A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

A Passage to India

by E. M. Forster
Table of Contents
1. A Passage to India: Introduction
2. A Passage to India: Overview
3. A Passage to India: E. M. Forster Biography
4. A Passage to India: Summary

A Passage to India: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part I, Chapters I – III: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part I, Chapter VII: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part I, Chapter VIII: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part I, Chapters IX – XI: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part II, Chapter XXIV: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part III, Chapter XXXIII: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Summary and Analysis
¨ Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Summary and Analysis
A Passage to India: Quizzes
¨ Part I, Chapters I – III: Questions and Answers
¨ Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Questions and Answers
¨ Part I, Chapter VII: Questions and Answers
¨ Part I, Chapter VIII: Questions and Answers
¨ Part I, Chapters IX – XI: Questions and Answers
¨ Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Questions and Answers
A Passage to India 1
¨ Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Questions and Answers
¨ Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Questions and Answers
¨ Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Questions and Answers
¨ Part II, Chapter XXIV: Questions and Answers
¨ Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Questions and Answers
¨ Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Questions and Answers
¨ Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Questions and Answers
¨ Part III, Chapter XXXIIIQuestions and Answers
¨ Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Questions and Answers
¨ Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Questions and Answers
¨ Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Questions and Answers
7. A Passage to India: Themes
8. A Passage to India: Style
9. A Passage to India: Historical Context
10. A Passage to India: Critical Overview
A Passage to India: Character Analysis
¨ Dr. Aziz
¨ Mr. Cyril Fielding
¨ Mrs. Moore
¨ Miss Adela Quested
¨ Other Characters
A Passage to India: Essays and Criticism
¨ Possible Interpretations of Forster's Novel
¨ Forster's Critique of Imperialism in A Passage to India
¨ A Passage to India- The Meaning of the Marabar Caves
13. A Passage to India: Suggested Essay Topics
14. A Passage to India: Sample Essay Outlines
15. A Passage to India: Compare and Contrast
16. A Passage to India: Topics for Further Study
17. A Passage to India: Media Adaptations
18. A Passage to India: Glossary: Anglo-Indian Terminology
19. A Passage to India: What Do I Read Next?
20. A Passage to India: Bibliography and Further Reading
21. A Passage to India: Pictures
22. Copyright
A Passage to India: Introduction
A Passage to India, published in 1924, was E.M. Forster's first novel in fourteen years, and the last novel he
wrote. Subtle and rich in symbolism, the novel works on several levels. On the surface, it is about
India—which at the time was a colonial possession of Britain—and about the relations between Bntish and
Indian people in that country. It is also about the necessity of friendship, and about the difficulty of
establishing friendship across cultural boundaries. On a more symbolic level, the novel also addresses
questions of faith (both religious faith and faith in social conventions). Forster's narrative centers on Dr. Aziz,
a young Indian physician whose attempt to establish friendships with several British characters has disastrous
consequences. In the course of the novel, Dr. Aziz is accused of attempting to rape a young Englishwoman.
Aziz's friend Mr. Fielding, a Bntish teacher, helps to defend Aziz. Although the charges against Aziz are
dropped during his trial, the gulf between the British and native Indians grows wider than ever, and the novel
ends on an ambiguous note. When A Passage to India appeared in 1924, it was praised by reviewers in a
number of important British and American literary journals. Despite some criticism that Forster had depicted
eNotes: Table of Contents 2
the British unfairly, the book was popular with readers in both Britain and the United States. The year after its
publication, the novel received two prestigious literary awards—the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the
Prix Femina Vie Heureuse. More than seventy years later, it remains highly regarded. Not only do many
scholars, critics, and other writers consider it a classic of early twentieth-century fiction, but in a survey of
readers conducted by Waterstone's Bookstore and Channel 4 television in Britain at the end of 1996, it was
voted as one of the "100 Greatest Books of the Century."
A Passage to India: Overview
The Life and Work of E. M. Forster
Edward Morgan Forster was born in London on January 1, 1879. After graduating from Tonbridge School, he
attended King’s College, Cambridge where he was exposed to the values of liberal humanism and discovered
an appreciation of the human being as an individual and the value of friendship. Many of the friendships he
made at Cambridge were lasting ones, and he was later to travel to India for the first time with university
Forster’s literary career began in 1903, when he began writing for The Independent Review, a liberal and
anti-imperialist publication that he co-founded with Lowes Dickinson. He soon published his first novel,
Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905); by 1910, he had written three more. The Longest Journey (1907), A
Room with a View (1908), and Howard’s End (1910) exhibit a growth in the novelist’s skill and in the range
of his subjects. In A Room with a View, which is set first in Florence and then in English suburbia, Forster
reveals himself as a critic of social snobbery and suburban pretension.
In addition to their observation of social codes, all of Forster’s novels portray sensitive characters struggling
with the inflexibility of these codes and the insensitivity of those around them. Although Forster’s point of
view is often comic and ironic, his characters’ personal feelings are usually presented as serious, or at key
moments, sacred. This is especially apparent in Forster’s last novel, A Passage to India, first published in
1924. A Passage to India is the novelist’s acknowledged masterpiece.
Although Forster was born and raised in England, and lived much of his life there, travel was an important
element in his life and work. During World War I, he obtained a position with the Red Cross in Alexandria,
Egypt. By this time Forster was already an established and recognized writer. Forster’s life and career
spanned many historical changes, including two world wars and the dismantling of much of the British
Empire. He observed the British colonial administration first-hand in 1912, when he made the long journey by
sea to India. After this trip, he wrote most of the first section of A Passage to India, but it was not until after a
second visit, in 1921, when he spent six months as private secretary to a Hindu Maharajah, that he completed
it. His masterpiece was published in 1924 and unanimously praised by literary critics. Members of the British
colonial society in England were less enthusiastic. They criticized its portrayal of the colonial administrators,
while some Indians wrote that he had misunderstood the Indian characters or treated them condescendingly.
However, Forster’s goal was not to produce a documentary portrayal of India or Indian society; for example,
he changed the names of Indian towns and regions, even inventing his own Marabar Caves in place of the
actual Ajanta Caves. Instead of drawing a portrait of a country, he was presenting an overall impression that
continually emphasized the way in which the inner qualities of certain individuals and universal feelings were
restricted by social, religious, and ethnic codes. Above all, his novel dramatically depicted the deep spiritual
tensions of two clashing civilizations: the East and the West.
After A Passage to India, his greatest success, Forster never wrote another novel. He turned, instead, to short
stories, essays, and biographies. In 1925, he was awarded the Tait Black Memorial and femina Vie Heureuse
prizes. Forster never married and he died in 1970. It was not until the year after his death that his 1914 novel
Maurice was published for the first time.
A Passage to India: Introduction 3
Beginning with the Oscar-winning film of A Passage to India, which appeared in 1984, Forster’s popularity
has increased. David Lean’s version of A Passage to India was followed by the Merchant-Ivory productions
of A Room with a View and Howard’s End, in 1987 and 1992, respectively. The success of these films has led
to a renewed appreciation of Forster’s gift for portraying the complex inner lives of his characters and the
rigid, yet temporary, nature of the social structures they inhabit.
Historical Background
The political structure of the India that Forster visited and depicted in A Passage to India over 70 years ago
was fundamentally different from that of India today. In Forster’s day, India was ruled by the British. It had
not yet won its independence, nor had it endured the partition and savage rioting that followed it. Forster’s
India was one country, not yet separated into India and Pakistan. The caste system, a strict social
categorization that would later be attacked and weakened by Mahatma Gandhi and others, still ruled Hindu
life and culture.
The India of Forster’s novel is still recognizable as a huge, hot, sprawling country, home to a multitude of
ethnic groups and religions. Some 200 languages are spoken there. Religious and spiritual life seem to play a
different, more open and imposing role in India than in the West. The major religions are Hindu and Muslim,
with important minorities such as Sikhs and Parsis. The overall impression is one of diversity, sometimes
accompanied by tolerance and sometimes by riots and massacres, during which one group attacks another or
destroys sacred sites associated with another tradition.
A Passage to India is set in India under what was known as the British Raj, a system of colonial
administration that began in a few coastal states as an outgrowth of the British East India Company. It grew to
include almost all of India. The British East India Company’s major trade was in cotton goods, silks, spices,
and saltpeter. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, aided by the British army and its Indian
contingents, the Company extended its power and profits in India. In 1858, after the Indian Mutiny, the
Company came under the direct rule of the British crown.
Although the mutiny is mentioned occasionally in Forster’s novel, it remains a ghostly presence and a
reminder of a time when the subjects rose up against the representatives of the foreign power in their midst.
The shock of the uprisings that took place in various parts of India, during which people were shot or hacked
to death, reverberated in the memory of the English colonialists, while Indians never forgot the revolting
punishments imposed when the mutiny was put down and the British Army took its revenge. Another and
more recent massacre had occurred in the Punjab in 1919, between Forster’s first and second trip to India,
when hundreds of peaceful Sikh demonstrators were shot down by the British Army at Amritsar.
Deeply shocked by the reports from Amritsar, Forster condemned the massacre as an example of “public
infamy.” It was the slaughter of the nationalist demonstrators at Amritsar, as well as Britain’s hostility
toward the Khilafat, an Islamic movement, which led Hindus and Muslims to join in a non-cooperation
movement. Although Forster lived in the Hindu state of Dewas during his second visit to India, he was aware
that this movement was growing rapidly in British India, and was producing marked changes in the Indian
social and political scene. Besides protesting against imperialism, social discrimination, and repression, the
native inhabitants of the country were attempting to regain control of their own destinies. A Passage to India
depicts the conditions under which Indians were deprived of opportunities for advancement and were
continually overlooked or insulted by the Anglo-Indian ruling class.
A specific historical situation that Forster probably employed in constructing the central incident in A Passage
to India had occurred in Amritsar in 1919, around the time of the massacre. It was written by “an
Englishwoman” who was new to India and had lived in Amritsar at the time of the nationalist demonstrations.
In her article, published in Blackwood’s Magazine in April 1920, she describes an occasion on which an
English girl had been brutally assaulted by a group of Indians. In the aftermath, the Anglo-Indians gathered at
A Passage to India: Overview 4
the Fort and special trains took the women to the hills, just as in the novel. Forster may well have read this
Englishwoman’s account and based parts of A Passage to India on it. Various other features of the historical
events, including the conciliatory tactics adopted by the British authorities after the crisis, seem to be reflected
or referred to in the novel.
When seen against the historical background of British rule in India, the events of the novel take on greater
resonance. For example, in the context of punishments that had actually been inflicted on Indians—such as the
“crawling order” that forced them to crawl on all fours through a particular lane after the Amritsar
assault—the bitter vengefulness expressed by some Anglo-Indian characters in the novel cannot be attributed
simply to individual aberrations. Revenge had become an instrument of government policy. Similarly, the
Indians’ deep distrust of their British rulers, which at times seems to border on paranoia, can be understood as
a reaction to the system of apartheid instituted by the British Raj.
Master List of Characters
Dr. Aziz—Muslim surgeon, works under Major Callendar; accused by Miss Quested; becomes a friend of
Hamidullah—Muslim friend and relative by marriage of Aziz, prominent Chandrapore barrister; aspires to
social contact with the English but is aware of the difficulties.
Mahmoud Ali—Muslim lawyer, friend of Hamidullah and Aziz; a troublemaker who is constantly spreading
malicious rumors.
Mohammed Latif—Muslim, poor relation of Hamidullah, neither servant nor equal.
Mrs. Moore—Older woman, sensitive to the soul of India, friendly to Aziz and Miss Quested, mother of Ronny
Heaslop, later becomes known as a Hindu Goddess; Esmiss Esmoor.
Major Callendar—The civil surgeon, Aziz’s superior but not as good a doctor, disrespectful toward Indians
and ignorant of Indian life.
Ronny Heaslop—The city magistrate, Mrs. Moore’s son, insecure, wants to do his duty but bewildered by
India; becomes Miss Quested’s fiancé.
Miss Adela Quested—Intellectual, considered unattractive, thinks with her head rather than her heart, close to
Mrs. Moore; becomes engaged to Ronny Heaslop, accuser of Aziz, confides in Fielding.
Mr. Turton—The collector, a civil servant.
Mrs. Turton—Insensitive, used to giving orders, at first conventionally prejudiced, later furiously authoritarian
and vengeful.
Cyril Fielding—Principal of Government College at Chandrapore; looked down on by Anglo-Indians, becomes
friend of Aziz, helps Miss Quested after the trial, later marries Mrs. Moore’s daughter, Stella.
Nawab Bahadur—Muslim, referred to as the “geyser,” wealthy proprietor and philanthropist, grandfather of
Nureddin, haunted by a ghost.
Mr. Ram Chand—Hindu associate of Dr. Panna Lal.
Mr. Graysford and Mr. Sorley—Anglo-Indian missionaries.
A Passage to India: Overview 5
Miss Nancy Derek—Assistant to a Maharani in Native State, crude, talkative, makes fun of Indians, having an
affair with the magistrate, McBryde.
McBryde—District Superintendent of Police, tough-minded, most reflective and best educated of the officials.
Mrs. McBryde—His wife.
Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharya—Hindus of some wealth and status.
Dr. Panna Lal—Low-caste Hindu, fellow-assistant but not friend of Aziz, something of a caricature.
A Subaltern—Anglo-Indian army officer of lower rank.
Professor Narayan Godbole—Hindu, a Deccani Brahmin of the highest caste, elderly, scholarly; his name
suggests “God man of God,” a philosopher and devotee of Shri Krishna, acquaintance of Aziz and his
Muslim friends, and of Fielding.
Mr. Harris—The Eurasian chauffer.
Krishna—An attendant in Heaslop’s office.
Nureddin—The Nawab Bahadur’s grandson, at first beautiful, later mutilated in an accident.
Hassan—Aziz’s servant.
Syed Mohammed—An engineer.
Mr. Haq—Indian police inspector, at first friendly with Aziz, later arrests him.
