The basis for my thesis is E. M. Forster’s "A Passage to India" and Hari Kunzru’s "The Impressionist". Forster’s novel was published in 1924 and Kunzru’s in 2002, but although written almost eighty years apart, they describe the same epoch in British and Indian history. Simplifying to the extreme, we have in one novel a journey to India and in the other one a journey from India. The common denominator for both stories is the mix between English characters and English culture on one hand and inhabitants of British colonies and their culture on the other. The interplay between these against the backdrop of British imperialism, as reflected in the chosen texts, is the foundation for this thesis.
The primary aim with this thesis is to show how "A Passage to India" and "The Impressionist" both can benefit from being read together. Forster’s novel is by now a classic in British literature, whereas Kunzru’s is almost brand new. Despite their difference in age, their thematic similarities are noteworthy. A second aim is to provide a reading of "The Impressionist" which includes the novel in a tradition of British colonial and postcolonial literature. A third aim is to confirm that Forster’s novel still has the ability to communicate with a modern audience. Even though "A Passage to India" is eighty years old, the content and style of this remarkable novel are still interesting and relevant.
The thesis consists of two analyses and a comparative discussion; one analysis for "A Passage to India" and one for "The Impressionist". The analyses focus on colonial discourse, cultural identity, and space in relation to the narrators, the characters, and the novels’ main themes. The analyses’ conceptual framework is drawn from the field of postcolonial theory. Reading these authors together reveals an interesting relationship between the synchrony of the novels’ settings as opposed to the diachrony of their time of production.