StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups
About This Show
StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups features stories you’ll love to hear – fiction, memoir, poetry, film, song, oral storytelling, and more. Listen as master storyteller Linda Tate talks about literature and other stories each week – and be sure to catch those special weeks when Linda reads the stories to you. Visit TheStoryWeb.com to learn more, share your thoughts about this week’s story, and subscribe to a free weekly email highlighting the featured story.
Most Recent Episode
143: E.M. Forster: "A Passage to India"
6 days ago
This week on StoryWeb: E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India. When I was a senior in high school, my favorite English teacher, Mr. Alwood, agreed to do an independent study with me. He selected four challenging novels he thought I was up to understanding and studying. I think back to those novels now and can’t imagine how a 17-year-old could really have been equipped – intellectually or emotionally – to appreciate them. But in my way, limited by life experience though I was, I did appreciate them. One of those novels was E.M. Forster’s 1924 book, A Passage to India. The novel hinges on an accusation of rape. One of the main characters is Mrs. Moore, a refined British lady who has come to visit India, still a British colony. Mrs. Moore is sensitive to the cultures and religions of others, and when she visits and enters a Muslim mosque reverently, she forms an unlikely but heartfelt friendship with Dr. Aziz, an Indian Muslim doctor in the town of Chandrapore. At first it seems that a bridge can be built between cultures, between the colonizer and the colonized, but when Dr. Aziz and Mrs. Moore go on an outing to explore the nearby Marabar Caves, Mrs. Moore’s potential daughter-in-law, Adela Quested, feels ill and claims that Dr. Aziz has “insulted” her. For the rest of the novel, we follow Dr. Aziz’s trial in the British Raj courtroom. Did Aziz attempt to rape Adela? Or was Adela instead overcome by the power and “otherness” of the caves and imagine an assault? The other key character in the novel is Cyril Fielding, a British headmaster who runs a school for Indians. He, too, is friends with Aziz. Throughout the novel, Fielding and Aziz try to foster a true friendship, but their efforts at knowing each other are strained indeed. Forster asks in this novel whether there can truly be cross-cultural friendship. Can we reach across cultural, religious, national, and gender divides to meet as human beings? Forster seems to answer that question through the novel’s ending. Fielding and Aziz are out riding their horses, and the question that opened the novel – can the British and the Indians form real friendships? – comes up again. In a passionate declaration, Aziz asserts that the Indians can drive the Brits out of their country. “India shall be a nation!” he shouts. “No foreigners of any sort! Hindus and Moslem and Sikh and all shall