Rafi—Student of Fielding’s, called the “Sherlock Holmes of Chandrapore” because of his love of gossip and
Antony—Servant of Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested, considers himself of a higher class than other servants.
A Young Mother—Blonde Englishwoman; symbolizes British womanhood.
Mr. Amritrao—Oxford-educated Calcutta barrister, notoriously anti-British; Aziz’s lawyer at the trial.
Lady Mellanby—Wife of the lieutenant-governor of the providence.
Sir Gilbert Mellanby—Lieutenant governor of the providence.
The punkah-wallah—A fan attendant, divinely beautiful, does not speak, a force of nature.
Mr. Das—Hindu judge nominally in charge of Aziz’s trial; Heaslop’s assistant.
Shri Krishna—Hindu deity, incarnate god of love and wisdom; center of Gokul Ashtami festival in celebration
of his August birthday.
Major Roberts—The new civil surgeon.
A Passage to India: Overview 6
Young Milner—The new city magistrate.
Rajah of Mau—Hindu ruler of an independent Native State where Dr. Aziz and Professor Godbole are living at
the end of the novel.
Colonel Maggs—British political agent in Mau who attempts to harass Aziz.
Ralph Moore—Mrs. Moore’s son, Stella’s brother, Fielding’s brother-in-law, intimidated and then embraced
by Aziz.
Stella (Moore) Fielding—Mrs. Moore’s daughter, then Fielding’s wife, she is spiritually in tune with India
and inwardly tranquil.
Jemila, Ahmed, and Karim—Aziz’s children.
A Passage to India: E. M. Forster Biography
When Edward Morgan Forster completed A Passage to India, he was in his mid-forties and was already a
respected and relatively successful novelist. Between 1905 and 1910 he had published four well-crafted
Edwardian novels of upper-middle class life and manners: Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest
Journey (1907), A Room With a View (1908), and Howards End (1910). However, although he had continued
to write short stories as well as another novel, Maurice (published in 1971, after Forster's death), he published
little in the decade after Howards End.
Born in London on January 1, 1879, E.M. Forster was an only child. His father, an architect, died when
Forster was only a year old. The boy was raised by his mother, grandmother, and his father's aunt, who left
Forster the sum of 8,000 pounds in her will. This large amount of money eventually paid for Forster's
education and his early travels. Early in the new twentieth century it also enabled him to live independently
while he established his career as a writer.
Forster grew up in the English countryside north of London, where he had a happy early childhood. He
attended an Eastbourne preparatory school and then the family moved to Kent so that he could attend
Tonbridge School (a traditional English public school), where he was miserable. However, he found
happiness and intellectual stimulation when he went to Cambridge University. There, at King's College, he
studied the classics and joined a student intellectual society known as the Apostles. Among his teachers was
the philosopher G.E. Moore, who had an important influence on Forster's views. He made many friends and
acquaintances, some of whom went on to become important writers and eventually became active in the
Bloomsbury Group.
After graduating from Cambridge, Forster traveled in Italy and Greece. These experiences further broadened
his outlook, and he decided to become a writer. He became an instructor at London's Working Men's College
in 1902 and remained with them for two decades.
In 1906, while living with his mother in the town of Weybridge, near London, Forster tutored an Indian
student named Syed Ross Masood. The two developed a close friendship, and Forster became curious about
India. In 1912 Forster visited India for the first time, with some friends from Cambridge University, and spent
some time with Masood there. He stayed in India for six months and saw the town of Bankipore, located on
the Ganges River in northeast India. Bankipore became the model for Chandrapore. Forster also saw the
nearby Barabar Caves, which gave him the idea for the Marabar Caves. While in India he wrote first drafts of
seven chapters of a new novel that would become A Passage to India. However, after returning to England he
A Passage to India: E. M. Forster Biography 7
put the work aside and instead wrote Maurice, a novel about a homosexual love affair. Because its theme was
considered very controversial at the time, Forster decided not to publish this book during his lifetime.
During World War I, Forster worked as a Red Cross volunteer in Alexandria, Egypt. In 1921 he made a
second visit to India, where he spent six months as private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas Senior, an
independent Moslem state. He gathered more material about India, and after returning to England he finished
writing A Passage to India, which he dedicated to Masood. Forster found the writing process difficult and
feared that the book would be a failure. He was relieved by the book's favorable reception, and in the
remaining forty-five years of his life he received many awards and honors. Although he continued to write
short stones, essays, and radio programs, he turned away from the novel form.
Forster died of a stroke on June 7, 1970, in Coventry, England. Today, his literary reputation remains high,
and all of his novels, except The Longest Journey, have been adapted into films.
A Passage to India: Summary
Summary of the Novel
A Passage to India begins in the town of Chandrapore. The first section, entitled Mosque, introduces a
gathering of Muslim friends who are discussing the problem of friendship with the Anglo-Indians, their
British rulers. Among them is Dr. Aziz, a surgeon, who afterwards has a fateful meeting in a mosque with
Mrs. Moore. Their conversation brings them close and later she introduces him to her younger friend, Miss
Quested, who has arrived to marry Mrs. Moore’s son.
Various attempts are made to bridge the gap between the Indians and the English: an awkward mixed
“bridge-party” at the English Club; Aziz’s brief experience of fellowship while playing polo with a
subaltern; and an “unconventional” gathering of the Muslim Aziz, the Hindu Professor Godbole, Mrs. Moore,
and Mrs. Quested at a teaparty at Fielding’s house. The relative success of the tea party inspires Aziz to invite
all present to accompany him on a planned excursion to the Marabar Caves.
Miss Quested decides not to marry Ronny Heaslop, but then changes her mind and they become engaged.
Driving in a car with the Nawab Bahadur, they have an accident; this draws them together and they announce
their engagement to Mrs. Moore. Meanwhile, rumors, suspicion, and mutual rancor between Muslims and
Hindus emerge in a gathering attended by Aziz, Dr. Panna Lal, and others, though they maintain a superficial
In the second section, The Caves, Aziz’s excursion begins. Fielding and Professor Godbole are delayed and
do not join Aziz and the two women on the train. Once in the caves, Mrs. Moore is disoriented and overcome
by incomprehensible sensations. She leaves the caves. Aziz and Miss Quested continue, but after she asks an
annoying question, he leaves her and goes into another cave. When he emerges, he sees her far down the hill.
Fielding, who is just arriving, asks about Miss Quested. Instead of telling the truth, Aziz invents a story. When
they return to Chandrapore, Aziz is arrested. Miss Quested has charged him with attempting to “insult” her in
the caves. This is clearly a euphemism for a sexual advance or attack.
The British community is furious and indignant; Aziz is denied bail. Fielding’s attempts to speak to Adela
Quested fail. Mrs. Moore refuses to remain in India to testify at the trial. She books passage on a ship for
England. Miss Quested tells her fiancé that Aziz is innocent, but Heaslop will not do anything about it. At the
trial, when she finally takes the witness stand, she admits that she was mistaken about the supposed assault.
The Muslims stage a march to celebrate Aziz’s release. Fielding rescues Miss Quested by taking her to his
garden house. There, they learn that Mrs. Moore has died at sea, before the trial. Ronny Heaslop breaks his
engagement to Adela, who leaves for England. Fielding resigns from the Club. Aziz has begun to distrust
A Passage to India: Summary 8
Fielding; he believes that Fielding is trying to keep Miss Quested from paying compensation and even that he
is having a secret affair with her.
The third and final section, The Temple, takes place years later. Professor Godbole and Aziz are now living
and working in the Native State of Mau, ruled by an aging Rajah. The section opens with Professor Godbole,
who is now minister of education in Mau, and soon leads into the Gokul Ashtami, a great festival celebrating
the birthday of Shri Krishna. There, Professor Godbole dances in worship of the god and remembers Mrs.
Moore with love. Aziz has refused to read Fielding’s letters, still imagining that he has married Miss Quested.
When Fielding arrives in his role as inspector of education, he attempts to make peace with Aziz, pointing out
that his wife is not Miss Quested but Mrs. Moore’s daughter, Stella. Stella and her brother, Ralph, have come
to India with him. Aziz at first treats Ralph roughly, but then, remembering Mrs. Moore, he softens toward
him. The Rajah has died, although his death is being concealed. Aziz and Fielding go for a last ride together
and recapture much of their old intimacy. Yet Aziz insists that the British must be forced out, so that India
will be a sovereign nation. Fielding disagrees. Although the two men want to be friends, the historical
circumstances do not allow for friendship between them.
Estimated Reading Time
The average reader may wish to dedicate at least six hours to A Passage to India, in order to become
accustomed to the exotic setting, the large cast of characters with their ethnic backgrounds, and the intricacies
of both British and Indian social systems. (A glossary of Anglo-Indian terms is provided in the appendix of
this study guide.) It is essential to pay close attention to the three-part division of the novel, and to consider
the title of each section and how it relates to individual chapters.
The first section concentrates on identifying and distinguishing individual characters, their contrasting
backgrounds, and the differences and similarities between them. Themes of sex and marriage, and of ghosts
and secrets make their appearance, and the great theme of kindness between cultures and between individuals
is emphasized at the end.
The next section is introduced by a description of the mystical and symbolic Marabar Caves. This section
constitutes the heart of the novel and presents its principal dramatic and thematic content. The climax of the
novel occurs when Aziz’s trial takes place. This scene should be read carefully, both for its theatrical quality
and its resolution. The end of the Caves section presents the aftermath of the trial and emphasizes the themes
of death and departure.
A final, short section begins two years later. Its chapters can easily be read as a single unit, with particular
attention to the scene of Professor Godbole dancing at the Krishna festival and the confrontation between
Fielding and Aziz in the book’s final scene.
A Passage to India: Summary and Analysis
Part I, Chapters I – III: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
Dr. Aziz: Muslim surgeon working under Major Callendar
Hamidullah: Muslim, prominent Chandrapore barrister
Mahmoud Ali: Muslim lawyer, a troublemaker
Mohammed Latif: Hamidullah’s relative and hanger-on
A Passage to India: Summary and Analysis 9
Major Callendar: English, the civil surgeon
Mrs. Moore: older Englishwoman visiting India, mother of Ronny
Ronny Heaslop: English, the city magistrate
Miss Adela Quested: young Englishwoman visiting India
Mr. Turton: English civil servant, the collector
Mrs. Turton: his wife
Cyril Fielding: Principal of Government College at Chandrapore
There is a description of the town of Chandrapore and its tri-partite division into Indian, Eurasian, and English
sections. The larger setting dominates: the river Ganges, vegetation, the sky and the sun, and, 20 miles to the
south, the Marabar Hills and their fabled caves.
In Chapter II, Aziz and Mahmoud Ali gather at Hamidullah’s house and discuss the topic of friendship
between Indians and the English. Hamidullah takes Aziz into the purdah quarters to see his wife, who raises
the question of whether Aziz will marry again. When they finally sit down to dinner, they are interrupted by a
servant who bears a note summoning Aziz to the bungalow of Major Callendar. Aziz reluctantly sets out.
When he reaches the bungalow, the Major is not at home and Aziz’s tonga is commandeered by the Major’s
wife and her friend Mrs. Lesley. Aziz begins to walk back, stopping off in a mosque at the edge of the civil
station, where he thinks of Persian poetry and encounters Mrs. Moore. After his initial anger, they begin a
pleasant conversation, interrupted by an angry outburst in which Aziz complains about the way Major
Callendar and his wife treat him. He escorts Mrs. Moore back to the Club, and explains to her that Indians are
not allowed inside.
Chapter III is set in the Club, where Mrs. Moore is greeted by Adela Quested. The performance of Cousin
Kate is ending. The Anglo-Indians begin to talk about the “real India.” Someone passing by (Fielding),
suggests: “Try seeing Indians.” Most of the women find this idea outlandish, and begin to talk of the need to
maintain a distance from the natives. Mr. Turton offers to arrange a social meeting with Indians for Mrs.
Moore. Mr. and Mrs. Turton depart; so do Ronny Heaslop, Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore, who tells her son
about her encounter in the mosque. Heaslop is disturbed, and lectures his mother about mingling with the
natives. They pause by the luminous Ganges. At home, Mrs. Moore and her son discuss Aziz’s motives.
Heaslop agrees not to mention Aziz’s conversation in the mosque to Major Callendar. In return, he asks Mrs.
Moore not to speak of it to Miss Quested, who is in India to decide whether or not to marry him.
The first chapter of the novel creates a large canvas that emphasizes the overwhelming power of nature—the
river Ganges, the creeping vegetation, the sky and distance beyond stars, and the far hills with their suggestion
of mysterious caves. By concentrating entirely on the natural background without depicting a single human
figure, it is suggested that human life is relatively puny and ephemeral.
The next subject is human social arrangements and the mutual distrust and misunderstandings that arise within
relatively closed societies. The focus shifts to a particular human social arrangement—the social life of
Muslims in Chandrapore. Among themselves, they seem affectionate and convivial, yet when they discuss the
English, the gulf that divides the two groups becomes evident. Instead of complaining about the
discrimination in rank and pay scale, as we might expect, they are troubled by the denial of friendship and
Part I, Chapters I – III: Summary and Analysis 10
social intercourse. It is clear from the Muslims’ conversation that when the English come to live in India,
they quickly learn that they have the right, or the duty, to snub even a Cambridge-educated Indian lawyer like
Women occupy a particular place in each group. Hamidullah invites Aziz into the purdah quarters to visit his
wife, Begum Hamidullah. Among the Muslims, the women live in separate quarters and are only seen by
visitors when the male head of the household issues an invitation.
In some ways, Anglo-Indian social life is quite different. Mrs. Lesley and Mrs. Turton, unescorted by their
husbands, commandeer a tonga and drive off to the Club, where men and women mingle freely and drink
together. The women express their opinions and enforce social conformity as fiercely as the men.
Anglo-Indian men have high-sounding titles like chief magistrate, controller, and chief surgeon. They are the
heads of departments, and even highly qualified Indians who work there are subordinate in rank and salary.
These Indians are barred from the Club, the center of social life in the Anglo-Indian civil station at
Chandrapore; they may only enter the gardens.
