A Passage to India and Orientalism

Powerful Essays
A Passage to India and Orientalism

When in 1978 Edward W. Said published his book Orientalism, it presented a turning point in post-colonial criticism. He introduced the term Orientalism, and talked about 2 of its aspects: the way the West sees the Orient and the way the West controls the Orient. Said gave three definitions of Orientalism, and it is through these definitions that I will try to demonstrate how A Passage to India by E. M. Forster is an Orientalist text. First, Said defined Orientalism as an academic discipline, which flourished in 18th and 19th century.

Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient - and this applies

whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist -

either in its specific or its general aspects, is an Orientalist, and what he or she does

is Orientalism. (2)

Second, in Said's own words "Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between "the Orient" and (most of the time) "the Occident"" (2). And now we come to Said's third definition of Orientalism:

Here I come to the third meaning of Orientalism, which is something more

historically and materially defined than either of the other two. Taking the late

eighteenth century as a very roughly defined starting point Orientalism can be

discussed and analysed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient -

dealing with it by making statements about it, authorising views of it, describing

it, teaching it, settl...

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...storehouses for grain. India is his country, and India shall one day be

united as one nation and throw off the English yoke. (274)

In Forster's A Passage to India we recognize certain elements that can be seen as Orientalist. According to Edward Said's definitions of Orientalism I tried to point out some of these Orientalist elements. However, there are many more examples in the novel which would also fit in the Orientalist frames set by Said.


Fasset, I. P. Rev. of A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster. Criterion October 9, 1924

Forster, Edward Morgan. A Passage to India. London: Penguin Books. 1979.

Hartley, Leslie Poles. Rev of A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster. Spectator June 28,


Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books Edition. 1979.
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