A Impossible Relationship
In E.M Forsters novel, A Passage To India, Adela Quested and Ronny Heaslop do not achieve the meaningful relationship they desired. Rather, their relationship is doomed from the beginning even before Adelas false accusation of Dr. Aziz at the Marabar Caves. Of course, many readers of the novel will disagree by insisting that the traumatic event at the Marabar Caves is what drove Adela and Ronny from marriage. However, while the novel focuses on the collision between the English and Indian cultures, a stronger struggle appears between Adela and Ronny. Despite their few similarities, Ronnys treatment towards Adela and his mother, Mrs. Moore, Adelas desire to preserve her own individuality, and the sudden change in Ronnys nature causes such indifference between them.
Nevertheless, readers of the A Passage to India will probably suggest otherwise and argue that the courtship between Adela and Ronny was achievable. After the polo match at the club, Adela quietly tells Ronny that she has decided not to marry him. Ronny is disappointed, but he agrees to remain friends with her. As soon as Adela tells Ronny she does not want to be married, their surroundings begin to overwhelm them. However, while riding in the back of Nawab Bahadurs car, [Adelas] hand touched [Ronnys], owing a jolt and one of the thrills so frequent in the animal kingdom passed between them, and announced that all their difficulties were only a lovers quarrel (94). When Adela and Ronny arrive back at the bungalow, Adela says that she would like to marry Ronny after all. On the one hand, Adela and Ronnys experience support the age-old adage that love endures all things and under the Indian influence draws the couple together again, forcing them to respect themselves as important, distinct individuals. On the other hand, by focusing on their sudden thrill of sexuality, Adela and Ronny overlook the deeper problems of their relationship. After announcing their renewed engagement, Adela immediately feels a sense of humiliation and horror, believing she was labeled now (101) the same as all the other married Englishwomen in India. While several moments throughout A Passage To India provide evidence that Adela and Ronnys relationship was possible, stronger indications endorse the final conclusion that their bond was never or never will be attainable.
In addition to the sense of conflict between the Indian natives and the English colonists, the opening chapters of A Passage To India also focus on a tension surrounding the arrival of Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore in India. Because the two women do not share the other Englishs attitudes about the Indians, they naturally conflict with the others at the club, and particularly with Ronny. When Adela questions Ronny, Why not ask the Pleaders to the Club, he answers her question rather childishly. He insists that the interaction between Indians and the English is simply different, its different; you wouldnt understand (30). In providing this answer, Ronny appears to treat as child, not trusting her with the truth about the society in British India. He believes he knows best and evidently understands why she does not understand and wishes that Adela would not interfere. Addition, Ronny declares his intention to control Adelas interaction with the real India. In a late discussion with Mrs. Moore, he implores her:
[not to] talk about Aziz to Adela.
Not talk about him? Why?
There you again, mother---I really cant explain every thing. I dont want Adela to be worried, thats the fact; shell begin wondering whether we treat the natives properly, and all that sort of nonsense
But she came out to be worried---thats why shes here [S]he felt she must come and look around, before she decided---and before you decided.
I know. He said dejectedly (33-34).
The essence of Ronnys argument is that he worries Adela will become too preoccupied with whether or not the English treat the Indians fairly. Ronny is alarmed when she remarks about her desire to see the real India which in turn prompts the club members to gather around her as though she were an amusing oddity, causing his embarrassment. The club ladies, however, are aghast at such a suggestion, and they inform Adela that Indians are creepy and untrustworthy. Even by this early point in the novel it appears that these tensions among Ronnys, Adelas, and Mrs. Moores respective approaches to India and Indians may affect the question of Ronny and Adelas engagement.
Adela Questeds desire to preserve her individuality makes her resistant to being labeled and therefore resistant to marrying Ronny and being labeled a typical colonial English wife. It is for this reason that she remains resistant to marrying Ronny, knowing that she will be labeled an Englishwoman in Indiaa club wifeand that her behavior will be restricted accordingly. When Adela feels her individuality challenged by Indias resistance to identification, she seems more likely to turn to Ronny for marriage; yet, when she recognizes the tyranny of labels like Englishwoman in India, she feels reluctant towards marriage. Adela always acts as an individual, rejecting the narrow-minded views of the other couples at the English club which in turn causes conflict between her, Ronny, and the other English couples. Adela is an individualist and an educated free thinker. These characteristics tend lead her, to protest against the stereotypical views of the English Colonists toward the Indians. On the way home, Mrs. Moore points out the mosque to Adela and Ronny and speaks of the nice young man she met there. Ronny automatically assumes from Mrs. Moores attitude that she is referring to an Englishman, and he becomes angry when he realizes she is speaking of an Indian and intercepts the encounter as scheming on Dr. Azizs part. Adela questions that wouldnt you expect a Mohammedan to answer you if you asked him to take off his hat in Church? (30). While the other English try to re-create England in India through traditional English meals and plays like Cousin Kate, Adela hopes to experience the real India rather than an arranged tourist version. These tendencies lead her to question the standard behaviors of the English toward the Indians. During an evening meal with the McBrydes and Miss Derek, Adela begins to dread the future of a dingy married life among the indifferent English. She insist that, [she] should never get like that, she thought for she was young herself; all the same she knew that she had come up against something that was both insidious and tough (49). The essence of Adelas view is that the need for individuality is of the utmost importance. Her major complaint is that the English colonists are tremendously racist, self-righteous, and fiercely patronizing to the native Indians.
Another major reason for the dissolution of Adela and Ronnys relationship is Ronnys sudden change in nature and his effort to fit in with the herd mentality of the British colonists. All of Ronnys previously individual tastes have been effectively suppressed to meet group standards. Both Adela and Ronnys mother, Mrs. Moore notes the difference between the Ronny they knew in England and the Ronny of British India. Mrs. Moore asserts that [she] was surprised to learn this, dignity not being a quality with which any mother credits her son. Miss Quested learnt it with anxiety, for she had not decided whether he liked dignified men (24). Basically, Ronny puts aside his own intelligence and learning from England in favor of the wisdom gained by his short years of experience in India. According to Adelas experience, Ronnys once open-minded nature with which he has been brought up has been replaced by the dignified characteristics of British India. In other words, Ronnys tastes, opinions, and even his manner of speaking are no longer his own, but those of the supposedly older, wiser English officials. This sudden change in character is what ultimately causes Ronny to clash with both Adela and his mother. Adding to the conflict between Adela and Ronny, he tends to allow the restrictions of the English colonials herd mentality to impose a stereotypical view of India upon him. In a discussion with her son, Mrs. Moore claims that, [Ronny] never used to judge people like this at home (33). Ronny complicates matters further when he rudely remarks, The educated Indians will be no good to us if theres a row, its simply not worth while conciliating them, thats why they dont matter (39) using narrow-minded phrases and arguments he had inherited from other English officials and not using his own judgment.
Even though Adela and Ronny may have their few similarities and a brief promise of marriage, Ronnys childish treatment towards Adela, Adelas desire to preserve her own individuality, and the sudden change in Ronnys nature causes such meaninglessness between them even before the traumatic event at the Marabar Caves. While A Passage Of India focuses on the collision between the English and Indian cultures, a stronger struggle appears between two young people providing that sometimes love is impossible.
Forster, E.M. A Passage To India. San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1924. Print