Yet the two groups are forced into an acute awareness of each other. While the Muslims seem to long
wistfully for greater contact and even friendship, the majority of the Anglo-Indians are determined to maintain
a wide social gulf. They are convinced that they understand the Indians and seem always to believe the worst
of them. Each group is suspicious of the others’ motives.
One of the novel’s most important themes, the importance of human sensitivity, is introduced during the
conversation between Aziz and Mrs. Moore. Aziz tells Mrs. Moore that she knows what others feel. In this, he
maintains, she is an Oriental. The contrast is between the “typical” Anglo-Indian insensitive analytical
approach and the “typical” Oriental sensitivity and responsiveness. Yet within each group, there will be
exceptions. This emphasis on sensitivity to other’s feelings—or lack of it—will recur in many other scenes.
Potential tensions between conformist and nonconformist Anglo-Indians are suggested when an enigmatic
figure appears briefly at the Club. This is Fielding, who becomes the protagonist of the novel. His heretical
suggestion (“Try meeting Indians”) runs directly counter to the prevailing opinion of the others at the Club.
He is thus already something of an outsider, one who defies group opinion and is therefore considered
eccentric or unacceptable. In contrast, Ronny Heaslop is doing his best to conform to his responsibilities
within Anglo-Indian society, although he is not entirely convinced that its values are correct. His attempt to
rebuke Mrs. Moore for her excursion to the mosque provides an example of the way social controls are
exercised in order to produce uniform attitudes and behavior.
The appearance of the wasp at the end of Chapter III briefly returns us to the world of nature, this time in
miniature. The novelist introduces an ironic note here, when Mrs. Moore says naively, “Pretty wasp.” Since
wasps are famed for fierceness rather than beauty, this suggests that Mrs. Moore may have some unpleasant
surprises ahead of her. Mrs. Moore notes that this is not an English wasp—and Forster remarks that in India,
insects and animals do not distinguish between trees and houses, finding both an outgrowth of the eternal
jungle. Once again, we are reminded of the world of nature that surrounds and dwarfs all social groupings.
The chapter ends with a foreshadowing of things to come, the word “uneasiness.”
Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
Nawab Bahadur: wealthy Muslim landowner
Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Summary and Analysis 11
Mr. Ram Chand: Hindu associate of Dr. Panna Lal
Mr. Graysford and Mr. Sorley: Anglo-Indian missionaries
Miss Nancy Derek: Anglo-Indian companion to a Maharani
The McBrydes: Anglo-Indian District Superintendent of Police and his wife
Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharya: Hindus of some wealth and status
Mrs. Das: a relation
Dr. Panna Lal: Hindu doctor, Aziz’s fellow assistant
A subaltern: Anglo-Indian army officer of lower rank
Some of the Muslims discuss whether or not they should accept Turton’s invitation to the gardens of the
Club. The Nawab Bahadur believes that they should go, and his influence prevails. The narrator refers to all of
those Indians who are so poor and considered so insignificant that they have not been invited, and to the
missionaries Mr. Graysford and Mr. Sorley, who minister to this stratum of society and never come to the
Chapter V takes us to the bridge-party. Heaslop and Mrs. Turton are condescending to the Indian women, who
are uneasy and uncertain about how to behave. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested try to open a conversation with
them. Mrs. Moore asks if they may visit Mrs. Battacharya and Mrs. Das in return. Mr. Turton is perfunctory in
his greetings. Only Mr. Fielding comes in and talks to everyone. Speaking to Miss Quested afterwards, he
invites her and Mrs. Moore to tea. Adela is angry and miserable at the way the Indians have been treated.
Later, Mrs. Moore and her son, Ronny Heaslop, talk. Heaslop speaks of the difficulties he encounters as a
magistrate. Mother and son disagree about the way the English should behave in India. The question of
whether Heaslop and Miss Quested will marry is on Mrs. Moore’s mind.
The first scene of Chapter VI takes place earlier in time, before the party. Aziz is shown at his work as a
surgeon. Major Callendar scolds him for not having arrived in time at the bungalow the previous night. Aziz
thinks of his wife and her death and is saddened. He receives a note from Fielding inviting him to tea and is
overjoyed. Instead of going to the party in the Club gardens, he goes to the maidan and plays polo with an
unidentified subaltern. Later, in the presence of the Hindu Dr. Panna Lal, Aziz hits a Brahminy bull with his
polo mallet.
In this section Forster quietly introduces the idea of the Spirit of India. It is this spirit that Miss Quested and
Mrs. Moore sense, without comprehending it. The spirit is beyond forms of government or codes of social
behavior. It can be seen as the essence of the country.
A sensitivity to the Spirit of India is indicated by an interest in meeting and mixing with Indians. This interest,
shared by Fielding, Miss Quested, and Mrs. Moore, is in itself enough to marginalize them in Anglo-Indian
society. Fielding’s status as an outsider is emphasized when he says he seldom goes to the Club. Miss
Quested’s sense that she too is an outsider, leads her to think in terms of allies. This introduces a theme that
will define the sometimes shifting alliances that they and other characters form in the course of the book.
Within the main groupings there are the subgroups of Hindu and Muslim, and pukka and non-pukka
Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Summary and Analysis 12
Anglo-Indians. Within those large groups, there are alliances that depend on individual qualities and on social
The “bridge-party” takes place, and raises the question of how and to what degree the gulf between different
cultures can be bridged. There are differing social codes that cause misunderstandings between members of
the different groups. Mrs. Moore’s idea of visiting the Indian women gives them pleasure, but there is a
certain confusion about the timing and a sense of miscommunication. There is also miscommunication
between Dr. Panna Lal and Aziz. Aziz and the Anglo-Indian subaltern succeed in bridging the gap between
the races during their polo match, but the glow rapidly fades when it is over.
This section begins to penetrate more deeply into the private thoughts and feelings that lie behind the facade
that people maintain to control others or protect themselves. There is a contrast between what people are
outwardly saying and doing and what they are actually thinking and feeling. Adela Quested is silently
preoccupied by visions of what her life will be like if she marries Heaslop. And although Heaslop seems
outwardly like the model of brutish conformity, his conversation with his mother reveals that he has inner
conflicts, and a desire to do good in India. Still, his mother detects the lack of a “true regret from the heart.”
This suggests that Heaslop will continue to be dominated by the need to keep up appearances.
Aziz’s character is further developed. His innermost feelings center around memories of his dead wife, yet he
soon forgets her and is in the mood for a game of polo. He is impulsive, yielding to the unfortunate desire to
make an enemy of Dr. Panna Lal by galloping his pony and causing the Hindu’s pony to bolt, a scene that
also strikes the note of latent enmity between Hindus and Muslims. These traits will later determine Aziz’s
behavior in the crisis that is the high point of the plot.
The word “god” and the question of religion enter this section. The missionaries, Mr. Sorley and Mr.
Graysford, are mentioned. They are perhaps the ultimate outsiders, ministering to the Indians and playing no
part in Anglo-Indian social life. Their doors are open to all, regardless of race. This might seem admirable, but
Forster belittles them by including a farcical discussion on the acceptability of monkeys, jackals, and wasps.
The tone deepens during Mrs. Moore’s conversation with her son. She begins by accusing the Anglo-Indians
of posing as gods. These little gods are implicitly criticized as she goes on to speak of God’s purposes for
India. She is aware of her son’s dislike of this theme. Like much else in Heaslop, his religion is limited to
outward observance; he regards his mother’s references to God as a sign of ill health. However, Mrs. Moore
has found herself constantly thinking of God since she arrived in India. This God is love, she says hesitantly,
and is omnipresent. The difference is between an outer observance of Christianity and an approach to a deeper
sense of it. The chapter ends with the suggestion of an emptiness beyond even God, something beyond the
remotest echo.
Part I, Chapter VII: Summary and Analysis
New Character:
Professor Narayan Godbole: an elderly Hindu of the Brahmin caste
Aziz is the first to arrive at Fielding’s tea party. When Fielding can’t find his collar stud, Aziz removes his
and loans it to him. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested arrive. Professor Godbole arrives and has his tea apart from
the others. Aziz asks Miss Quested why she doesn’t settle in India. Miss Quested replies that she couldn’t do
that, and is then surprised and taken aback at her reply. Aziz invites the party to visit the Marabar Caves with
him. He has never been there; Professor Godbole describes them vaguely.
Part I, Chapter VII: Summary and Analysis 13
Ronny Heaslop arrives and wants to take Adela to see a polo game. He ignores Aziz and Professor Godbole,
criticizes Fielding for leaving Miss Quested alone with Aziz and Professor Godbole, and makes disparaging
remarks about Aziz. Aziz mentions that Miss Quested will not stay in India. They all say good-bye, feeling
uneasy. As Heaslop, Miss Quested, and Mrs. Moore start to leave, Professor Godbole begins to sing a
religious song to Shri Krishna. The chapter ends in silence.
This chapter depends on rapid alterations of tone and mood, like a piece of music. It ends with a musical
composition, a song that is unfamiliar to European ears. Although some outward forms of civility are
maintained, the mood shifts rapidly throughout the chapter.
It begins with a growing intimacy between Aziz and Fielding. This provides further development of both
these characters. Fielding treats Aziz with easy informality. Aziz is pleased to find that Fielding’s home does
not fit the Muslim’s stereotype of English order, “everything ranged so coldly on the shelves.” Privately, he
thinks of the English as “cold and odd and circulating like an ice stream.” This emphasis on cold is in
contrast to his own warm nature. He is excitable and changeable, carried away by his impulsiveness. When
Aziz offers Fielding his own collar stud, he demonstrates his generosity. However, his uncontrollable chatter
and his use of English slang make him seem faintly ridiculous.
The keynote to this chapter, and to much of the novel, is revealed in Mrs. Moore’s remark about muddle and
mystery. These terms serve to describe most of the social intercourse at Fielding’s party. Even the first scene
between Fielding and Aziz contains false notes.
Muddles are easy to spot. The greatest of them, the pivotal event upon which the unfolding of the entire novel
rests, is Aziz’s invitation to the Marabar Caves. Forster’s irony is evident; Aziz invites the women only in
order to distract them from the possibility of coming to his house. He has never been to the caves and knows
nothing about them.
While Professor Godbole offers to describe them, the description consists mostly of negatives. No one seems
to know why they are of any interest at all.
Although the members of different groups are face-to-face and in conversation at this tea party, there are still
layers within a culture that outsiders find very difficult to penetrate. This is illustrated by the conversation
between Aziz and Professor Godbole about the caves. Realizing that Professor Godbole is concealing
information about the caves, and attempting to lead him into revealing more, Aziz begins to play a sort of
mental game with him. The narrator informs us that Miss Quested is entirely unaware of the underdrift of this
conversation, even though the talk goes on for some time.
The most extreme shift in mood occurs when Heaslop enters. He is annoyed to find Miss Quested alone with
two Indian men and addresses himself only to her, ignoring Aziz and Professor Godbole. Oblivious to his own
rudeness, Heaslop later remarks that he couldn’t have upset the Indians because he hadn’t even spoken to
them. Forster’s irony underscores this example of the Anglo-Indian refusal to recognize that their Indian
subjects have human feelings.
The mood of general irritation ushered in by Heaslop shifts entirely once again, this time due to Professor
Godbole’s song, a song full of yearning for the absent Beloved, the mystery of the absent God. His song
reveals another side of Professor Godbole. Although he has previously seemed only polite and enigmatic, he
now appears in the character of a spiritual devotee. The song that he sings is a revelation of the Spirit of India,
which dedicates itself to the worship of the invisible presence that is behind and beyond all forms. It affects
the listeners deeply, and its consequences reach far beyond the scene in which it is sung.
Part I, Chapter VII: Summary and Analysis 14
Part I, Chapter VIII: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
Mr. Harris: the Eurasian chauffeur
Krishna: an attendant in Heaslop’s office
Nureddin: the Nawab’s grandson
After leaving the party, Ronny Heaslop picks out Aziz’s missing collar stud as a clue to the forgetful
character of all Indians. Mrs. Moore does not want to go to the polo game, and Adela also declines, so
Heaslop decides to drop the polo. Losing his temper, he orders his mother and Adela to have nothing to do
with Indians in the future. He and Adela leave Mrs. Moore at the bungalow and go to the polo game after all.
While they are at the polo grounds, Adela requests a “thorough talk,” and she says she will not marry him.
They see a bird that no one seems able to describe.
The Nawab Bahadur arrives at the maidan and offers them a ride in his car. The Nawab gets into the front seat
next to his chauffeur and falls asleep. Heaslop tells the chauffeur to take a different road. Suddenly, there is an
accident and the car runs into a tree on the embankment. Miss Quested says that they hit an animal, which
caused the car to go off the road, but no one seems to be able to determine what kind of animal it was.
Miss Derek drives by in “her” Maharani’s car and picks up everyone but the chauffeur. Nawab Bahadur
praises the orderliness of British India, contrasting it to the superstition of the Indians. Heaslop and Adela,
who have grown closer during the ride, decide to marry after all. Heaslop apologizes for his remarks. After the
Nawab leaves the car, they go back to the bungalow, and before they go in, Miss Quested retracts her earlier
refusal to marry Heaslop. They go into the bungalow and announce their engagement.
Mrs. Moore begins to think about going back to England. When they tell her of the accident, she says: “A
ghost!” Heaslop carries on about “the native.” He begins to call to Krishna, the worker who was supposed to
bring his files to the office, despite Heaslop’s shouting, he does not appear. Adela and Mrs. Moore play a
game of Patience and discuss marriage and honesty.
Surrounded by several others, the Nawab Bahadur is waiting for his car. He remembers an incident nine years
before in which he had driven over a drunken man and killed him. He also speaks of the accident that had just
happened and how horrified he is at risking the lives of his guests. Aziz whispers to Nureddin that it is
necessary for Muslims to rid themselves of superstitions.
