The Style of a Classic
A commentary on E.M. Forster's unique style that helped to make him so famous


A Summary of A Passage to India

A Biography of E.M. Forster

A Thematic Analysis of A Passage to India

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Works Cited

            As an author, E.M. Forster is notable for his unique perspective on society as a whole. His ability to place himself in the situation of any subject was crucial in writing many of his finest novels including A Passage to India, A Room With a View, and Maurice. His use of narrative voice, literary devices, descriptions, vocabulary, and dialogue all combine to create an incomparable style all Forster’s own.

Narrative Voice< namespace="" prefix="o" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" xml="true">

            A Passage to India, often considered to be Forster’s “finest novel”, is told through a third-person omniscient point of view ( This helps a reader to better understand all of the characters and their motivations. It also creates a greater opportunity to connect with the characters on an emotional level. For example, when Aziz is frantically planning out how exactly he will entertain the English women, the reader actually feels the doctor’s frustration and anxiety. Forster’s choice of narration, especially in this story, is very effective overall.

Literary Devices

            E.M. Forster’s writing in A Passage to India is full of literary devices, all used to their fullest extent to add to the overall tone of the book. The narration abounds with similes, metaphors, personification, and symbolism. In fact, one of the most important recurring elements in the book is the haunting “bou-oum” and “ou-boum” which Mrs. Moore thinks causes the cave to seem to be “stuffed with a snake composed of many small snakes” (Forster 163). This noise, an onomatopoeia, is integral to the occurrences in the story. Without this noise, Ms. Quested would not have been exposed to the opportunity that allowed the guide to take advantage of her, sparking a controversy that affects the characters for years to come.


            E.M. Forster’s descriptions are highly typical of the time period. His descriptions are very verbose, sometimes too much so. He spends the initial portions of each successive section of A Passage to India giving a detailed description of the location in which the portion of the story takes place. Though sometimes overdone, Forster’s writing is nevertheless stirring and beautiful. It is obvious throughout the book that he had reached the height of his career as a novelist, which is ironic considering A Passage to India is the last full piece of fiction Forster penned. Long accounts of how “the mountains rose, their debris silted up the ocean, the gods took their seats on them and contrived the river, and the India we call immemorial came into being” are common and continue into long, drawn-out sections of flowery prose (Forster 135). His use of detail is exceptional, and though < namespace="" prefix="st1" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" xml="true">India was not his homeland, one gets the feeling Forster knows his setting well.


            The vocabulary in Forster’s best-known work is sometimes highly sophisticated. Other times, the vocabulary, though old-fashioned, is easy to understand. Because of the liberal peppering of high-level vocabulary, Forster is difficult to understand. There are times, even, where the pacing of the plot suffers because of the author’s insistence on beefing up the vocabulary as much as possible. Overall, though Forster’s vocabulary is undisputedly large,  its usage does nothing to add to the effectiveness of his style as an author.


            Forster showed throughout his career a preference for writing about human nature, especially where society as a whole is concerned. His fiction was mainly “conservative in form” (Columbia Encyclopedia).  Basic human interaction and the subtleties involved especially seem to have intrigued him. This is especially true in A Passage to India, which concerns colonialism and the effects on all involved. Forster seemed to take great pleasure in dissecting the various effects of imperialism and colonialism in native and invading societies.

            Forster’s style is, overall, fairly typical of the time period in which he wrote. He used some elements of his style unusually well though, and through his narrative voice, use of literary devices, descriptions, vocabulary, and theme, he communicated the basic ideas of human nature he was most concerned with.