Imagery in ‘A Passage to India’ plays an important role throughout Forster’s novel. The Caves imagery is undoubtedly the most significant, creating a pattern for the other key images and symbols to compliment. Notably a reader is told in the opening and final sentence of ‘Mosque’ about the ‘extraordinary Marabar Caves.’ Despite the suggested importance of ‘the overarching sky’ the nihilism of the caves dominates. It has been suggested by critics that ‘even physically the caves resemble the empty dome of the sky reaching out to infinity. Remarkably, the flame of a match reflected in the polished walls of the caves illuminates nothing but itself, emphasising the ‘nothingness’ of the caves. This concept can be elaborated upon further, by reinforcing the antiquity of the hills, which are impervious to human culture.
Forster strengthens this point in chapter fourteen of ‘A Passage to India’ with the statement ‘before man with his itch for the seemly, had been born, the planet must have looked thus.’ It is clear through the reactions of Adela and Mrs Moore that the colonial conflicts, and striving for unity that take place in the caves expose the barren emotions of the individual, creating a spiritual challenge, which is deeper than any colonial conflict. From these character’s experiences a reader gains greater understanding of Forster’s own personal beliefs, which strongly focus on the spiritual awareness and importance of the individual.
Religion/ Hinduism Although spirituality in the novel does not lie in its concern with specific religions, it is nevertheless necessary to acknowledge the significance of the three different religions which are referred to. ‘Mosque’, ‘Caves’ and ‘Temple’ loosely focus on Mohammedanism, Christianity and Hinduism respectively, but it is only Hinduism that is presented fully, with the section ‘Temple’ almost dedicated to this purpose. What’s more, “neither Aziz nor Mrs Moore seek comfort in the formalities of their religion4”, Aziz believes that Islam is “an attitude to life both exquisite and durable” and Mrs Moors is troubled because she feels that “she lacks a sure response.”
On the other hand, Godbole is not troubled by such problems, as he explains, ” I say to Him, Come, come, come, come, come, come. He does not come.” Godbole accepts the shortcoming of Hinduism, and yet is still content. While Forster is not promoting Hinduism as the religion to resolve the problems of unity, he is stressing its spiritual attributes, reinforcing his belief in the importance of the spiritual understanding of the individual. Importantly, it is Mrs Moore’s spirit which lives “to become a Hindu Goddess to sway Adela’s mind and to change the course of justice.5”
Friel believes that the Irish are constantly overshadowed by “the sound of the English language…which forms and shapes us in a way that is neither healthy nor valuable for us…6” Friel, through the characters in ‘Translations’, articulates his concern that the nature of language is an expression of racial and cultural awareness, which basic translation is unable to preserve. By taking the example of Maire and Yolland, an audience experiences the inadequacy of translation- “Does he know what I’m saying?” Friel’s translation of ‘Three Sisters’ into a ‘new kind of English’ illustrates his desire to make ‘an English’ identifiable to Ireland. This strongly supports Friel’s personal belief that basic translation destroys the cultural meaning of names and places, in a particular context, coming from a particular mouth.
Friel and Forster both adopt different forms to compliment the purposes of their individual works. Friel chooses the style of a play partly because of its visual benefits. Notably, the tableau at the close of act one has a dramatic effect, and portrays the relevant characteristics of the attendees to the hedge school. The stage directions describe Jimmy Jack as ‘lost in text’ and ‘Hugh trying to negotiate the steps’; these descriptions expose their response to colonialism. In the context of ‘Translations’, the characters of Hugh and Jimmy Jack witnessed the transformation from rural Gaelic society to the progressively colonial nation.
Unlike Jimmy Jack, who is ‘lost’ in his world of Greek Mythology, Hugh appreciates the need for translation, to ‘learn those new names…’ However, his character is perhaps the most tragic, for he understands the loss ‘translation’ will bring, which is why he urges they ‘learn to make them (names) their own.’ These words echo Friel’s own, where he confesses ‘we must make English identifiably our own language.’
‘Translations’ is primarily about language, which is why Friel’s decision to write a play is so fitting. The beauty of ”Translations’ ‘ as a stage performance lies with its ability to emphasize the differences between the English and Irish language, and the loss of meaning when one is translated into the other. Hugh, the most talented translator in the play is a prime example of this fact when he admits, “We tend to overlook your island”, and amusingly asks Yolland “Did (Wordsworth) speak of me?”
As Eileen Underhill acknowledges, “His hubristic underestimation of the greatest imperialistic force since Roman times, proclaim him to be out of tune with reality7.’ What’s more, through translation, the importance of England and indeed Wordsworth is lost. A more striking example of this fact is the awkward conversation between Maire, Yolland and Owen, where little communication is made: “What is he saying. ” / “What does he say?” Ironically however, without a translator Yolland and Maire make progress, and communicate through something deeper, and more powerful than language, for example “Maire holds out her hand.” to Yolland.
Friel suggests through the “transcendent, translatory power of love”8, that communication can be accomplished. Thus, Friel suggests that identity is held deep in a persons roots, and in their intimate knowledge of names and places. Maire and Yolland’s rewarding conversation based on their knowledge of place names supports this suggestion: “Bun na hAbhann? Yolland is encouraged “Poll na gCaorach. Lis Maol.” Maire turns towards him. “Lis na nGall.” What’s more, Friel is pointing out that take-over and oppression of Ireland is what killed the roots of the Irish culture, and consequently provoked the troubles of the 1980s.