Muddle Et Cetera: Syntax in A Passsage to India

  • Molly B. Tinsley


It is with some notion of the connection between culture and sentence structure that E. M. Forster begins his treatment of Leonard Bast in Howards End. Leonard, bent on escaping the abyss where no one counts, reads Stones of Venice assiduously, memorizing cadences and trying to adapt Ruskin’s complex structures to his own mediocre experience. But Leonard is just sensitive enough to realize the inappropriateness of his efforts. The glorious rhythms of Venice are not for him. He must stick to simple sentences like ‘My flat is dark as well as stuffy’.2 Oddly enough, Leonard Bast anticipates Forster’s own struggle later to develop sentences that would aptly reflect the experience of India. He too had to leave behind the harmonies of the Mediterranean, the ‘spirit in a reasonable form’, as inappropriate to a muddled civilization where ‘everything was placed wrong’.3 If, as Turner suggests, orderly hypotaxis is a correlative for European civilization, it is not surprising to find the Forster of A Passage to India exploring ways to discard or at least disrupt it.


Direct Object Western Form Object Catalogue Subordinate Structure Ironic Comment 
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  1. 1.
    G. W. Turner, Stylistics ( Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1973 ), p. 71.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    E. M. Forster, Howards End, ed. Oliver Stallybrass, Abinger edn. ( London: Edward Arnold, 1973 ), p. 47.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    E. M. Forster, A Passage to India, ed. Oliver Stallybrass, Abinger edn. (London: Edward Arnold, 1978 ), p. 270.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Judith Scherer Herz and Robert K. Martin 1982

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  • Molly B. Tinsley

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