India As Battlefield

Fanon may have over-generalized in his representation of the colonized world as “a world divided in two”, but it does premise the major themes of violence and warfare in Forster’s A Passage to India – at the heart of which is a clash between two fundamentally different cultures, those of East and West.

Battlelines are clearly defined early in the novel by the Anglo-Indian’s imposed restriction on the entry of Indians into the Chandrapore Club. Mr. Turton’s proposed Bridge Party, which he explained to Adela to be “a party to bridge the gulf between East and West”, as we know did little of that sort if not to further highlight the segregation and divide with the Indian guests standing idly at one side of the tennis lawn and the English at the other. In fact, reflecting on the Bridge Party after reading Fanon’s essay, the event could be seen as a warfare strategy. Fanon writes that “the proximity and frequent, direct intervention by the police and military ensure the colonized are kept under close scrutiny, and contained by rifle butts and napalm” (4). In the absence of the military and fire arms in the novel, superficial social events and its limited interaction functions as well as a means of keeping ‘the other’ or the enemy, if you will, in close proximity and under surveillance. (Keep your friends close but your enemies even closer, as the cliché saying goes).

But of course there are individuals who defy Fanon’s over-generalized characterization of the colonist and colonized by resisting collectivist temptation. A rebel of sorts, Fielding ventures to cross these battlelines to prevent further acts of vicious and unjustified violence from occurring. Fielding plays an integral role in the orchestration of Aziz’s defense,  gathering evidence to dispel suppositions of Aziz’s guilt. He is able to see past the superficial categories of race and nationality and defend Aziz for what he truly is – an innocent, upright, and virtuous human being. But alas, “despite the success of his pacification, in spite of [the colonist’s] appropriation, the colonist always remains a foreigner” (5). Fanon’s binary opposition of the identities of the colonist versus the colonized seem to have resonance in the novel’s affirmation of the impossibility of friendship between Aziz and Fielding at its close.