British Justice According to E.M. Foster Essay

This essay will be an analysis of the depiction of British Justice in E.M. Foster’s, A Passage to India, specifically within Chapter XXIV of the novel. Within this specific chapter it is the trial, where Dr. Aziz has been charged with attempted rape. Although throughout the novel the reader has no clear indication if the charge against him is true or not. Foster depicts British Justice as a way of controlling the Indian natives. Foster had knowledge of the British justice system but “Forster’s depictions of law are not verisimilar. Nor could they be. When E. A. Horne, a worker in the Indian education service, criticised these depictions, Forster cursed his friend, the Indian lawyer Syeed Ross Masood, ‘for not advising him better.’”(Furbank, 1992: xix). Fosters superficial knowledge of the British Justice system within India allowed him to give the reader the idea of the socio-political realities within India and how the courts were used in order to maintain that the English remained in control and had power over the native Indians. The novel poses the question throughout, whether or not Indians and English can be friends. The characters that represent this question are Mrs. Moore and Fielding. The English are not in India to make friends with the Indians but they are there to control India through the law and other socio political instruments.

The trial scene should be considered as the climax within the novel, as the outcome of the court proceedings will decided the fate of Dr. Aziz. Although even before the proceedings have began the District Superintendent of Police in Chandrapore Mr. McBryde is convinced that the court proceedings are merely a formality and that Dr. Aziz will surely be convicted of the crime at the end of the court case. Ronny, the ex-fiancé of Miss Adela Quested cannot be part of the court proceedings and preside over the court case, as he is involved with the persecutor. Therefore the position to preside in this case is given to Mr. Das an Indian gentleman, but is seen as a slave to the British and they are aware of this, “You mean he’s more frightened of acquitting than convicting, because if he acquits he’ll lose his job”(Foster, 2005:203). Adela has been placed in the care of Mrs. Turton, as the initial English that she was staying with have left. Adela stays with the Mrs. Turton and is moved by her kindness, but realises “that the kindness is due to Adela’s position and not on her character. The fact that she was an English girl who had a terrible experience and for whom too much could not be done” (Foster, 2005:200) the colonisers realise that the court case and it success would guarantee their oppression over the Indians. Thankfully Adela has an individual consciousness, and is not encouraged enough by the English to be malleable and continue with the conviction. She therefore acts as a corrective for the English desire to group and control the Indians natives.

The treatment of the natives of Indians under the western law, by the individuals who have been appointed as the officials of the court, by the crown represents one of the most important features within the novel. It emphasis the control of the British in the legal framework of India and the Indians are seen of a lesser legal status within it. The British that are in India want to remind the Indians of their superiority, they do this through their manners and how they present themselves in front of the Indian public. As shown in the example in the courtroom “Their chairs preceded them to the court, for it was important that they looked dignified”(Foster, 2005:204). This imagery used by Foster to show the cultural differences between the two groups and that the English were well aware of the fact that, this form of unnecessary showmanship is there to ensure that the natives are aware of the English supremacy. The Indians that are present within the courtroom feel as though the court case with bring a new form of brutality, as is shown with the example of “the Collector who had made a official joke as he sat down. The Indians who had not heard what was said could felt that some new cruelty was afoot”(Foster, 2005:204).

The court case begins and Mr. McBryde, who begins the proceedings opening statement of “Everyone knows the man’s guilty, and I am obliged to say to in public before he goes to the Andamans”(Foster, 2005:205), is a confirmation of the English arrogance and self importance and that all other races are either at fault or in the wrong. Mr. McBryde is well aware of the offences that he is creating by his words, but ignores this and continues with his insults of the natives even going so far as to say that the Indians merely based on their race, they have a lust for English women, “the darker races are physically attracted by the fairer, but not vice versa” this is contradicted by a statement from someone within the room that shouted “ Even when the lady is so uglier than the gentleman?”(Foster, 2005:206). The comment that followed the statement by Mr. McBryde proves that what he said is not true it is merely his own prejudice towards the Indians. Foster uses this, to show that the western ideas of their own superiority is not shared amongst the Indians.

