free Adela from her troubling self-doubt and shadowy memories of the caves.

Having exposed the Empire's fund of knowledge to be a series of weak connections among nationalistic myths, Adela proves despite her unsteadiness that the feminine utterance and the knowledge of one British woman are more viable than the Raj had ever supposed. At the same time "Miss Quested had renounced her own people" (232), in effect siding with the Indians, inverting Aristotelian precepts of judgment, and upsetting the indemnity of British Rule in Chandrapore.


It is telling that Forster allows the events at the Marabar and Adela's processing of them to remain ambiguous throughout A Passage To India. This ambiguity was intentional. The extant manuscripts of Passage reveal that explicit details of Adela's assault have been omitted from the final published version of the novel. In one of the unpublished manuscripts, Adela's assailant is described as grabbing Adela's hands and "forc[ing] her against the wall" where "The strap of her field glasses ... was drawn across her throat" (qtd. in Levine 89).(13) June Perry Levine has read Forster's omission of the attack as a narrative technique meant to generate and maintain suspense in the novel. I maintain, rather, that among Forster's reasons for concealing the truth at the Marabar is to strengthen the potency of the novel's climax: the trial of Aziz and, implicitly, of the British Empire through Adela's timely recollections and devastating admissions in court.

The mystery of Adela's cave trauma gives exigency to Adela's testimony insofar as McBryde's ill-conceived questions force Adela to retrace the true occurrences inside the cave evidenced by Adela's verbal progression toward the truth during the trial scene. "`You went alone into one of those caves?'" he asks her, to which she replies, "`That is quite correct'" (226); McBryde follows Adela's answer, however, with an assumption of fact: "`And the prisoner followed you,'" he says (226). At this point Adela hedges her words, remembering that "her vision was of several caves" and, failing "to locate [Aziz]" in her memory, she reacts by saying "`I am not quite sure'" (226). This moment of instability offers the first public signal by Adela that her memory of the events at the Marabar does not mirror the explanation put forward by the British at court. Befuddled by a response he does not expect, McBryde becomes direct and urgent, demanding to know Adela's position. "`What do you mean, please?'" he persists (230). When pressed, Adela remembers that Aziz was in fact not the culprit at the caves and answers, finally, "`No' ... in a flat, unattractive voice ... `Dr. Aziz never followed me into the cave'" (230). From Adela's stunning affirmation of Aziz's innocence, the reader can infer both that Aziz is honorable and that Adela's own notion of the truth had been significantly affected by her own confusion and Anglo-Indian biases presented to her prior to the trial. The reader, meanwhile, becomes certain that in one instant Adela has succeeded in unraveling Britain's legal authority in Chandrapore and, more significantly, that her success is public, indiscriminate, and devastating.

The feminine voice, previously spoken over or dismissed by Anglo-India before the trial, has a profound effect on British pride, one woman's life, and the relationship between two men--indeed, two whole societies of thought--in this graceful political novel. In exploring Forster's use of voice in his fiction and essays, Jan Gordon claims that "it is in A Passage To India that voice is finally endowed with an independent ethical function" and that reminiscent of Bitzer, the utterance in Passage is given import through the sharing of" communal voice" (326). Gordon does not isolate any one voice within the larger community of voices in Passage as being the voice to initiate an awareness of public ethics. However, to the extent that Adela's transgression mirrors the subversiveness of Mrs. Moore's changing spirituality and Godbole's universalism,(14) by answering "no" in court Adela Melds a kind of "community of ethics" against Anglo-India consistent with the almost mystical connection forged among these characters in A Passage To India. To be sure, Adela's race and nationality give her the latitude in the witness box to turn the tools of imperial civic discourse in on themselves. But Adela is able to reverse the expectations of her testimony during the few moments afforded her to "tell her own story" because, simply, no one believes that she will say anything other than what the Raj expect.

In giving her own version of the events at the Marabar (or the strange story of transgressive truths and inexplicable events), Adela actually invents a techne for her own experience that, in Aristotle's terms, is itself artfully concerned with "how to bring into existence a thing which may either exist or not, and which lies in the maker and not in the thing made" (Nicomachean Ethics 6.4.4). Adela also employs invention and memory as epistemological tools for rewriting the sociopolitical and sociolinguistic identities prescribed for her by the English community.(15) And it must be stressed that Adela's femininity, her status as a subordinate and companion in the world of Anglo-India, is ironically that aspect of Adela's ethos which underscores the powerful effect of her voice in a public arena. McBryde never imagines that Adela, who is a witness for the British prosecution, will invent her own proof in the witness box or draw upon a "fund of knowledge" (Bitzer 68) that only she as the injured woman can know and articulate. Yet it seems that Adela is the sole person in the novel who can reformulate her memory into proof for Dr. Aziz and, ultimately, into a discourse which proves publicly that the subjugated feminine voice is made more powerful by the dominant culture's insistence that it is a mysterious, unknowable, and unimportant factor within the civic hierarchy.