To the previous examples of muddle, mystery, and misunderstanding, this chapter adds misidentification. It is
introduced when Adela notices a bird at the polo grounds. She asks Heaslop its name; he guesses wrong, and
the bird remains just “some Indian wild bird.” The narrator explicitly tells us that “Nothing in India is
The climax of the chapter, the car accident, also involves a beast that cannot be identified. Adela believes that
some dark and hairy animal caused the accident. Although the chauffeur locates the mark on the car, no one is
sure if the animal was a goat, a hyena, or a buffalo; it is all conjecture.
Another kind of mystery surrounds this accident. When Mrs. Moore is told of it, she gasps, “A ghost!” This
underlines Mrs. Moore’s role in the novel. She is unconsciously aware of things, and thus stirs up buried
Part I, Chapter VIII: Summary and Analysis 15
truths without realizing it. She scarcely knows what she has said or why, but afterwards, we learn that the
Nawab Bahadur once drove over a drunken man and killed him. Although he has made reparation in every
way he can, he still finds that the man’s spirit lies in wait for him. In his mind, that is what caused the
accident. The Nawab’s earlier criticism of superstition is shown to be superficial—that is, to the rational mind
that does not believe in ghosts.
A lighter, more ironic muddle is contained in Heaslop’s references to Aziz’s missing collar stud, a motif that
recurs in this chapter. Heaslop’s use of the generic term “the native” has already indicated that he is unable
to differentiate between one Indian and another. To him, the missing collar stud is an example of Indians’
lack of attention to detail; they always let you down, he warns Adela. As readers, we have seen Aziz lend his
collar stud to Fielding and therefore understand that the missing collar stud is a sign of generosity, not
negligence. Similarly, we are aware of the Nawab’s deep concern about the accident, and possible injury to
his guests, while Heaslop believes he was indifferent. This type of muddle, of course, is due to prejudice, not
innocent confusion.
Another recurring motif is the idea of god and the name of Krishna. An insignificant worker in Heaslop’s
office bears the name of the Hindu deity. Heaslop shouts and bellows for him, in an unconscious parody of
Professor Godbole’s call to the god. In both cases, the result is the same. Krishna does not come.
Again, there are ominous foreshadowings. The accident itself occurs on the Marabar Road, hinting that the
expedition to the caves may not be a happy one. Heaslop speaks of the coming festival of Mohurram, when
Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Mohammed’s sons. It has often been the occasion for Hindu/Muslim strife,
and the Anglo-Indians are anticipating more trouble.
Part I, Chapters IX – XI: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
Hassan: Aziz’s servant
Syed Mohammed: a Muslim engineer
Mr. Haq: the Muslim police inspector
Rafi: Syed Mohammed’s nephew
Aziz is ill in bed. He fantasizes about dancing girls and sex. Hamidullah, Syed Mohammed, Mr. Haq, and Rafi
come to visit and sympathize. Rafi first suggests that Aziz and Professor Godbole must have become ill after
having tea with Fielding, then maintains that Professor Godbole has cholera. Syed Mohammed and the others
speak scornfully of Hindus as a source of infection. Dr. Panna Lal arrives, accompanied by Ram Chand. He
examines Aziz perfunctorily. The others inquire about Professor Godbole’s illness. The Hindus and Muslims
begin to quarrel.
Fielding enters and there is friendly joking. The conversation turns to God; he says that he doesn’t believe in
God. He is asked: “How is England justified in holding India?” and has no real answer, saying that he,
personally, is in India because he needed a job. The Indians are unable to understand what he means. There is
a discussion about whether or not India is spiritual.
The focus is on the larger picture, in which human beings play only a minor role. The heat and the approach
of bad weather are emphasized. The sun is depicted as powerful but sinister, finally, only a creature.
Part I, Chapters IX – XI: Summary and Analysis 16
Although the rest of Aziz’s visitors have left, no one has brought Fielding his horse. He stays, and Aziz tells
him to unlock a drawer and look at the photograph of his late wife. Fielding is touched and flattered. Aziz says
that India needs “kindness, kindness and more kindness.”
They talk of women, marriage, and children. Aziz suggests that Fielding marry Miss Quested and Fielding
replies that she is engaged to Mr. Heaslop. Referring to the previous conversation with the others, Aziz warns
Fielding to be careful what he says. Fielding gets up to go and asks Aziz to tell the servant to bring his horse.
Aziz reveals that he has previously told the man not to bring it. Aziz is left considering Fielding as rash, but
happy in the thought that they are friends.
This final section in Part I reiterates and develops themes that have previously appeared. Aziz’s reverie on
sex continues to indicate the practicality and relative unsentimentality of his attitude toward it. We have
already learned sexual feeling played little part in his love for his dead wife. Now, he muses about going off to
Calcutta and visiting the nautch girls.
The division, misunderstanding, and mistrust between groups is heightened now. Hamidullah says that he
can’t even trust his fellow Muslims Syed Mohammed and Haq; he calls Syed’s nephew Rafi, a malicious
inventor of rumors, a “scorpion.” There is even greater division between Hindus and Muslims, who soon
begin to trade personal insults. In the midst of these undercurrents, Fielding has remained candid and
confiding; Aziz finds this unwise and warns him about spies and careless talk.
The possibility of brotherhood is heightened too, stretching across the gap between their respective groups, as
Aziz invites Fielding to see the photo of his wife, saying: “All men are brothers.” This act seals their
friendship, yet Fielding is aware of his own incapacity for intimacy, with Aziz or anyone else. He posits a
conflict between intimacy and clarity.
Again, mood and emotion fluctuate as both characters are fully developed. Aziz ranges from petty tricks
(arranging to keep Fielding’s horse away from him) to sublime poetry. For his part, Fielding is aware that his
experiences seem drab beside the tragedy of the death of Aziz’s wife, and that their friendship is limited by
his own stunted emotions. Fielding and Aziz also differ in that the Englishman is comparatively rootless,
traveling light, while Aziz’s life is deeply rooted in family and society.
One of the interests that unites them is a love for poetry. When Aziz recites a poem by Ghalib, the discord
between groups and individuals is stilled, transcended. The poem is compared to the song calling to Krishna,
as a less explicit call that also voices “our loneliness, our isolation, our need for the Friend....” This Friend is,
in Islamic terms, God the Beloved, the friend beyond all friends. However it is expressed, this spiritual
aspiration is a basic human yearning. Yet once again the narrator’s rationality intervenes to remind us that
poetry also falsifies, precisely because it lends divided Chandrapore a sense of unity. He also tells us that, for
Aziz, literature may arouse either spiritual or sexual longings.
A short chapter depicts the overwhelming experience of the heat, in which all share equally. The heat and the
sun become presences, almost characters. They are far stronger than human beings, and Forster again
emphasizes the fact that human life is insignificant to most other life forms on earth, and that only a few
people are deeply concerned with human political arrangements. The annual Anglo-Indian exodus to the hills
to escape from the heat becomes “a retreat on the part of humanity.”
Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Summary and Analysis
Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Summary and Analysis 17
New Character:
Antony: Mrs. Moore’s and Miss Quested’s servant
The Marabar Hills, one of the oldest geographical phenomena in the world, stand at a border where newer
lands are advancing to cover the old. The repetitive layout of the caves is easily described, but there is
something extraordinary and inhuman, or extra-human, about them that escapes description. They are dark
inside, yet if a visitor strikes a match an answering flame is mirrored on the exquisitely polished walls of the
circular chamber.
From the upper verandah of the Club, the hills look distant and romantic. Here Miss Quested is overheard
remarking that she would like to have visited the caves. This report, magnified by rumor, travels to Aziz and
forces him to begin planning an expedition. He asks Fielding and Godbole, and requests Fielding to invite the
women. Everyone accepts, although no one is enthusiastic about this picnic.
Aziz makes elaborate arrangements, including borrowing servants from his friends. Miss Quested, Mrs.
Moore, and their servant arrive early in the morning, but Aziz persuades them to leave their servant behind.
Fielding and Godbole have been delayed by Godbole’s pujah, and when the train starts up, they are still on
the other side of the level crossing. Aziz jumps onto the footboard, and in response to his howls, Fielding
attempts to jump on, but misses his friend’s outstretched hand and falls back onto the line. Mrs. Moore
reassures Aziz that the expedition has not been ruined, after all.
In the purdah carriage, Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested chat about Adela’s forthcoming marriage. When they
look out, the hills are still dark. Adela remarks that they must be near the place where her “hyena” was. She
is thinking about her entry into Anglo-Indian life. An elephant is waiting to take the women to the caves. They
climb up the ladder to the howdah as the train moves off.
Aziz insists on feeding his guests. He discourses on the Moghul Emperors Babur, Alamgir, and Akbar. Adela
voices her fear of becoming like the other Anglo-Indians when she marries Heaslop.
They enter the cave, vanishing down a hole. Inside, Mrs. Moore nearly faints. She becomes separated from
Aziz and Adela and is temporarily disoriented and maddened. The echo in the cave contributes to this.
Though she conceals her true feelings from the others, when Aziz and Adela set off for the other caves, Mrs.
Moore makes an excuse to stay behind. In their absence, she is invaded by feelings of despair.
In this section, A Passage to India leads its readers deeper into territory that lies beyond the scope of a
traditional bourgeois novel. The question of marriage is revealed as a subplot rather than a central issue. The
central issue is the encounter between people raised in bourgeois England and a wild, primal country.
The technique of subordinating human characters to a larger backdrop is repeated in the first chapter of Part
II. This time Forster evokes the ancient land of India, the one that has seen the Himalayas rise from the ocean
and an adjoining continent sink into the sea. The Marabar Hills belong to the original, primal land of India and
stand at the juncture between the ancient land and the newer one that is encroaching on it. This Nature
symbolism informs us that the ancient and the modern are about to come into contact.
The symbol of the two flames occurs in the description of the caves. These two flames could be interpreted as
the spirits of India and of England. They could also suggest physical and material reality, or the rational mind
and the spiritual self. In any case, one is a beautiful reflection of the other. The overall theme of the novel, the
longing for union and the impossibility of union, is depicted in this image.
Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Summary and Analysis 18
We are approaching the indefinable caves. Adela is reminded of the car accident, where she first saw “her”
hyena. On the way to the caves, she mistakes a stump of toddy-palm for a snake. The animal motif, and
mistaken identity, underline the possibility of sinister misinterpretations. This is an ominous foreshadowing of
a deeper mystery to come.
Spiritual journeys, we are reminded, are not always filled with joy and light. It is a sense of utter negation,
when everything seems meaningless and hopeless, that overcomes Mrs. Moore in the caves. The spiritual
pilgrim must pass through this stage of despair in order to reach ultimate truth.
For Mrs. Moore, it is the monotonous echo that undermines “her hold on life.” The narrator describes it as
overlapping into a howling that generates “a snake composed of small snakes.” Since in Christian imagery,
the snake is a symbol of Satan, this suggests the presence of evil. Yet evil does not consist of cruelty or
depravity, but of the absence of all ethical values, the absence of even the possibility of values. Mrs. Moore
has reached an outer limit where her Christianity cannot comfort her. Her senses are deranged.
After Mrs. Moore’s experience in the caves, the echo is first mentioned. It will be referred to over again
during the rest of the novel. The echo drives Mrs. Moore mad and continues to haunt Miss Quested. Like the
caves themselves, it is described as monotonous and undistinguished, yet its power continues to resonate
throughout the novel.
Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
An Indian guide
Miss Derek’s chauffeur
A Brahmin cook: hired by Aziz for Godbole
Miss Quested, Aziz, and a guide continue the expedition, which is described as slightly tedious. Aziz is
preoccupied with thoughts of the breakfast menu, and Adela with her coming marriage. She is suddenly struck
by the thought that she and her fiancé do not love each other, and is appalled. As they climb in the heat, she
begins to question Aziz about his marriage. Aziz claims that his wife is alive. Then Adela naively asks him if
he has more than one wife. Aziz is insulted by the question and plunges away into another cave to regain his
composure. Adela goes off into a different one.
When Aziz returns to look for her, he scolds the guide for not keeping her in sight. He attempts to search the
other caves, but becomes completely confused. He realizes that the noise of the car he had previously heard
indicates that friends of Miss Quested’s are there, and he catches a glimpse of her far down the gully. He
finds her field glasses lying in an entrance tunnel, the strap broken. He scrambles down to find Mrs. Moore
and is delighted to discover that Fielding has arrived.
Aziz remarks airily that Miss Quested has gone down to visit Miss Derek. As they go down to escort Miss
Derek to the picnic, her chauffeur stops them to announce that Miss Derek is driving Miss Quested back to
Chandrapore herself. Fielding is startled, as this indicates a sudden change of plans. He, Mrs. Moore, and Aziz
offer various explanations of why the two women have departed so hastily. In response to Fielding’s
questions, Aziz begins to falsify his account of what happened in the caves.
Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Summary and Analysis 19
They return to the train. When they pull into Chandrapore station Mr. Haq, the Inspector of Police, flings open
the carriage door and announces that he is arresting Aziz. Fielding’s efforts to intervene are futile. Aziz
attempts to get away, but Fielding pulls him back. He promises to “see him through.” Aziz is led off to
Fielding goes to see the collector, who tells him that Aziz has “insulted” Miss Quested in the caves. Fielding
protests and defends Aziz. Back on the platform, one of Ronny Heaslop’s chuprassies is beginning to loot the
train carriages. Although half-insane with rage, the collector stops the looting. On the way home, he promises
himself to take revenge on all the Indians.
In three relatively short chapters, the turning point of the novel is achieved and the events that follow it are set
in motion. Mystery continues to surround the central event. What really happened in the caves? We have the
narrator’s account; we hear Aziz’s various confusing and contradictory stories; and Mr. Turton informs
Fielding of Miss Quested’s accusation. These versions are contradictory and incompatible. Fielding, and
eventually, Miss Quested, will repeatedly consider and reconsider the question of what really happened.
Again, muddle, misinterpretation, and miscommunication are heightened, this time to the point of madness. A
general breakdown of rationality begins. Herd behavior takes possession of the Anglo-Indians. Fielding
observes this, and it is he who calls Miss Quested mad.
