One of the major themes of E. M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India is cultural misunderstanding. Differing cultural ideas and expectations regarding hospitality, social proprieties, and the role of religion in daily life are responsible for misunderstandings between the English and the Muslim Indians, the English and the Hindu Indians, and between the Muslims and Hindus. Aziz tells Fielding at the end of the novel, “It is useless discussing Hindus with me. Living with them teaches me no more. When I think I annoy them, I do not. When I think I don’t annoy them, I do” (319). Forster demonstrates how these repeated misunderstandings become hardened into cultural stereotypes and are often used to justify the uselessness of attempts to bridge cultural gulfs. When Aziz offers his collar stud to Fielding in an ‘effusive’ act of friendship, Heaslop later misinterprets Aziz’s missing stud as an oversight and extends it as a general example: “…there you have the Indian all over: inattention to detail; the fundamental slackness that reveals the race” (82). Cultural misunderstanding culminates in the experience at the Marabar Caves and one thing this episode seems to reveal is how much cultural misunderstanding, especially of the Indian by the British, is deliberate, even necessary. If the British were to really try to understand the Indian, the cultural barriers might weaken and the British might begin to see their equal humanity and this of course would make the British role as conquering ruler more difficult.
This is why Mrs. Moore is so revered by Aziz and the other Indians. She is too new a visitor to have become hardened, not having been there the six months Aziz and…
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…it, the more disagreeable and frightening it became. She minded it much more now than at the time. The crush and smells she could forget, but the echo began in some indescribable way to undermine her hold on life. Coming at a moment when she chanced to be fatigued, it had managed to murmur ‘Pathos, piety, courage-they exist, but are identical, and so is filth. Everything exists, nothing has value.’ If one had spoken vileness in that place, or quoted lofty poetry, the comment would have been the same-‘ou-boum.’ If one had spoken with the tongues of angels and pleaded for all the unhappiness and misunderstanding in the world, past, present, and to come, for all the misery men must undergo whatever their opinion and position, and however much they dodge and bluff-it would amount to the same, the serpent would descend and return to the ceiling” (149-50).
Free Essays – Doing the Right Thing in Their Eyes Were Watching God
Doing the Right Thing in Their Eyes Were Watching God
When faced with urgent moral conflicts such as during the hurricane in Zora Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, men generally have two choices: help others or help themselves. Hurston’s characters choose to they help others before attending to their own needs for survival.
The characters’ actions are typical of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of the categorical imperative: actions are intrinsically good and do not find justification in their effects, nor does one expect compensation for his actions. In short, one could say that the very lack of thought on the part of Hurston’s characters indicates the characters unyielding confidence in their beliefs and the basic moral goodness they possess.
The first event in Hurston’s story is the evacuation of the muck as Lake Okechobee overtakes the characters’ village. Hurston’s characters could run away as fast as their legs can carry them, but they instead notify neighbors without delay. As Hurston describes it, “They cried out as best they could, `De lake is comin’!’ and barred doors flew open and others joined them in flight…” (154). They expect nothing for their actions, but they inevitably save many families.
Moreover, although Motor Boat refuses to leave the high house, he still makes an offer to his friends which is as selfless as he can make it: “Mah mamma’s house is yours” (155). Motor Boat acknowledges his friends’ trouble, as well as his own, but he offers his mother’s house as a lodging simply because it is the right thing to do.
Contrary to what might be contended, the white people on the Six Mile Bend bridge, however, are not necessarily demonstrating egoism. A finite area of bridge exists, and if white people were there first (156), then the white people can claim its use. On the other hand, they could be charitable by moving on after a rest and allowing the weary blacks to rest before continuing the journey to Palm Beach or high ground. Hurston could be again demonstrating her perceived differences between the races, but the degree of racism depends on readers’ viewpoints.
Not too long afterwards, Tea Cake demonstrates benevolence as he notices a man trapped between an electrified tin roof and a rattlesnake. Tea Cake notices the man’s predicament and stops to urge him to move to his left. Readers can presume the man was freed by taking Tea Cake’s advice, but in the spirit of the categorical imperative, Tea Cake does not wait in expectation of laurels.