The Imaginary and the Symbolic in E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness


Faculty of Letters, Arts and Humanities of Manouba, Tunisia


This paper compares two texts Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and E. M Forster’s A Passage to India through an application of Abdul Jan Mohamed’s theoretical insights in “The Economy of the Manichean Allegory” to the two novels. In comparing these two texts, my aim is to investigate their implicit ideology regarding the African and Indian natives, the white presence in Africa and India respectively and their attitudes towards the colonial enterprise. The ultimate purpose of the paper is not only to demonstrate whether Conrad’s and Forster’s narratives serve the imperial ideology or rather undermine and criticize its practices but also to delineate the attitudes and relations between the colonizer and the colonized and the Manichean polarities between the self and the other as binary oppositions that sustain the colonial enterprise. Moreover, the paper aims at demonstrating that Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Forster’s A Passage to India are two narratives of dubiety where the authors’ liberalism easily translates into an ideology of complicity. In other words, Heart of Darkness, which is previously read as an expression of Western ideals of civilization and progress, would now be read as embodiment of imperialist and racist rhetoric and representation. Similarly, Forster’s A Passage to India, a narrative that has long been praised for its humanistic icon and its liberal ideas, would now be read as an incarnation of imperial
and racial politics. The paper does not only challenge those scholars who do not see Orientalism as problematic but also those who tend to overlook the role of fictional representations in shaping the image of the Other within a wider multidisciplinary study of knowledge and power.