One way to unravel the mystery surrounding Miss Quested’s accusation is to consider the role of unconscious
motives and desires. Forster appreciated Freudian theory, although he stated that the exploration of the
unconscious was “not so much in Freud as in the air.” In A Passage to India, Forster himself creates
characters that are driven by forces beyond rationality, particularly the sexual drives that Freud considered
Though it is difficult to assess their actual behavior, most middle-class Englishwomen before the First World
War largely repressed any verbal acknowledgment of sex. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested are no exceptions.
We are told that Miss Quested’s senses have been stirred by Heaslop’s “animal magnetism.” Given the
society of the time and their value structure, it would have been impossible for them to engage in sex before
marriage. In this situation, Miss Quested’s aroused but still unsatisfied sexual desires could easily have been
stimulated by her proximity to Aziz, who has been described as an attractive and sensual man.
In contrast, Forster has repeatedly stressed Miss Quested’s unattractiveness. One possibility is that she was
attracted to Aziz, but that to her he was so foreign that sexual attraction seemed unthinkable. Her repressed
desires, then, projected themselves onto Aziz, so that she imagined what she in fact wanted to happen. Aziz
has been depicted as uninterested in her. We know also that he has no inhibitions about talking, or acting
consciously and rationally about his sexual needs and desires. Therefore, his character, as depicted in the
novel, would be unlikely to attempt a sexual assault on Miss Quested.
At the end of the chapter, there are two foreshadowings. The first is Mr. Turton’s sense that Fielding has
betrayed his group, foreshadowing his rejection by the Anglo-Indians. The second, is Mr. Turton’s sense of
justice, which narrowly prevails over his primitive rage.
Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
A young mother: blonde Englishwoman, symbolizes British womanhood
Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Summary and Analysis 20
A subaltern: British army officer of lower rank, supports Major Callendar
Mr. Amritrao: an Oxford educated, Hindu Calcutta barrister, notoriously anti-British
Mr. McBryde detains Aziz, explaining that he may be released on bail. When Fielding arrives, McBryde
explains the charge to him. Fielding asks to see Miss Quested, but his request is denied. He declares that he
believes Aziz is innocent. His request to see Aziz is also denied. The contents of Aziz’s table-drawer are
brought in; Mr. McBryde says triumphantly, “Photographs of women.” Fielding explains that the photograph
is of Aziz’s wife.
Hamidullah is waiting outside the superintendent’s office. He prattles to Fielding about policy and evidence.
Concentrating wholly on Aziz’s innocence, he is aware of how his reactions differ from those of the Indians
with whom he has decided to side. Hamidullah wants to hire Amritrao, a noted Calcutta barrister, to defend
Aziz. He believes having a Hindu in charge of the defense will widen its appeal.
Fielding next has a vague talk with Godbole. The professor talks of other matters and seems unconcerned
about Aziz. He says he is to start a high school in Central India, in the state of Mau.
Fielding begs him for a personal opinion on Aziz’s innocence or guilt. Godbole dissolves the question into an
abstract discussion of good and evil.
Fielding obtains a permit to see Aziz, who is miserable and unapproachable, charging the Englishman with
having deserted him. Without much hope, Fielding writes a letter to Miss Quested.
Suddenly feeling that Miss Quested is one of them, the Anglo-Indian women discover a new affection for her.
At the Club, a beautiful, young mother is transformed into a symbol of “everything worth fighting and dying
for.” The collector takes charge, giving instructions and telling the women that Aziz has been refused bail.
Mr. Turton concludes by appealing to the Anglo-Indians not to suspect all Indians just because one has been
charged with a crime.
Major Callendar enters; he feels responsible for having given Aziz leave. He uses the subaltern to bait
Fielding. Then the Major, who is quite drunk, repeats a series of wild rumors about the way in which Aziz
plotted the crime.
Ronny Heaslop enters. Fielding refuses to rise to his feet with the rest. The collector asks why he has refused
to stand up. Taking this as the attack that it is, Fielding rises and announces that he believes Aziz is innocent.
He resigns from the Club. Mr. Turton, enraged, begins insulting him. His way out is blocked by the subaltern,
but Heaslop appeals to him to allow Fielding to go. On the upper verandah, Fielding is invaded by self-doubt
and self-questioning.
Mohurram is in the air; drums are beating. The campaign to save Aziz is also heating up. Fielding spends the
rest of the evening with Aziz’s friends and defenders. They have received word that Amritrao has agreed to
conduct the defense. Now that Miss Quested has been pronounced out of danger, they decide to renew
application for bail. Later, Fielding would like to speak to Godbole about his mistake in being rude to Heaslop
at the Club, but the professor has slipped away.
The breakdown into herd behavior is almost the opposite of the breakdown that Mrs. Moore suffers in the
caves. She is overcome by a sense of the meaningless of all values. The Anglo-Indians are swept away by
emotions that assert the absolute primacy of certain collective values. Raw passions that are usually held in
control by civilization are reasserting themselves. Fielding continues to be an observer, although he is aware
Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Summary and Analysis 21
of the danger of becoming caught up in the herd instinct and acts to avoid this.
A musical background is provided by the sound of the drums of Mohurram, which function as a reminder of
impending trouble. Mohurram is a festival in which individuality is swallowed up within collective
lamentation. Ironically, the Anglo-Indians, who are apprehensive about the riots that may be inspired by the
festival, are also experiencing a loss of individuality in collective emotion. Even Anglo-Indians who are
ordinarily quite different from each other begin to share the same emotions and reactions. Some of them
acquire a symbolic value that overrides their individuality. In this way, Miss Quested, who has previously
been barely tolerated as an outsider, becomes “one of us.” The same mechanism turns a young mother
everyone has ignored before into a symbol of English values. Heaslop, too, becomes a symbol of innocent
Two phenomena that are familiar to us appear: social bullying and power politics. Under the cover of his
drunkenness, Major Callendar attempts to bully Fielding. When the subaltern becomes Callendar’s willing
instrument, the bullying stops just short of a physical attack.
Power politics are undisguised. Fielding is a lone individual against a powerful group. The whole Club turns
against him, defining him as a traitor, an enemy, an outsider. The English ideals of justice and fairness are
threatened, though not entirely forgotten. Even though Fielding has insulted Heaslop, at this critical moment
Heaslop tells the subaltern to let him go.
Social cohesiveness has become paramount for both the Anglo-Indians and the Indians. Just like the Hindus
and Muslims after the shootings at Amritsar in 1919, the Hindu and Muslim characters in the novel are
beginning to cooperate. There is a newborn Indian desire to bring all Indians together to defend Aziz. His
friends gather around him. Fielding is the only Anglo-Indian among them. He will help in Aziz’s defense, yet
he is aware of how his attitudes and methods differ from those of the Indians. Although he has allied himself
with the Indians, he is an outsider among them, as well.
For Fielding, the central issue is Aziz’s innocence. He is saddened by Hamidullah’s emphasis on policy and
evidence. When Fielding attempts to talk to Professor Godbole about the case, the professor talks in
abstractions, stating that Good and Evil are both aspects of the Lord, and consist essentially of the presence or
absence of God. We all share equally in guilt or innocence, he says. Later on, when Fielding wants to consult
him about a matter of conscience—his failure to stand when Heaslop entered the Club—the professor has
slipped away. The values Western civilization is based on look very different to the Indians.
Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Summary and Analysis
New Character:
Lady Mellanby: wife of the lieutenant-governor of the province
Adela is recuperating in the McBryde’s bungalow, with Miss Derek and Mrs. McBryde hovering over her,
picking cactus spines from her flesh. Whenever she tells the story of the Marabar Caves, she begins to cry.
Adela is plagued by a recurring echo that makes her feel that Evil has gotten loose and is entering other
people’s lives.
When Adela’s temperature has fallen to normal, Heaslop takes her away. He tells her that there had nearly
been a riot on the last day of Mohurram; the procession had tried to enter the civil station. When she learns
that she will have to appear in court to identify Aziz and be cross-examined by an Indian lawyer, she asks to
have Mrs. Moore with her.
Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Summary and Analysis 22
Like other Anglo-Indians, McBryde and Heaslop are indignant that an Indian judge, even Ronny Heaslop’s
assistant, will preside over a case involving an Englishwoman. McBryde gives Adela a letter from Fielding.
The superintendent tells her of Fielding’s behavior at the Club and that he is now a mainstay of the defense.
According to the superintendent, he is also responsible for the Mohurram troubles. Miss Quested reads the
words, “Aziz is innocent.” Her only response is to worry about Fielding’s treatment of Heaslop.
As they near Mrs. Moore’s bungalow, Ronny warns her not to expect too much; his mother is old and
irritable, he says. Mrs. Moore greets her indifferently. She seems resentful and disinclined to help. Adela
speaks of the recurring echo. Mrs. Moore says she has nothing to say. She refuses to testify. Each time Adela
extends her hand, Mrs. Moore withdraws hers. She seems to focus entirely on her own concerns.
Suddenly Adela repeats, “Aziz, Aziz.” She tells Heaslop Aziz is innocent, that she has made a mistake.
Ronny attempts to distract her, telling her that Nureddin had stolen the Nawab’s car during the riots and
driven Aziz into a ditch. As a result, Aziz had been returned to prison. He calls Major Callendar to come
examine Adela.
Returning, he finds that Adela is convinced she heard Mrs. Moore say that Aziz is good. Heaslop denies this,
saying she is confusing this with Fielding’s letter. Adela agrees. Ronny asks her not to speak of Aziz’s
innocence again. When questioned, Mrs. Moore replies that she had not said Aziz’s name, but adds, “Of
course he is innocent.”
She calls herself a bad old woman, but still refuses to help them to wrongly convict Aziz. Confused, Adela
vacillates. She asks if the case can be withdrawn, then says that she knows this is impossible. Heaslop
concurs, saying the machinery has already started. Mrs. Moore says ominously, “She has started the
machinery; it will work to its end.” Heaslop’s silent response is to plan to send his mother away from India
as soon as possible.
Lady Mellanby, the lieutenant-governor’s wife, offers to share her reserved cabin with Mrs. Moore. Mrs.
Moore leaves as she had wished. She is living “in the twilight of the double vision,” which is a state of
“spiritual muddledom” that creates paralysis. Instead of uplifting her, her vision in the caves has revealed a
maggoty eternity. She travels alone on the train to Bombay and watches the passing landscape, thinking that
she has not seen the right places in India.
Following the climactic event of the trial, the theme of departure begins to assert itself. With the departure of
Mrs. Moore, the character who has precipitated some of the main events in the novel disappears from the
scene. Yet, while Mrs. Moore has served as a catalyst for other events, her active role is already over. Early in
the novel, she held a fateful conversation with Aziz in the courtyard of the mosque. Later, her eagerness to
meet Indians led to further developments. However, her experience in the Marabar Hills transforms her. From
now on, Mrs. Moore begins to resemble a hollow, mysterious center, like the caves themselves. Her character
exists as a passive space that continues to influence others without participating in action.
The echo Mrs. Moore first heard in the caves is now resounding in Miss Quested’s ear. She too identifies it
with Evil. She also relies on Mrs. Moore to free her from it. However, when Heaslop takes her to see the older
woman, there is no help, only the ominous assertion that Miss Quested will continue to hear the echo from
now on. Adela finds that her friend has withdrawn into a combination of petty personal concerns and a kind of
babble. Here, Forster is depicting the state of mind of someone who has suffered a shock and has had a
breakdown because of it. The effect of shock on Miss Quested is to make her childishly dependent; Mrs.
Moore’s transformation is more complete. Her words are rambling, though at times startlingly acute.
Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Summary and Analysis 23
In Mrs. Moore, the breakdown takes the form of a withdrawal from human life. Formerly, she was eager for
experience. Now she is preoccupied with “departure” in two senses: taking a ship back to England, and
withdrawing from ordinary human responsibilities and concerns. She refuses to participate even in an event
that deeply touches her, her friend, and her son. What might have become a spiritual revelation leading to true
detachment has instead inspired a revulsion from life. When she speaks of retiring to a cave, it is a bitter, not a
hopeful, vision.
Mrs. Moore’s seemingly aimless, querulous chatter contains moments of surpassing clarity. At last she
says—referring to Aziz: “It isn’t the sort of thing he would do.” She is also prescient in saying of Adela:
“She has started the machinery; it will work to the end.”
Curiously, even before Mrs. Moore has off-handedly affirmed Aziz’s innocence, Adela believes she has
heard her say: “Aziz is innocent.” Considered rationally, this indicates that Miss Quested has made a mistake,
one of the many muddles that have plagued her. Considered from the standpoint of telepathic communication,
it indicates that she has picked up Mrs. Moore’s belief before it has been stated aloud. From now on, Mrs.
Moore’s influence is to be transmitted subliminally, or spiritually.
Part II, Chapter XXIV: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
The punkah-wallah: a beautiful Untouchable who works the courthouse fan
Mr. Das: Hindu judge presiding over the trial, Heaslop’s assistant
Adela is now staying with the Turtons. Ronny continues to support her faithfully, yet she asks herself if she is
capable of loving anyone. Fearing that she will break down under cross-examination, she tells the Turtons that
her echo has come back.
There are signs of unrest on the way to the court, and they hear further reports about it. The Anglo-Indians
tend to blame Fielding. Major Callendar issues another brutal tirade against these “buck niggers,” during
which he refers mockingly to the disfigured face of Nureddin, now in the hospital after the accident. Mrs.
Turton chimes in, calling the men weak and saying that the Indians should be made to crawl.
The case is called. The first person Adela notices is the humblest, a strong and beautiful Untouchable who
pulls the cord of the hanging fan. She is impressed by the punkah-wallah’s aloofness.
McBryde opens the case for the prosecution. His manner implies that Aziz is guilty and the trial only a
formality. Describing the prisoner as a man of loose life, he deploringly remarks that darker races are
physically attracted by lighter races, but not the other way around. An Indian spectator asks, “Even when the
lady is so uglier than the gentleman?” He is ejected from the courtroom.
