Ambivalence in a “Passage to India” by E. M. Forster

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Ambivalence is the state in which two parties have contradictory ideas, feelings or attitude regarding each other or something. In the novel, A Passage to India by Forster ambivalence illustrates the ambiguous way in which colonizer and the colonized regarded one another.

We start the various instances where the state of ambivalence is first experienced when Aziz was arrested on suspicion of the raping Adela which in turn sets up the climax of the film in the magistrate’s courtroom. At first inside the courtroom, there is an apparent physical manifestation of Bhabha’s (p88) notion of ambivalence in the way that the Indian characters are able to interact in the trial. This idea of physical ambivalence can be summarized as follows: the need of the colonizer to ‘educate and civilize'(Blaut, p96) the colonized party requires the active participation, to a certain limited extent of course, of the colonized in the colonizer’s affairs. Therefore, in this particular situation, it means that the Indians are permitted to become official actors in the trial itself as a result of the ‘civilizing’process and the attempt to bring India ‘up to the level’of the ?civilized’British. Thus both judges and the defense along with the general observers are Indian. These actors are therefore able to observe the farcical nature and desperate attempts of the ‘civilized’colonizers to swing the trial in their favor which exposes the ambivalent hegemony that the British hold over them.

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The collapse of the trial leads to the uprising and the temporary loss of British control in Chandrapore. The rape incident ultimately exposes how the ambivalence of colonialism becomes its own downfall; the fact that the exposure of the fragility of colonial rule within the magistrates, which is in itself a physical manifestation of the British colonist’s power in India, is significant. Spatially, the whole scene restricts the Indian characters to the periphery of the room and places the British characters in the center of events. Indian onlookers observe from the gantry and the judge appears to be a tool of British control after Ronny comments to Mrs. Turton: ‘Don’t worry, he’s a good man’and of whom London (Blaut, p102) describes as a ‘Western educated native, who is a cultivated, self-conscious and conscientious Indian civil servant’. The rationally of the colonizer vis a vis McBryde as the prosecutor versus the irrationality of the colonized represented as the Indian defense a.k.a. the character of Ali, who is unable to control his emotions and storms out of the trial on the basis it is a farce, is interesting. It can be argued that Ali’s behavior is indeed that of the Other: emotionally volatile and passionate, in contrast with calm demeanor of McBryde, an enterprising colonizer, who despite appearing nervous when he sees the trial tilting in Aziz’s favor certainly manages to keep his emotions under control.

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