Miss Adela Quested takes the stand, she in her intellect thinks back to the incident and questions herself, to whether Dr. Aziz had in fact followed her into the cave and assaulted her. She is uncertain of this but continues with the proceedings and tries to convince herself that he is guilty. During the cross-examination of Miss Quested, Mr. Ali the lawyer of Dr. Aziz lost his self-control, when the question of Mrs. Moore is introduced. The court was told that Mrs. Moore has left the country, this enrages Mr. Ali. “She was kept from us until too late-I learn to late- this is your English Justice, here is your British Raj. Give us back Mrs. Moore for five minutes only, she will save my friend.”(Foster, 2005:211). Mr. Ali, realises that the removal of Mrs. Moore was the English’s way of ensuring the conviction of Dr. Aziz, he knows that this was the English intention and wants to show that the English will do anything to maintain their reign of the British Raj even if it is against the law. He pleads with the Magistrate to allow Mrs. Moore to be a witness as he is convinced that this will lead to the release of Dr. Aziz. Moments later Mr. Ali after hearing that Mrs. Moore who he believes to have been banished from India because she knew the truth of the events that occurred on that day, screams “I ruin my career, no matter; we are all here to be ruined on by one”(Foster, 2005:211.) Mr. Ali realises that there is no point in continuing this case, because no matter what he does the British intend to control and ruin each and every Indian one by one. Upon hear this the Magistrate, warns Mr. Ali against his behavior within the court and tells him that this is not the way to defend a case. To which Mr. Ali replies that “I am not defending a case, nor are you trying one. We are both of us slaves”(Forster, 2005:211). Mr. Ali is enraged that the Magistrate, who himself is Indian is doing nothing for the case of Dr. Aziz, he feels as though the Magistrate has sided with the British and wants to convict Dr. Aziz of this horrendous crime. He reminds the Magistrate that they are not independent in this court case and are both slaves to the British. Mr. Ali goes outside into the streets and begins to chant Mrs. Moore’s name, it sounds to be “Esmiss Esmoor, a Hindu goddess.”(Foster, 2005:212). This has relevance as it is connected with Mrs. Moore’s philosophy that the regardless of the religion, the religious principles that are practiced by individuals in their own religion shall unite people and essentially bring the British and Indians together.

As Miss. Quested is continuing in her cross-examination Mr. McBryde asks he if Dr. Aziz did in fact follow her into the cave? She takes a moment to remember and to place Dr. Aziz on that day. To the question she responds that she is not sure if he did, she is asked again by a somewhat scared and surprised Mr. McBryde, as he realises that if she continues on the path she is Dr. Aziz will surely be free, to which she replies “No”(Foster, 2005:215). Mr. McBryde attempts to read the deposition that Miss Quested had signed and as it being a legal document, it is therefore valid and that it opposes her statement now and to be more reliable as it occurred almost immediately after the incident. Miss. Quested has realised that she had been mistaken, she within in her own consciousness made the decision to retract her earlier statement and exonerate Dr. Aziz. She knows that the atonement and confession is of importance and therefore recants her earlier statement of accusing Dr. Aziz of attempted rape. The Magistrate upon hearing that she withdraws her statement declares that “The prisoner is released without one stain on his character; the questions of costs will be decided elsewhere”(Foster, 2005:216). This is of vital importance as Miss Quested has realised that she was wrong and although the entirety of the British colonisers are pushing her and trying to implicate Dr. Aziz, she knows that this is wrong and chooses to do the right thing in order to achieve atonement for her earlier actions.

The image that is presented to the reader in the last pages of chapter XXIV, is one of chaos and the idea that a riot may break out. The natives have won the court case and it seems as if the winning of the court case has liberated the natives in some manner from the British. It is ironic that the liberation is the result of an English woman’s honesty rather that a revolt of the natives. Foster depicts the British Justice system within India as flawed and used as a method of control.

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