Miss Derek comforts Miss Quested, who is upset by the comment. Major Callendar demands that she be
seated on the platform. Her companions come up with her, leaving Fielding as the only European in the main
body of the hall.
Looking timidly around the courtroom, Miss Quested notices Aziz and wonders if she could have made a
mistake. Mahmoud Ali requests that Aziz, too be seated on the platform, and is snubbed by Mr. Das. Then
Mr. Amritrao rises to object to the presence of so many extraneous Europeans on the platform. Mr. Das
cringes, but requests everyone but Miss Quested to step down. Only Heaslop supports him in this; the others
Part II, Chapter XXIV: Summary and Analysis 24
grumble but descend.
McBryde continues his speech, referring to Fielding, among others, as the “prisoner’s dupes.” He insists on
charging Aziz with premeditation and concludes by calling him vicious and degenerate. Mahmoud Ali, in a fit
of rage, accuses McBryde of smuggling Mrs. Moore out of the country so that she wouldn’t testify in favor of
Aziz. He calls the trial a farce and leaves the courtroom.
Outside, the Indians take up the chant of Esmiss Esmoor—their version of Mrs. Moore—repeating it like a
mantra. Mr. Amritrao apologizes for Mahmoud Ali, but reiterates the charge that Mrs. Moore has been
smuggled out of the country. Now it is time for Adela to give her evidence.
As she begins to tell the story of the expedition, she relives it. She answers McBryde smoothly until he asks a
leading question implying that Aziz followed her into a cave she had first entered alone. She asks for time to
reply, then falteringly admits that she is not sure. McBryde unsuccessfully attempts to make her agree.
Finally, in a low voice, she says that she has made a mistake.
McBryde tries to recall her to the accusation she made on her deposition, but Mr. Das addresses Miss Quested
directly. Sensing disaster, Major Callendar wants to stop the proceedings on medical grounds. Miss Quested
holds firm and insists on withdrawing the charge. Mr. Das declares the prisoner released without prejudice. In
the courtyard, pandemonium reigns; the English are protected by their servants; Aziz faints in Hamidullah’s
The trial scene provides the dramatic climax of the novel. Like all trials, it has the structure of a confrontation
between two opposite sides. The groups that have previously been talking behind each others’ backs are now
face-to-face. At first, the power of the British Raj seems undeniable. Even the Hindu judge, Mr. Das, who is
Heaslop’s assistant, is cowed by the rank and self-assurance of the Anglo-Indians.
There are dramatic confrontations: the advance of the Anglo-Indians onto the platform, Mahmoud Ali’s
sensational ravings and departure, Amritrao’s request that those not involved in the case be asked to step
down. At least part of the structure of justice holds, when Mr. Das requests them to do so and Heaslop backs
him up. Still, when McBryde begins to lead Miss Quested through her testimony, Aziz’s conviction seems
All this changes when Miss Quested withdraws her accusation. Suddenly, she finds herself able to withstand
the social pressure placed on her and to throw off her childish dependence. Once again, she is the direct and
honest person of the earlier chapters. Fielding notices ahead of time that something is happening.
She understands that her public recantation is not enough; there will still be a need for confession and
atonement. These are words that belong to religious language, not to the language of the law courts. They
indicate that what has happened to her is in the nature of an epiphany, a sudden opening that lifts her
awareness to a higher level. Before giving testimony, she has defined “coming through all right” in terms of
keeping her spiritual dignity. In fact, this is what happens, although it occurs in a way she does not foresee at
the time.
The most suggestive symbol in this chapter is seemingly irrelevant to the central business of the trial. Perhaps
the humblest figure in the courtroom is the punkah-wallah, an Untouchable who pulls the cord on the hanging
fan. He never speaks, but his presence incarnates the presence of a mass of people Forster has previously
reminded us of: those who have no rank or standing but who represent the spirit of India. He is described, not
coincidentally, as divinely beautiful, and his image presides over the chapter like a voiceless god. On another
level, Miss Quested’s acute awareness of the punkah-wallah’s body both emphasizes her susceptibility to
Part II, Chapter XXIV: Summary and Analysis 25
male beauty and suggests another association, between sexuality and spirituality.
The other presiding deity of the trial is Esmiss Esmoor. In her absence, Mrs. Moore has been transformed into
a Hindu goddess and her name into a popular religious chant. It is the memory of her kindness that the Indians
honor. They believe that she wanted to save Aziz and blame Heaslop for spiriting her away. There is only a
small bit of truth in this belief. Still, it is enough for the Indians, who have begun to worship her much
transformed memory. Their chanting floats into the courtroom. Once again, Forster supplies a musical or
rhythmical background that alters the atmosphere of a scene.
It could be said that this chant replaces the evil echo and subconsciously reminds Adela of truth. Yet, the
reasons for Miss Quested’s recantation are more than psychological. The presence of something supernatural
in the figure of the punkah-wallah and in the “magic” chanting of the masses outside pervades the
atmosphere of the courtroom. Miss Quested calls it “queer,” yet in the midst of the chanting she assures her
friends that she feels better. She will come through all right, she says. Like Professor Godbole’s song to
Krishna, the chant affects even those who do not share the belief that it expresses, even those who are
unaware of its effects.
Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Summary and Analysis
Miss Quested is carried out of the courtroom by a mass of Indians. A riot is beginning. She is rescued by
Fielding, who takes her to his victoria, ignoring Aziz’s call to him. Students, placing garlands around
Fielding’s neck, pick up the shafts and carry them through the main bazaar. Despite the ill-feeling against
Miss Quested, more garlands are flung around her neck and Fielding’s.
As the procession continues, Mahmoud Ali tries to incite attacks on the English; Nawab Bahadur attempts to
calm the crowd; Hamidullah says there must be an orderly procession. Aziz again accuses Fielding of
desertion. Mahmoud Ali starts a rumor that Nureddin has been tortured. Howling, the mob heads for the
Dr. Panna Lal averts disaster, first by clowning to appease the mob, then by producing Nureddin. The Nawab
Bahadur gives a speech during which he announces he will give up his British title and be known as Mr.
Zulfiqar. The crisis over, he asks Hamidullah to bring Fielding and Amritrao to his residence.
That evening, Miss Quested requests an interview with the reluctant Fielding. She tells him she had not been
feeling well before the expedition to the caves. Fielding posits three or four possibilities to explain her
behavior: that Aziz did attempt to assault her; that she accused him out of malice; or that she had a
Miss Quested traces her “illness” back to Professor Godbole’s song at the tea party. She agrees she could
have had a hallucination in the caves. Fielding tells her that he believes McBryde exorcised her by asking a
straightforward question. This leads to talk of ghosts, Mrs. Moore, and the supernatural; they both affirm
rationalism. She asks about Aziz’s opinion of her; Fielding softens it.
Fielding goes on to suggest the fourth possibility: it might have been someone else. Miss Quested offers, “the
guide,” but seems to lose interest. Hamidullah arrives and, pointedly ignoring Adela, asks Fielding to come
over for the victory celebration. Fielding tells Hamidullah that Miss Quested has been explaining her conduct.
She admits her mistake, but Hamidullah is still furious. He has overheard their talk about the guide and says
sardonically, “Of course some Indian is the culprit, we must never doubt that.”
Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Summary and Analysis 26
Hamidullah again invites Fielding to the Nawab Bahadur’s residence; Miss Quested announces she will go to
the Dak Bungalow. They argue about the plan until Hamidullah sees Heaslop arriving. Adela goes out on the
verandah to see him. Inside, Fielding tells Hamidullah that Mrs. Moore is dead.
Miss Quested returns, having learned of Mrs. Moore’s death from Heaslop. She asks Fielding if she can stay
at the college during his absence. Heaslop comes in uncertain of where Miss Quested should go, and Fielding
invites her to stay at the college. Hamidullah brutally reminds Heaslop of Mrs. Moore’s death and the son’s
false claim in court that she had reached Aden.
Later, driving out to the Nawab’s residence, Fielding is horrified to hear Amritrao tell Hamidullah that Miss
Quested should pay 20,000 rupees as compensation.
The plot is now past the point of dramatic climax and is winding down. Rumor continues to create its intended
dissension, yet despite Mahmoud Ali’s rumors, the riotous mob is calmed without bloodshed.
In terms of character development, there are two definite shifts in this section. One concerns Fielding and
Miss Quested, who have been only acquaintances, then estranged by the trial, and now begin to know each
other better. The other is the sudden prominence of Hamidullah, who has previously been a dignified presence
in the background.
The question that runs through the novel now, is: What really happened? Fielding offers various possibilities,
but Miss Quested loses interest in determining which might be true. Hamidullah’s entrance, just as she agrees
it might have been the guide or one of a gang of Pathans, confirms the Muslim’s underlying suspicion of the
English. Fielding is the one who advanced these Indians as suspects. Even though he has defended Aziz, he is
still demonstrating his unconscious racism.
The changes that the trial has made in the feelings among Indians are emphasized by Hamidullah’s attitude.
In place of his earlier desire for friendship with the British, Hamidullah now feels a bitter resentment that
leads him to speak sarcastically to Miss Quested. When she confesses her mistake to Hamidullah, he is
unmoved. Unlike Fielding, who has begun to be impressed by Miss Quested’s plain-spoken honesty,
Hamidullah notes her absence of passionate feeling and true remorse. To him, the English and Anglo-Indians
have become the enemy and his friendly tolerance has vanished. He now loses no opportunity to attack.
The theme of truth and deception, the sifting out of evidence about rumor and fantasy, is developed through
conversations between Fielding and Hamidullah. In another attack, Hamidullah accuses Heaslop, who has
brought the first news of Mrs. Moore’s death, of lying about her in court. The readers now learns that she
died soon after leaving Bombay and never reached Aden, as Heaslop had claimed. She had died even before
the crowd began to chant her name outside the courtroom. However, there was a small bit of truth in the
Indian rumor that Mrs. Moore had been sent away so that she would not testify. A short conversation between
Fielding and Hamidullah emphasizes Heaslop’s heedlessness in allowing her to travel in the heat, which
suggests that some other motive impelled him. Fielding says that Heaslop acknowledges his imprudence, and
we can assume that the son carries his share of guilt.
Mrs. Moore is the first of the characters to vanish from Chandrapore. The reasons why Mrs. Moore departed
and died are a subject of controversy between the Indians and Anglo-Indians. Not every character is deeply
affected by the death. Fielding and Hamidullah are relatively unmoved. Only Miss Quested, in her silence,
seems “to stiffen into a monument.” She will remember Mrs. Moore, and Mrs. Moore’s presence will
continue to exert a haunting effect on the novel.
Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Summary and Analysis 27
Professor Godbole’s song is another theme that continues to resonate beyond the chapter in which it is sung.
In Chapter IX we learned that Aziz and Professor Godbole had both been ill after Fielding’s tea party. Now,
Miss Quested, too, says that she began to feel vaguely unwell after Professor Godbole’s song. At first she
defines the illness as sadness. Clearly, this malaise is not a physical illness. She has been touched by spiritual
realities so incomprehensible to her that she is disoriented by them.
Professor Godbole sang a song of longing, a call to the god Krishna. Professor Godbole has told her that the
god never comes in response to the call. For the purposes of the novel it suggests that this yearning for Divine
Love and Wisdom can never be fully satisfied on earth. This form of spirituality is profoundly different from
anything that Adela has ever experienced. She represents the higher ethical values of her culture, while
Professor Godbole’s song, distilling the essence of the spirit of India, is incompatible with the reason and
order that constitute the spirit of England.
Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
Sir Gilbert Mellanby: lieutenant-governor of the province
A missionary
Fielding and Aziz lie on the roof of Mr. Zulfiqar’s mansion, speculating about the future. Aziz says he will be
rich from his compensation money and invites Fielding to travel with him. He brushes aside the objections he
anticipates from Fielding, saying that he has become anti-British.
They discuss how much Miss Quested should pay. Fielding insists on costs only. Aziz requires an apology,
suggesting half-humorously that Miss Quested admit she would have liked him to follow her into the cave.
Fielding is offended on her behalf. Aziz says that he will consult Mrs. Moore. Fielding tells him she is dead.
The lieutenant-governor of the province visits and commends the outcome of the trial and Fielding’s actions.
He orders him to rejoin the Club. Miss Quested and Fielding write a letter of apology to Aziz. Indians want
friendship rather than justice, Fielding declares.
Appealing to Mrs. Moore’s memory, Fielding continues to try to talk Aziz into withdrawing his claim for
excess compensation. Suddenly, he agrees to claim only costs.
Ronny Heaslop comes to tell Fielding that Miss Quested is leaving for England. Fielding goes to see her and
discovers Heaslop has broken their engagement. Fielding asks her if someone had followed her into the cave
or if no one had. She says it will never be known. Mrs. Moore knew, she says, and they speak of her death.
They affirm their friendship and promise to write.
Adela sails home ten days later. At Port Said, she goes ashore with a missionary who tells her that every life
should have a turn and a return. Suddenly, she understands that she should look up Mrs. Moore’s children,
Ralph and Stella, when she reaches England.
Mrs. Moore’s death and her memory shadow this entire section. At first, when Aziz declares he will consult
the older woman about his demand for compensation, Fielding tries to convince Aziz that she has died. Aziz
refuses to believe it. This leads the Englishman to reflect on death and how it exists within the minds of
others. Later, he uses Mrs. Moore’s memory in his campaign to convince Aziz to reduce his demands for
Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Summary and Analysis 28
compensation from Miss Quested. It is in fact Mrs. Moore’s memory that finally leads Aziz to agree; he feels
this is a way for him to honor her.
Fielding and Miss Quested also speak of Mrs. Moore’s death and of how meditation on death may affect the
living. She maintains that only Mrs. Moore would have known the solution to the central mystery: what
happened in the caves. As Miss Quested disappears from India, her last resolve is to look up Mrs. Moore’s
children. Mrs. Moore’s memory will continue to live on in Chandrapore, with the aid of a cult that has grown
up around a legend.
