Waiting for the Barbarians and A Passage to India

Essay by katib_1980 October 2010

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Waiting for the Barbarians and A Passage to India

The novels 'Waiting for the Barbarians' and 'A Passage to India' revolve around the themes of racial segregation of the natives of one land at the hand of their conquerors. The protagonists from both the plots are based in foreign lands which are treated with great contempt by their peers; both chose to defy the invisible boundaries set by their fellowmen and befriend the locals and then subsequently suffer the effects. Coetzee's magistrate in 'Waiting for the Barbarians' and Forster's school principle Fielding from 'A Passage to India' are intensely similar at times in their reactions to the natives of the land they're on and at others respond in completely different ways. It is both the characters humanity and liberal thinking which connects them to their adopted land and the same that tears them apart.

The striking and in fact focal similarity between the two characters is the stance they take against their own people for the sake of the natives of the lands they inhibit.

Both the magistrate and Fielding treat the natives like humanely which is unacceptable for their peers. The magistrate and Fielding are largely alone in their beliefs of equality and fairness for the natives. In his book, Reading the Novel in English, 1950-2000, Brian W. Shaffer furthers this argument by discussing the character of the magistrate as "the sole man willing to speak the truth about the corrupt society, in the hope of saving that society, ironically suffers the fate of an "enemy" of the people" (Shaffer 189). Similarly, Peter Childs describes the character of Fielding in his works 'A Routledge literary sourcebook on E.M. Forster's A passage to India,' where he states "Fielding has an essentially personal approach to society in general, which he also...