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Mysticism in A Passage to India

Mysticism in Forester’s A Passage to India

The figure of Mrs. Moore, and the problem of what happened to her in the extraordinary Marabar Caves, has fascinated critics for decades. The question has absorbed attention to a degree that does not correspond to the secondary role that Mrs. Moore plays in the plot of A Passage to India. On the surface, she is a supporting character, yet many of the unresolved issues of the novel seem to be concentrated in her experience. Mrs. Moore arrives in India a sympathetic figure, and departs unresponsive and uncaring, transformed beyond recognition by the mysterious voice of the Marabar. The deliberately unexplained matter of what spoke to her in the cave has intrigued virtually every scholar who has written on this novel, each coming up with his or her own interpretation of the event. Some have claimed that an evil, ancient force dwelt in the caves, while others suggest that Mrs. Moore achieved a life-altering Hindu insight. There is indeed substantial indication that Mrs. Moore achieved the primary goal of certain branches of Hinduism, melding the Atman and Brahman (Self and not-Self) into one indivisible entity, and therefore recognizing the single, pervasive force that underlies everything. However, no transcendence seems to result from this recognition, as Mrs. Moore is destroyed rather than uplifted by her vision.

Although her experience deceptively contains elements of a Hindu insight, I believe that she ultimately encountered a perverted, sinister, and finally hollow version of Hinduism. The truly beautiful complexity of the philosophy/religion is reduced by the unrelenting echo of the cave. It becomes something devoid of depth and meaning, and particularly devoid …

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…rews, 178.


Bradbury, Malcolm, ed. E.M. Forester: A Passage to India. London: Macmillan, 1970.

Clarke, Peter B., ed. The World’s Religions: Understanding the Living Faiths. London: Reader’s Digest, 1993.

Crews, Frederick C. “A Passage to India.” Bradbury, 165-85.

Deussen, Paul. The Philosophy of the Upanishads. Trans. Rev. A.S. Geden. New York: Dover, 1966.

Forester, E.M. A Passage to India. Ed. Oliver Stallybrass. London: Penguin, 1979.

Kermode, Frank. “The One and Orderly Product.” Bradbury, 216-23.

Moody, Phillipa. A Critical Commentary on E.M.Forester’s ‘A Passage to India’. London: Macmillan, 1968.

White, Gertrude M. “A Passage to India: Analysis and Revaluation.” Bradbury, 132-53.

Zimmer, Heinrich. Philosophies of India. Bollingen Series XXVI. Ed. Joseph Campbell. New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1969.

The Henry Wiggen Novels of Mark Harris

The Henry Wiggen Novels of Mark Harris

There can be no question that sport and athletes seem to be considered less than worthy subjects for writers of serious fiction, an odd fact considering how deeply ingrained in North American culture sport is, and how obviously and passionately North Americans care about it as participants and spectators. In this society of diverse peoples of greatly varying interests, tastes, and beliefs, no experience is as universal as playing or watching sports, and so it is simply perplexing how little adult fiction is written on the subject, not to mention how lightly regarded that little which is written seems to be. It should all be quite to the contrary; that our fascination and familiarity with sport makes it a most advantageous subject for the skilled writer of fiction is amply demonstrated by Mark Harris.

In his novels The Southpaw (1953), Bang The Drum Slowly (1956), A Ticket For A Seamstitch (1957), and It Looked Like For Ever (1979), Harris chronicles the life of Henry “Author” Wiggen, a great major-league baseball star. Featuring memorable characters and deft storytelling, these books explore the experience of aging, learning, and living in time, with baseball as their backdrop.

Henry’s first-person narrative is the most important element of these stories. Through it he recounts the events of his life, his experiences with others, his accomplishments and troubles. The great achievement of this narrative voice is how effortlessly it reveals Henry’s limited education while simultaneously demonstrating his quick intelligence, all in an entertaining and convincing fashion. Henry introduces himself by introducing his home-town of Perkinsville, New York, whereupon his woeful g…

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…ause they are so well written. The expertly devised narrative voice, easy humour, compelling characterization, and thoughtful, even philosophical storytelling combine to create a series of books which compare favourably to many included on the Modern Library’s recent list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, which seems not to contain a single novel set in the world of sport. It is a curious prejudice, this apparent lack of respect for literature concerned with sport, to which these novels represent a pointed and hearty rebuke.

Works Cited

Harris, Mark. A Ticket For A Seamstitch. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

—. Bang The Drum Slowly. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

—. It Looked Like Forever. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.

—. The Southpaw. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

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