In this section, Fielding’s role as a mediator and an educator comes into play. He attempts to educate Aziz
about Miss Quested’s true character and to convince him to reduce his demands, while he explains to Miss
Quested that she should write a letter of apology.
Again, the key to understanding between the Anglo-Indians and the Indians is true feeling. This is something
Miss Quested lacked. She is sadly aware of it and actively engaged in an attempt to understand what has
happened. Her growth into self-knowledge continues and deepens, extending to the realization that her
engagement was not based on deep feeling. Although she was not able to break it off herself, she recognizes
that his action was correct.
Divisions begin to appear in the aftermath of the crisis. Now that their solidarity in Aziz’s defense is no
longer necessary, the differences between Fielding and Aziz stand out. Although he feels rootless, Fielding is
not ready or able to become an Indian. He is appalled by Aziz’s frank awareness of his own sexual
attractiveness and Miss Quested’s lack of it. Although this fact has been established, speaking of it seems to
outrage Fielding’s British sense of modesty and decency. Aziz is no longer interested in behaving like a
British gentleman, either in terms of money or of sex. His demand for compensation strikes Fielding as
vindictive and excessive. Both Mrs. Moore’s death and the mystery of what happened in the caves introduce
reactions and metaphysical speculations that expose the limitations of rationality. The British who came to
India found themselves confronted with a world that could not be confined within their concept of order and
reason. In the novel, their reaction is suggested by an image that Miss Quested uses in explaining why she
cannot be sure what did or did not take place in the cave. She says it is as if she were running her finger along
the polished wall of the cave in the dark. This is a figurative expression of the human attempt to understand
the universe through rationality alone, without the flame of the spirit.
Although Miss Quested soon withdraws the suggestion, she at first declares that Mrs. Moore would have
known about the events in the cave—which she could not have witnessed visually—through telepathy. During
their final conversation, Adela and Fielding, who identify themselves as rationalists, are profoundly and
indefinably disturbed by a sense of something vast, a universe that dwarfs their individual concerns.
Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
Major Roberts: the new civil surgeon
Young Milner: the new city magistrate
Mr. Das visits Aziz at the hospital to ask for a poem for Mr. Battacharya’s new magazine. Mr. Das says he
knows Aziz has a grudge against him. They finish in a half-embrace.
Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Summary and Analysis 29
Aziz begins to write a poem about the decay of Islam and love. He resolves to transcend the Islamic past and
attempt to love India as a whole. He will get away from British India and try for a post in a Hindu state.
Hamidullah advises against it. Hamidullah winks and relays a rumor that Miss Quested was having an affair
with Fielding. He wants to take Aziz behind the purdah curtain.
Fielding returns from a conference and Aziz picks him up from the station and tells him of the scandal: Mr.
McBryde and Miss Derek were caught having an affair. Aziz then tells him the gossip about Miss Quested.
Fielding dismisses it as unimportant. Aziz scolds him about the prevalence of spies. Sensing Aziz’s hostility,
Fielding challenges him directly to say what is on his mind.
Aziz archly accuses him of dallying with “Madamsell Adela.” Fielding is startled and so annoyed that he
calls Aziz a “little rotter.” Aziz is deeply hurt, but denies being offended. Fielding apologizes and tries to
explain. Aziz suddenly discovers that he has a previous engagement and cannot dine with Fielding. Mr.
Turton icily insists that Fielding come to the Club that night.
After Fielding’s uneasy visit to the Club, during which he meets the officials who have replaced Major
Callendar and Heaslop, he and Aziz have dinner together. Fielding announces that he is being sent back to
England for a while.
Aziz mentions Miss Quested, asks if Fielding will see her in London, then decides it’s time to leave. He
refuses Fielding’s offer of a ride home in his carriage and takes his bicycle instead. Aziz suspects that
Fielding’s real motive in going to London is to marry Miss Quested for her money. He continues to elaborate
on this fantasy.
Fielding writes a letter of explanation that does not please Aziz. Aziz coldly replies that he is going to take a
holiday and won’t be back before Fielding leaves. He adds that he will be away at his new post when
Fielding returns. After Fielding’s departure, Aziz’s friends encourage him in his suspicions. Soon Aziz has
convinced himself that Fielding has married Miss Quested.
During the trip back to England, Fielding rediscovers a harmonious beauty in Egypt, Crete, and Venice. In
Venice, particularly, he appreciates the joys of form. He thinks of the Mediterranean as the human norm and
the southern exit from it as leading to the monstrous and extraordinary.
In this closing section of Part II, the theme of division and departure is elaborated. As Aziz’s suspicion of
Fielding grows, he and Fielding come close to an open break. Aziz archly calls Fielding a “naughty boy.”
Annoyed, Fielding calls him a “little rotter.” The social distance between them gives an entirely different
weight to the two terms. While Aziz has been playful, Fielding’s use of schoolboy slang reveals that he thinks
of Aziz more as a boy than a man. Aziz is plainly and painfully aware of the disrespect implied in this
expression. The differences between the two men are evident; the fact that Aziz has believed the rumor about
Miss Quested demonstrates that he does not know what Fielding’s standards of behavior are. Since Aziz
associates British rule with treachery, he cannot believe that this particular Englishman might be unwilling to
betray a friend.
At dinner later, they speak of poetry and religion. Aziz says that poetry has lost the power of making men
brave. Fielding agrees that poetry should touch life, but says that patriotic poetry is not possible in a
fragmented India. They then pass on to a sister subject: religion. Aziz refers to his earlier self, the one who
took everyone as a friend. He relates this to the Persian expression: the Friend, a way of referring to God.
Aziz, who has previously been so moved by thoughts of Islam, now says he does not want to be a religious
poet. And Fielding, who is a declared atheist, insists that there is something in religion that may be true. It has
not yet been expressed, he says, but perhaps the Hindus have discovered it. This is the first sign that Fielding
Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Summary and Analysis 30
has any leanings toward spirituality. His dawning sense of wonder about Hindu religion will be further
developed in Part III.
Fielding’s actual departure brings a shift of perspective. Within India, the novel has alternated between the
perspective of the Indians and the Anglo-Indians, and set both of these against the larger perspective of Nature
and the Universe. Now, as Fielding lands in different ports during his journey home, he comes to see India as
strange, misshapen, almost monstrous. His sense of beauty was originally shaped by Mediterranean and
European standards and he is glad, though half-guilty, to discover them again.
In his absence, Fielding’s Indian friends have begun to feel that he is a traitor. Aziz has convinced himself
that Fielding tricked him about the money and that he has married Miss Quested. It is on this note of division
that Part II comes to a close. The three English people who seemed to be exceptions to the prevailing attitude
of superiority have left India. Fielding’s experience in returning to the Club has shown that those
Anglo-Indians who are left, even the newcomers, have not changed. The Indians themselves, even
Hamidullah, have closed ranks against them.
Part III, Chapter XXXIII: Summary and Analysis
New Character:
The Rajah of Mau: an old Hindu ruler
When Part III opens, two years have passed since Fielding left India. The setting is now the Hindu state of
Mau, where Professor Godbole and Dr. Aziz live. Professor Godbole and his choir are performing at the
Hindu festival celebrating Shri Krishna’s birthday. The courtyard at Mau is filled with Hindu worshippers.
There is music from many sources. In this setting, a small Europeanized band is almost unnoticeable.
Professor Godbole calls his musicians to a new rhythm. While he and his musicians melt into universal love,
the professor remembers an old woman he had met in Chandrapore. When this memory comes to him, he
transports her to a place of completion through his spiritual force. In that place, there is room even for a wasp.
Professor Godbole is dancing on a strip of red carpet, lost in ecstasy.
At this juncture, a litter bearing the Rajah appears. His attendants seat him against a pillar. The Brahmin
brings out a model of the village where Krishna was born, along with the figures who play a part in the birth
legend. When the clock strikes midnight, the conch is blown, elephants trumpet, packets of colored powder
are thrown at the altar, and shouts are heard. Sorrow vanishes; nothing remains but an all-embracing joy. The
experience is beyond thought or memory.
Next, a paper-maché cobra and a wooden cradle appear. Professor Godbole holds the red silk napkin that
represents the god. Godbole hands it to the Rajah, who baptizes it, tears pouring from his eyes. He is carried
away and put in the care of his other physician, Dr. Aziz.
Down in the courtyard, there is laughter and games are played. The narrator tells us that this worship, unlike
Christianity, succeeds in including merriment. One by one, children are chosen from the crowd to be caressed
and treated as Shri Krishna. The games continue.
The narrator reminds us that the literal truth of this reenactment cannot be established. It does not matter; all
birth may be an allegory. To Professor Godbole, the fact that Mrs. Moore was a Christian and he is a Brahmin
Hindu does not matter either. He, in effect, becomes God and loves her as God would love her. In a double
transformation, he also becomes Mrs. Moore, and beseeches God to come.
Part III, Chapter XXXIII: Summary and Analysis 31
The presence of the spiritual, which has made itself felt in varying ways throughout the novel, is now at
centerstage. The traditional re-enactment of Krishna’s birth is performed in the courtyard at Mau. The action
takes place outside of time and space, in the presence of God. Unlike Christians, Hindus believe that there
have been and will continue to be many incarnations; the joyous celebration of Krishna’s birth might be
compared to Christmas. The narrator draws some explicit parallels between the legend of Krishna’s birth and
of Christ’s.
In India everything seems different. The central message common to both traditions, “God is Love,” appears
as “God si Love,” hinting at a reversal that might stand for an India as seen through Western eyes. On one
level it indicates that to understand India, Westerners must begin with its tradition of ecstatic devotional
religion. On a simpler and more basic level, they must begin by loving the country and the Indians
themselves. They will have to confront unfamiliarity, yet it may be that India offers them a mirror image of
The colorful and crowded spectacle of Hindu India, which contrasts with the Anglo-Indian enclave in
Chandrapore, is displayed in the scene at Mau. Just as the jumble of objects on the altar almost conceals the
image of the god himself, the accumulation of people, sounds, and sights in the courtyard overwhelms the
spectator. On the red carpet, in the midst of this seeming chaos, Professor Godbole dances in a trance of
religious ecstasy. His outer senses dim; he abandons logic and deliberate effort and surrenders himself to
universal love.
This character, who has been somewhat aloof and elusive in the previous chapters of the novel, has now left
the alien setting of the civil station and is on his home ground. The action he performs in “imitating God” and
elevating Mrs. Moore to a state of spiritual completion is difficult to describe and to comprehend. Its nearest
counterpart in Christianity might be in prayers that are said for the release of the spirit. The subtle aftereffects
of this transcendence, however, can be perceived throughout the final section of the novel.
In this fully Hindu setting, transcendence has been achieved and brought to completion. Although,
transforming himself into Mrs. Moore, Godbole beseeches God to come, there is a crucial difference between
this scene and the song of longing he sang at Fielding’s party. That earlier song affected those who heard it
with a kind of lingering malaise. In contrast, this scene is filled with joy. The division and conflict that have
marked the plot so far have disappeared.
All individuality disappears from the faces of the worshippers as well; all reason, form, and beauty disappear
from the scene. The principal values of Western civilization are annihilated. Yet something arguably greater
takes their place: transcendent joy and a sense of union in which all differences and divisions vanish. Again,
the point of view of the earlier chapters has now expanded to include all those shadowy, hovering suggestions
of realities beyond his grasp. The voice of the narrator is now the reader’s guide.
Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
Colonel Maggs: Anglo-Indian political agent, an opponent of Aziz
Jemila, Ahmed, and Karim: Aziz’s children
Ralph Moore: Fielding’s brother-in-law, Mrs. Moore’s son
Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Summary and Analysis 32
Dr. Aziz leaves the palace the next morning to return to his house. He sees Godbole, but the devotee indicates
he does not want to be disturbed. Absent-mindedly, Godbole tells Aziz that “he” has arrived at the European
Guest House. Knowing that Fielding is coming on an official visit, and that he has married, Aziz understands
that this refers to Fielding. Holding to his old mistake, Aziz assumes his wife is Miss Quested.
We learn that while he was still in Chandrapore, he had received a letter from Fielding telling of his
approaching marriage. Aziz had tossed the letter to Mahmoud Ali, telling him to answer it, and had destroyed
subsequent letters.
Aziz lives in Mau, with a woman, and has his children with him. He is tolerated in this Hindu state, but does
have one enemy in Colonel Maggs, the British Political Agent from the Criminal Investigation Department.
However, the Viceroy’s policy has changed, and British influence now has less weight; the Rajah refuses to
dismiss Aziz.
Aziz tears up the note in which Fielding tells him he is coming with his wife and her brother and requests help
in supplying things for the State Guest House and in complying with court etiquette. He wants to avoid seeing
the visitors.
The morning after the Krishna celebration, Aziz takes his children with him to visit the shrine of an Islamic
saint. Inside the Shrine of the Head are many bees’ nests, but the children are not stung. Aziz and the children
go on to visit a tiny mosque and then wander over an old deserted fort, where they meet with a line of
prisoners. Referring to a ritual that will be reenacted during the Krishna procession that night, the boys ask
them which one will be pardoned. One prisoner inquires about the Rajah’s health. Aziz tells him that it is
always improving, although in fact, the Rajah died after the ceremony. In order not to dim the festival, the
death is being concealed
The children see Fielding and his brother-in-law below. When the two Englishmen enter the shrine, they are
attacked by bees and rush out again. Aziz’s mood improves. He shouts to them, advising the brother-in-law,
who has been stung, to stay away from him and lie down in a pool of water. It has begun to rain. Aziz pulls
some stings from the man’s wrists, and speaks roughly to him.
Fielding calls to Aziz in unfriendly tones and asks why his letters have not been answered. It rains harder and
Fielding imperatively suggests that Aziz accompany them to their carriage. Fielding begins to complain
sternly of the lack of hospitality at the Guest House. He tells Aziz that they want to see the torchlight
procession that night.
When they reach the carriage, Aziz says, “Jump in, Mr. Quested....” Fielding replies, “Who on earth is Mr.
