The Difference between Metropolitan and Colonial Space

Topics: Colonialism, India, E. M. Forster Pages: 5 (1742 words) Published: August 17, 2011
Metropolitan vs. Colonial Space in Forster’s A Passage to India and Lawrence’s Women in Love

At first glance, it seems easy to state a definitive distinction between what Said calls “metropolitan space” and “colonial space.” In its simplest form, metropolitan space is the space occupied by the colonizers. Examples of this include England, France and the places these people reside in while living in these colonies. Likewise, colonial space is that which is occupied by those who are colonized. India and Africa are both good examples of this. However, upon closer inspection, it is clear that this distinction is not as simple as it may originally appear.

Although the above definitions are accurate, they are also incomplete. As Said says, colonialism is not a “simple act of accumulation and acquisition (9).” The distinction between metropolitan space and colonial space does not lie solely within physical and tangible spaces. It also exists in the mindsets and attitudes of the people involved in colonialism. Said points out that a direct result of colonialism is that it comes with changes in attitudes (52).

Another important element of the distinction between metropolitan and colonial spaces is the understanding that this distinction exists because of the differences in power. Said defines metropolitan space as a “socially desirable empowered space (52).” He goes on to say that metropolitan spaces are connected to colonial spaces by the “design, motive and development” of these colonial spaces. Further, he says that cultures want to move into these colonial spaces because they are viewed as ‘desirable but subordinate (52).” This point is especially important to note. There is a definite understanding that those who occupy the metropolitan space have the power while those who occupy the colonial space do not.

The vocabulary used is also an essential element of the distinction between the two spaces. Said mentions that some of the key elements/words associated with colonialism include: “inferior” and “subordinate peoples. (9)” These terms further reinforce the division of power.

E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India is a prime example of the distinction between metropolitan and colonial spaces. Using the simplest definition, Forster presents an India where the distinction between metropolitan and colonial spaces is very clear. Metropolitan space is present in the form of England, but also is present locally in the form of the club. The Indians occupy their own colonial spaces that the British rarely enter into. Examples of this include the bazaar and their bungalows.

Though the novel is full of many examples of the more intricate distinction between metropolitan and colonial spaces, in Chapter V concerning the Bridge Party the examples are especially abundant. At the Bridge Party, the two groups have their clear, tangible division: the British and the Indians. Ironically, though the party (in theory) is there to bridge the gap between the two groups, it instead acts as a reinforcer of this gap. It is made clear that the Indians are outsiders at the club. From a physical point of view, the two groups remain separated. The British stand on one side, while the Indians stand on another. Though a few attempts at communication do exist, for the most part, the East v. West dissonance is carried on.

Once attempt at communication occurs when Mrs. Moore requests to be introduced to the Indian women. Mrs. Turton replies, “You’re superior to them, anyway… You’re superior to everyone in India (42).” There is nothing covert about Mrs. Turton’s feelings about the inferiority of the Indians. The use of the word “superior” calls to mind Said’s earlier statement about colonial vocabulary.

Yet another example involving Mrs. Turton at the Bridge Party comes moments later. She greets the Indians in Urdu. However, she only knows the imperative form of the verbs in Urdu, and as such, is...

Cited: Forster, E.M. A Passage to India . Harcourt: San Diego, 1924.
Lawrence, D.H. Women in Love. Penguin Books: London, 1920
Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism . Vintage Books: New York, 1993.
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