Through Adela, Forster renegotiates what Bitzer views as "private knowledge made general," giving voice to political ideas that, "lacking a public, have no status, no authorization, indeed no existence" (84). This public germination of knowledge continues as Adela maintains her relationship to other Anglo-Indians despite her expatriation to England after the trial. From her unseen position in Europe, Adela manipulates the reconciliation years later between Fielding and Aziz in India, and so becomes the motivation for the underlying pathos of the novel: that friendship between India and Britain will somehow exist, but ultimately "not yet" and "not there" (325). In one sense, then, Adela is Forster's unacknowledged representative of modernity in the novel; her private insights, brought to public fruition at trial, disengage from and dislodge Victorian social constraints concerning gender, race and class in imperial India by operating from a subordinate position inside the dominant legal structure engendered by the Raj. Within his sabotage of Victorian morality, Forster, himself "the spiritual heir of Blake" (Beer 15), constructs Adela's fate in A Passage To India with earnest purpose: the implications of the feminine voice transmitted through Adela reveal that, like Blake, Forster's social sympathies were as immense as his modern vision of women and his insight into the historical, momentary relationships of imperial India was revolutionary.

(1) See G. K. Das: "Through `The Ruins of Empire': A Passage To India And Some Later Writings About India," in E. M. Forster's India, 75-92. Das explains that the novel itself responds to the "main political issue of the time": the "irreconcilable challenge to the Empire" instigated by "politically awakened Indians" (86). This period in India saw such events as the massacre at Amritsar (1919), a boycott of British educational systems by the Indian National Congress, and the Khilafat movement among Indian Moslems, all of which lent support to Gandhi's civil disobedience and affected, in turn, Forster's writing of A Passage To India (see Das, chapter four).

(2) Abinger Harvest was originally published in 1936, twelve years following the publication of A Passage To India; however, Forster, whose love and concern for India was immense, continued to comment upon imperial politics in India throughout the interwar period. By the time this quotation was penned, India was eleven years from receiving independence, and Britain was by and large committed to holding onto whatever vestiges of Empire it had left.

(3) It is interesting to note that the root of the modern word "crisis" is the Greek term krisis, meaning "judgment," and used by Aristotle in the Rhetoric to signify the climactic act of adjudicating bodies (see Kennedy, 317).

(4) A Passage To India is more renowned for developing a loving friendship between its protagonists, Cyril Fielding and Dr. Aziz. This essay does not suggest that Adela Quested, though a key character in the novel, is of central importance in Passage. Rather, I argue that Adela's testimony during the trial is indispensable to the novel's overall didacticism.

(5) Since Aristotle's theory of civic rhetoric impacts with my reading of Adela's testimony, I have found it useful to refer to some terms taken directly from the Rhetoricto describe certain events and ideas surrounding the trial. Techne is one such term. According to George Kennedy's translation, techne (teckhne) is an "art, a reasoned habit of mind in making something" (320), translated commonly into "methodology" or "technique." For another translation, see John Henry Freese's Aristotle, "The `Art' of Rhetoric" (1926).

(6) I am using the term "feminine" rather than "female" to aid my argument concerning the power of Adela Quested's voice at court in accordance with Elaine Showalter's useful distinctions among the terms "Feminine," "Feminist," and "Female" articulated in A Literature of Their Own. Showalter suggests that these terms correspond not only to the rise of women's political consciousness in British literary history, but also with specific historical ideologies concerning gender and culture. Although she is speaking of women authors, I find that Showalter's description of the "feminine" as an embodiment of "repression, concealment, and self-censorship" (25) in Victorian society an apt corollary to the Anglo-Indian precepts of womanhood projected onto Adela (and explored at length in the Mosque chapters especially), but finally rejected by her during the trial scene.

(7) Kairos is a Sophistic term, "pointing to the contingent relationship between truth and circumstances," or the contextual situations informing a specific rhetorical moment (Bizzell and Herzberg 23).

(8) Forster had been composing Passage since late 1913 by the time his second trip to India commenced. Quoted by K. Natwar-Singh in E. M. Forster: A Tribute, Forster says that during the 1921 trip, "I took the opening chapters with me," yet "The gap between India remembered and India experienced was too wide" (107). It wasn't until Forster returned to England that "the gap narrowed, and [he] was able to resume" (107).

(9) Topos, pl. topoi is a "topic ... a mental `place' where an argument can be found or the argument itself" resides, according to Kennedy (320).

