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E.M. Forster has shown his mastery in the art of character portrayal in A Passage to India. The novel contains a gallery of characters who are very much life-like and real. Here we see a variety of characters such as English, Indians, (Hindu and Muslim) men and women of different races, cultures and professions. A character is generally revealed through his actions, conversation or behaviour but Forster adds to this method his own comments, description of his appearance or his moral trains, often in an ironical way. Again certain aspects of one person are conveyed though the comments of other persons in the story. He also makes use of psychological analysis of his characters to expose their attitudes, sentiments, bent of mind, ect.
Forester's art of characterization in A Passage to India

In A Passage to India there are two general types of characters, 'the flat' and 'the round'. 'Flat' characters, sometimes called caricatures or types, are one dimensional, i.e. built around a single idea or quality. A 'flat' character is best when he is comic. A 'round' character, in contrast, is capable of change. He can surprise us in a cunning way. He is capable of change and development--withi  the pages of a book, of course. A round character to Forster is much more of an achievement than a flat one. In the novel flat characters are illustrated by Professor Godbole and Mrs. Turton. Ronny Heaslop is essentially, but not entirely flat. Round characters include Aziz, Mrs. Moore, Adela Quested, Cyril Fielding, and Hamidullah.

Now we may take up two characters from the novel---Aziz and Ronny Heaslop and examine how far they belong to Forster's system of classification of characters. Dr. Aziz is perhaps the best example of a 'round' character; his warmth and vitality make the reader feel that he is a living person. Forster has been warmly praised by the critics for this excellent description of a member of a race differing from his own. It is a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal. Aziz is a man of passion, whose emotional gamut ranges from great heights to the depths of despair. A Muslim, he feels strongly tied to his ancestors, the society in which he lives and the future in which his children will live. Thus Aziz with his virtues and contradictions appears in the novel as a very credible human being.

Ronny Heaslop, the magistrate of Chandrapore city, on the other hand, is a flat character possessing traits that are static and unchanging. One may say that Ronny, the public school product, is a type of Anglo-Indian at its most trivial. Though a new comer to India, he has already been spoiled by the Anglo-Indian class in India. Anxious to please his superiors, he has adopted their ways and attitudes, blindly accepting their version of India and the Indians as the gospel truth.

Thus Forster's portrayal of character in A Passage to India is highly successful.


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