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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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.
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