(10) Indeed, the more precise image evoked by Forster here illuminates the extent to which Adela is useful because of her gender and race. The full quotation is as follows: "One young mother ... sat on a low ottoman in the smoking-room with her baby in her arms ... The wife of a small railway official, she was generally snubbed; but this evening, with her abundant figure and masses of corn-gold hair, she symbolized all that is worth fighting and dying for; more permanent a symbol, perhaps, than poor Adela" (181).

(11) Richard Leo Enos and Janice Lauer's assertions concerning Aristotelian heuristics and the co-creation of meaning in rhetoric and writing ascribe revelatory power to public rhetoric. Enos and Lauer suggest that "rhetoric can not only be a way of arguing but can also generate its own way of knowing, its own kind of epistemic process" leading from "inventional situations between rhetor and audience" (83).

(12) William Grimaldi suggests that the auditor is a "nonspeaking partner" (67) in the rhetorical exchange between rhetor and auditor (in this slightly different example, between McBryde and Adela). Grimaldi stresses, however, that if the rhetor neglects to familiarize him or herself with the auditor's ethos, then the rhetor "effectively negates or weakens the force of his own ethos as entechnic pistis" (174).

(13) There are three extant manuscripts of A Passage to India used by Levine, all of which were sold to the University of Texas by Forster on behalf of the financially troubled London Library in 1959 for $18,200.

(14) Godbole, a Hindu mystic, is both comic relief and moralistic foil to the characters in A Passage To India. His "Universalist" worldview reminds the reader of the overall futility of human systems and prompts him to tell Fielding after Aziz's arrest that "`the action was performed by Dr. Aziz' ... `It was performed by the guide' ... `It was performed by you' ... [and with] an air of coyness, `It was performed by me'" (178).

(15) Lisa Ede, Cheryl Glenn and Andrea Lunsford's article, "Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism," aided my reading of Adela's use of memory as a tool for rhetorical invention in the witness box. Ede, Glenn, and Lunsford write that "invention and memory constrain and shape both who can know and what can be known" which is of particular importance to women operating rhetorically within patriarchal (and traditionally Aristotelian) modes of civic discourse (295).


Aristotle. The "Art" of Rhetoric. Trans. John Henry Freese. London: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1926.

--. The Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. H. Rackman. 2nd ed. London: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1933.

Beer, J. B. The Achievement of E. M. Forster. New York: Barnes, 1962.

Bitzer, Lloyd F. "Rhetoric and Public Knowledge." Rhetoric, Philosophy, and Literature: An Exploration. Ed. Don M. Burks. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 1978. 67-93.

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg, eds. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Boston: Bedford, 1990.

Das, G. K. E. M. Forster's India. Totowa, NJ: Rowman, 1977.

Dolin, Kieran. "Freedom, Uncertainty, and Diversity: A Passage To India as a Critique of Imperialist Law." Texas Studies in Language and Literature 36.3 (1994): 328-52.

Ede, Lisa, Cheryl Glenn, and Andrea Lunsford. "Border Crossings: Intersections Among Rhetoric and Feminism." Rhetorica 13.3 (1995): 285-325.

Enos, Richard Leo, and Janice Lauer. "The Meaning of Heuristic in Aristotle's Rhetoric and Its Implications for Rhetorical Theory." A Rhetoric of Doing: Essays on Discourse in Honor of James L. Kinneavy. Eds. Stephen P. White, Neil Nakadate, and Roger D. Cherry. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1992. 79-87.

Forster, E. M. Abinger Harvest. London: Edward Arnold, 1953.

--. A Passage To India. London: Edward, Arnold, and Co., 1939. Gordon, Jan B. "The Third Cheer: `Voice' in Forster." Twentieth Century Literature 32.2.3 (1985): 315-28.

Grimaldi, S. J., William M. A. "The Auditors' Role in Aristotelian Rhetoric." Oral and Written Communication: Historical Approaches. Ed. Richard Leo Enos. Newbury Park: SAGE, 1990. 65-81.

Kennedy, George, trans. and ed. On Rhetoric. By Aristotle. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.

Levine, June Perry. Creation and Criticism: A Passage To India. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1971.

Natwar-Singh, K. E. M. Forster: A Tribute. New York: Harcourt, 1964.

Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1977.

I would like to thank Dr. Anne Cognard, Dr. Roger Cognard, and Dr. Linda Hughes for their valuable editorial suggestions. I would especially like to thank Dr. Richard Leo Enos under whose expert tutelage this essay was produced.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Southern Illinois University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Papers on Language & Literature
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Previous Article:The Sacrifice of Isaac in Medieval English Drama.
Next Article:Romantic Masculinity in Edgeworth's Ennui and Scott's Marmion: In Itself a Border Story.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |