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Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary
devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
The echo begins at the Marabar Caves: first Mrs. Moore
and then Adela hear the echo and are haunted by it in the weeks
to come. The echo’s sound is “boum”—a sound it returns regardless
of what noise or utterance is originally made. This negation of
difference embodies the frightening flip side of the seemingly positive
Hindu vision of the oneness and unity of all living things. If all
people and things become the same thing, then no distinction can
be made between good and evil. No value system can exist. The echo
plagues Mrs. Moore until her death, causing her to abandon her beliefs
and cease to care about human relationships. Adela, however, ultimately escapes
the echo by using its message of impersonality to help her realize
Forster spends time detailing both Eastern and Western
architecture in A Passage to India. Three architectural
structures—though one is naturally occurring—provide the outline
for the book’s three sections, “Mosque,” “Caves,” and “Temple.”
Forster presents the aesthetics of Eastern and Western structures
as indicative of the differences of the respective cultures as a
whole. In India, architecture is confused and formless: interiors
blend into exterior gardens, earth and buildings compete with each
other, and structures appear unfinished or drab. As such, Indian
architecture mirrors the muddle of India itself and what Forster
sees as the Indians’ characteristic inattention to form and logic.
Occasionally, however, Forster takes a positive view of Indian architecture.
The mosque in Part I and temple in Part III represent the promise
of Indian openness, mysticism, and friendship. Western architecture,
meanwhile, is described during Fielding’s stop in Venice on his
way to England. Venice’s structures, which Fielding sees as representative
of Western architecture in general, honor form and proportion and
complement the earth on which they are built. Fielding reads in
this architecture the self-evident correctness of Western reason—an
order that, he laments, his Indian friends would not recognize or
At the end of Fielding’s tea party, Godbole sings for
the English visitors a Hindu song, in which a milkmaid pleads for
God to come to her or to her people. The song’s refrain of “Come!
come” recurs throughout A Passage to India, mirroring
the appeal for the entire country of salvation from something greater
than itself. After the song, Godbole admits that God never comes
to the milkmaid. The song greatly disheartens Mrs. Moore, setting
the stage for her later spiritual apathy, her simultaneous awareness
of a spiritual presence and lack of confidence in spiritualism as
a redeeming force. Godbole seemingly intends his song as a message
or lesson that recognition of the potential existence of a God figure
can bring the world together and erode differences—after all, Godbole
himself sings the part of a young milkmaid. Forster uses the refrain
of Godbole’s song, “Come! come,” to suggest that India’s redemption
is yet to come.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Passage to India!