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Social Pressures in Indian Writing

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Social pressures and constraints are present in every society in the world. It doesn’t matter where a person lives, as long as they interact with other people from their society, they will be subjected to pressure. Everyone cares what other people think or say about them, and this leads them to start behaving in certain ways. This topic is also a recurring theme in every novel we’ve read up to now. Whether it’s Adela Quested in “A Passage to India”, Raju from “The Guide”, Bhuvan from “Lagaan”, or even Salim from “Midnight’s Children”, every single character in each novel/film faces instances where their decisions are affected by social constraints. In fact, even the people who wrote the novels, or directed the films, had to deal with society. Even they had to portray their characters in a certain way, or deal with situations in a certain way because of what people would say.

The main purpose of this paper is to explore how both the authors/directors and their characters have dealt with different kinds of constraints, and what this does to them.

“A passage to India” explores many different levels of society. Since the novel is based on the interactions between the British “rulers” and the Native Indians, there are those 2 broad strata of society, which are further divided into smaller groups. As one can imagine, the amount of social pressures faced in this situation would be incredible.

The biggest examples of how characters deal with society is shown primarily through Adela Quested, and Mr. Fielding. Both characters are English, but have interactions with the natives in different ways. Ms. Quested is new to the country, and wants to “see the real India”, and therefore tries to explore it with the help of Dr. Aziz. In the process of visiting the Malabar Caves, however, an incident takes place which causes Ms. Quested to lay charges of attempted rape on Dr. Aziz, at which point there’s a large trial. In the trial, however, Ms. Quested realizes her mistake, and not being concerned about her countrymen, takes back the charges. This, however, lands her into a lot of trouble with the English, as they refuse to look at her as an “equal”. As Adela says when deciding where to go after the trial,

“I believe my best plan is to return to the Turtons, and see if they will allow me to sleep, and if they turn me away I must go to the Dak. The collector would take me in, I know, but Mrs. Turton said this morning that she would never see me again…

…far better stop her than expose yourself to insults from that preposterous woman…” (pg 222, “A Passage to India”)

The second part of that quote is said by Mr. Fielding to Adela. The bottom line is that Adela doesn’t feel “wanted” by her people after she decides to break social rules, and tell the truth. While her English countrymen want to see Aziz jailed for committing such an act, Adela (upon realizing that she’s made a mistake) tells the truth, and pays for it. She’s pretty much “banned” from society. Even her engagement is broken off by Ronny, partly due to the fact that he would be looked down upon for marrying her. Adela sums it up after discovering her engagement is broken off,

“I would willingly have gone on spoiling his life through inertia- one belongs nowhere and becomes a public nuisance without realizing it…But oh, the trouble I’ve brought on everyone here..” (pg 237, “A Passage to India”)

The other character in “A Passage to India” who is notably against social pressure is Mr. Fielding. While most of his English countrymen prefer not to associate themselves with the native Indians, Fielding is one of the few who tries to become friends with some of them. While the others are intent on proving their superiority, Fielding is one who tries to mingle with Indians, and get to know them better. In fact, he ends up becoming a very good friend of Dr. Aziz’s. Fielding’s main role in the novel comes about when Aziz is jailed and put on trial for the “attempted rape” of Adela. Throughout the entire process, Fielding’s the only Englishman who believes in Aziz’s innocence, and stands by him throughout. The most striking example of this is in the club, when everyone shows sympathy for Ronnie Heaslop, while Fielding makes his point clear. Forrester writes:

“..while honoring him they condemned Aziz and India. Fielding realized this, and remained seated. It was an ungracious, a caddish thing to do, perhaps an unsound thing to do, but he felt he’d been passive long enough, and that he might be drawn into the wrong current if he did not make a stand.” (pg. 169 “A Passage to India”)

Fielding decides to go against all social norms, and refuses to stand up for Heaslop when he enters the room. Even according to general social norms,

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