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Ronny’s character does not change much over the course of the novel. Instead, Forster’s emphasis is on the change that happened before the novel begins, when Ronny first arrived in India. Both Mrs. Moore and Adela note the difference between the Ronny they knew in England and the Ronny of British India. Forster uses Ronny’s character and the changes he has undergone as a sort of case study, an exploration of the restrictions that the English colonials’ herd mentality imposes on individual personalities. All of Ronny’s previously individual tastes are effectively dumbed down to meet group standards. He devalues his intelligence and learning from England in favor of the “wisdom” gained by years of experience in India. The open-minded attitude with which he has been brought up has been replaced by a suspicion of Indians. In short, Ronny’s tastes, opinions, and even his manner of speaking are no longer his own, but those of older, ostensibly wiser British Indian officials. This kind of group thinking is what ultimately causes Ronny to clash with both Adela and his mother, Mrs. Moore.
Nonetheless, Ronny is not the worst of the English in India, and Forster is somewhat sympathetic in his portrayal of him. Ronny’s ambition to rise in the ranks of British India has not completely destroyed his natural goodness, but merely perverted it. Ronny cares about his job and the Indians with whom he works, if only to the extent that they, in turn, reflect upon him. Forster presents Ronny’s failing as the fault of the colonial system, not his own.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Passage to India!