Quested?” Aziz’s mistake is revealed, and he pales. Fielding is friendly, scathing, and scornful all at once.
Aziz’s shame turns to rage and he declares that he wants nothing to do with the English.
This concluding section of the novel takes place in the season after the welcome monsoon rains have come.
The rains bring not only relief from the heat, but also fertility to the fields and prosperity to human beings.
This chapter, which begins on the morning after the festival, explores the world of secular power. This is a
Hindu state. Furthermore, it seems that British policy has changed and these states are now allowed more
control over their own affairs. This annoys Colonel Maggs, the British political agent who would like to
harass Aziz. Aziz feels secure in Mau. He is living with a woman and has his children with him. He is in
charge of the hospital and has been the Rajah’s personal physician. Now the Rajah is dead, and no one yet
knows what his successor will be like. This hints at possible change, but Aziz is not greatly concerned.
Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Summary and Analysis 33
Although he is not a Hindu, the site of Aziz’s first meeting with Fielding suggests that the doctor is now on
his own ground. Aziz, who has tried to avoid meeting Fielding, is at an old fort containing the Muslim Shrine
of the Head and a small mosque. Thus, it is a parallel to Aziz’s first meeting with Mrs. Moore at the mosque.
There, the two strangers had opened their hearts to one another. Here at the fort, with its military connotations,
the two friends meet as adversaries. As if to signal this, a swarm of bees attack the Englishmen.
The change in Aziz has already been indicated by his tearing up the note Fielding sends him after arriving at
the Guest House. Aziz has a new sense of power and has flouted hospitality, which was once his cardinal
virtue. He ignores even basic requests from Fielding. In climbing the hill to the fort, Fielding’s party
symbolically suggests the invasion of India by the British.
The attack by a swarm of bees immediately puts the English at a disadvantage. Aziz is pleased. He
demonstrates his new sense of power, and his old resentment, by his offhand approach to Fielding and his
condescending treatment of Ralph Moore. Fielding complains of the contrast between the hospitable reception
they have received in other Hindu states and the inattentiveness shown in Mau.
Another element of the plot is resolved when this meeting finally reveals that Mahmoud Ali has duped Aziz,
and that Aziz’s dark suspicions of Fielding are unwarranted. When Aziz discovers that Fielding’s wife is
actually Mrs. Moore’s daughter, and not Miss Quested, he is mortified by his mistake. Instead of apologizing,
he allows his shame to turn to anger and shouts that he wants nothing more to do with the English. This open
fury, too, indicates that Aziz is now able to behave toward Fielding like an equal, not like a subject under
British rule.
When he calms down, he realizes that hearing the name of Mrs. Moore/Esmiss Esmoor has had a curious
effect on him. He feels as if she had come to help him. Transfigured by her death, Mrs. Moore’s spirit is able
to transcend the barriers of ethnic conflict that separate the living from each other.
Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Summary and Analysis
New Characters:
A young woman singer
Stella Moore: Fielding’s wife, Mrs. Moore’s daughter
The palace continues to hum. Although the customary dramatic performance depicting the legend of Krishna
will not take place, the festival has still created an atmosphere of love and peace. Since Mau is usually a site
of suspicion and selfishness, Aziz finds the change difficult to comprehend.
Around evening, he remembers the ointment he had promised to send to the Guest House and decides to ride
over to deliver it. On the way, he sees the procession forming and almost bumps into Professor Godbole. It
turns out that Godbole has known for over a year that Fielding married Heaslop’s sister.
Godbole smiles and asks Aziz not to be angry with him for not informing him. The Sweeper’s band is
arriving and when the doors are thrown open, the whole court can be seen inside; the Ark of the Lord stands in
the fairway. Slightly bored, Aziz rides on out of town and stops by the Mau tank. In the center of it, looking
like a small black blot, he can see the Guest House boat. Continuing on his way, he reaches the European
Guest House, 200 feet above the water.
Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Summary and Analysis 34
Aziz goes through the rooms and reads two letters lying on the piano. One is from Heaslop to Fielding,
apologizing for having been unreasonable and referring to a “son and heir.” The second is from Miss Quested
to Mrs. Fielding; friendly and sensible, it mentions “my debt which I will never repay in person.”
The State guns are fired and a rocket set off, signaling the release of the prisoner. The choir’s song penetrates
the House. Aziz and Ralph move out onto the porch, where Aziz holds out his hand and speaks gently. Ralph
replies that he can always tell whether a stranger is his friend.
Both acknowledge that the two nations cannot be friends. Ralph tells him that Mrs. Moore had spoken of him
in her letters, and that she loved him. Aziz feels gratitude, but cannot account for it. He proposes to take Ralph
out on the water and finds the place where the oars are hidden. There is a sudden flash of lightning. Ralph tells
Aziz to row back and they see the image of a king under a canopy. Aziz tells Ralph that the Rajah is dead.
What they have seen is an image of the Rajah’s dead father.
Ralph asks Aziz to row nearer, and Aziz obeys. The chant of Radhakrishna changes, and Aziz believes he
hears the “syllables of salvation” that had been chanted during his trial at Chandrapore. He rows nearer, until
the palanquin of Krishna appears, surrounded by singers. Godbole sees the boat and waves at them. An image
of Krishna’s birthplace is about to be thrown into the water.
Suddenly, English voices cry out; the two boats collide. The servitor’s tray, part of the final act of the
festival, strikes the English. The boats capsize; everything, including the servitor’s tray and the two letters,
float away.
In this chapter, the narrator informs us that “Religion is a living force in Hindu life.” The entire chapter is an
illustration of this statement. The all-pervading atmosphere of the festival affects even those, like Aziz, who
do not believe in Krishna. Instead of indulging in intrigue, the rival claimants to the throne are careful not to
disturb the atmosphere of peace and love. Preparations for the torchlight procession are beginning. Gods are
mounting the floats.
Religious divisions are indicated and then bridged during the festival. In the midst of it, Aziz almost bumps
into Godbole, which would have contaminated the Brahmin. Godbole apologizes for not telling Aziz about
Fielding’s wife, which he has known for some time. He declares that he is, within his limitations, Aziz’s true
friend, and reminds Aziz that this is his holy festival. Aziz smiles at him, another indication of the way in
which the festival calms all resentments.
A prime characteristic of Hinduism is that it favors inclusion over exclusion. The caste system was strict and
exclusive at that time, yet the Sweeper’s band is integral to the festival. When it appears, only its music will
open the doors to the revelation of the Ark of the Lord.
For a while, Aziz is still gripped by his rancorous memories. Reading the letters from Heaslop and Miss
Quested in the Guest House reminds him further of Chandrapore. Aziz is still occupied with trying to right his
wrongs, which entails a reversal.
Inflamed by memories, he persecutes Ralph for a while. There are two reasons why his attitude and his
manner change. One is Ralph’s own character; he is not the type of a bullying Englishman. Instead, he is
strange, frail, and sensitive. He speaks to Aziz from emotional truth, not verbal truth, cutting through the
other’s sneering attack by simply claiming, “Dr. Aziz, we have done you no harm.” Aziz is, of course,
persecuting Ralph in his identity as a member of a group-the British in India-and ignoring him as an
individual. He has just begun to perceive him as an individual when a chant from the festival permeates the
Guest House.
Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Summary and Analysis 35
It is a chant of reversal and of union: Krishnaradha, Radhakrishna, and it enters the house like “rumours of
salvation.” Its effect is to remind Aziz of something beyond the caves. He repents of his earlier nastiness and
speaks gently to Ralph. Aziz finds himself remembering Mrs. Moore, the mosque, and the beginning of the
cycle. This time, Ralph reminds him that Mrs. Moore loved him. He now honors Ralph as Mrs. Moore’s son.
Once again, it is through the effects of spiritual rhythm and music that a character’s mood is altered and
human differences resolved. The power of the mantra is well known in India and is practiced in order to
produce spiritual transformation.
In the last scene, all the antagonisms and misunderstandings that have divided the cultures and the characters
dissolve, and everything mingles together. The four outsiders collide with each other, and with the servitor’s
tray. It is Stella who capsizes the two boats, rocking back and forth between Fielding and Aziz as she
symbolically brings them together. Like her mother, she has collapsed the division between the Indians and
the Anglo-Indians. Memories of the past float away along with the letters. As the villagers straggle back to
their homes, they are still singing. Again the narrator repeats: “God si love.”
Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Summary and Analysis
Fielding and Aziz go for their last ride together in the Mau jungles. The Rajah’s death has been announced.
From the official point of view, the visit is a failure. Every day Godbole has promised to show Fielding the
high school, but has always made some excuse. Now Aziz tells him that the school has been converted into a
granary. The school only exists on paper.
Fielding feels that the visit has been a success in terms of friendship. He and Aziz have resumed their old
relationship. They look around at the bright scenery and see a cobra. When they stop to let it pass, Aziz shows
Fielding a charming letter he wants to send Miss Quested, expressing his gratitude. Fielding is pleased. Aziz
apologizes for his old suspicions. Fielding suggests that Aziz talk to Stella, who also believes the incident at
the caves and all its repercussions have been expunged.
They both know that this is good-bye, since there seems to be no place left for their friendship. Fielding has
now become a part of Anglo-India. He is not sure he would be able to defy his own people again as he did
Fielding speaks again of the calm that Mau has brought his wife. He asks Aziz about the Krishna festival.
Aziz knows little of it besides its name. Fielding explains that he wants to discover its spiritual side. Aziz still
professes ignorance and indifference to Hindu reactions. Fielding tells Aziz that he wants to understand why
Ralph and Stella are drawn to Hinduism, though not to its outward forms.
Aziz resists Fielding’s attempts to connect him to Ralph and Stella. He adds a line to the letter to Miss
Quested, telling her that from now on he will remember her along with the sacred name of Mrs. Moore.
They argue about politics all the way back to Mau. Fielding maintains that without the British, things fall
apart in India. He accuses Aziz of forgetting his medicine and going back to charms. He also scoffs at the
theme of Aziz’s poems. For his part, Aziz wants to see the British thrown out of India. He tells Fielding that
when England is in difficulties, in the next European war, it will be time for the Indians.
Aziz promises that if his own generation cannot expel the English, his children’s generation will. The two
men embrace, acknowledging that they both want friendship.
Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Summary and Analysis 36
Although the facts may never be known, the incident in the caves has mysteriously been resolved. Both Aziz
and Stella, in different ways, are aware that the past has been put to rest. The meeting between Fielding and
Aziz, and between Aziz and Ralph, has obviously contributed to clearing up misunderstandings.
Remembering what took place during Godbole’s dance, we must add that his ecstatic transformation of Mrs.
Moore also dispelled the shadows he had perceived as clinging around her spirit. Those clinging shadows had
affected everyone and everything connected with the original trial.
This final chapter continues to explore the theme of Hindu mysticism. It is surprising to find that Fielding, the
self-described rationalist and atheist, is now the one who insists on questioning Aziz about the Krishna
festival. Aziz, who identified with Islam and religious poetry, has previously declared he did not want to be a
religious poet. Now he is bored by the topic of spirituality. This is a Hindu festival, yet the idea of an
unattainable God who is both with and without attributes is basic to Islam. For Forster’s purposes, it was
necessary to alter Aziz’s character along pragmatic and political lines.
At first, Fielding believes that since Aziz is an Oriental, he will have a spiritual understanding, and attempts to
bring him together with Ralph and Stella. Aziz makes his lack of interest clear. Fielding acknowledges that
both his wife and her brother have an inner tranquility and an access to spiritual realities that he lacks. He
draws a distinction between these two, who are spiritual seekers, and himself, Miss Quested, and Aziz, who
are not.
Sustained by their renewed friendship, Fielding and Aziz are able to confront each other directly. Fielding has
become a conservative. Although he earlier refused to endorse the formula: “England holds India for her
good,” he now believes in the necessity of British rule for India. He has begun to identify with the
Anglo-Indians and finds it hard to believe that he once defied them. The reversal that has taken place in Aziz
has also taken place in Fielding; their opposing loyalties are now sharply defined.
Now that Fielding and Aziz are on opposite sides, they express their opposing views on British rule in India.
Fielding jeers that India slips into superstition and backwardness when not directly under British supervision.
Aziz’s statement that the Indians’ time will come when the British go to war is an implied threat, hinting that
the Indians will not stand by them.
Politics give way to a reaffirmation of friendship as the two men embrace and affirm their affection for each
other. Geography and politics, however, ensure that this friendship has no place in the world as it is when the
novel ends.
A Passage to India: Quizzes
Part I, Chapters I – III: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Where are the Marabar Caves in relation to Chandrapore?
2. What does Hamidullah believe about the possibility of friendship with the English in India?
3. Why do Mrs. Turton and Mrs. Lesley not ask Aziz if they may take the tonga?
4. Why does Aziz find it possible to talk freely to Mrs. Moore? What is her attitude toward the Indians?
5. What is Ronny Heaslop’s reaction when he discovers his mother has been talking to Dr. Aziz?
A Passage to India: Quizzes 37
6. What does Mr. Turton mean when he says that Heaslop’s a sahib?
7. What kind of a “bridge-party” does Mr. Turton intend to give?
8. Why do the Englishwomen feel it is necessary to keep a distance from the Indians?
9. How does Fielding’s attitude differ from that of his fellow Anglo-Indians?
10. Why does Aziz resent Major Callendar?
1. The Marabar Caves are 20 miles from Chandrapore, set in the Marabar Hills, which can be seen from the
2. Hamidullah believes that it may be possible to have a friendship with the English in India under certain
3. Mrs. Turton and Mrs. Lesley, like most other Anglo-Indians, are used to ignoring native Indians and their
rights or interests. They turn their heads away from Aziz as if he did not exist.
4. He finds her sensitive to the feelings of others. Mrs. Moore is surprised and disturbed by Heaslop’s harsh
judgment of Indians. She is eager to meet them and know more about their lives.
5. Heaslop is upset and begins to question Mrs. Moore. He worries that Miss Quested may not understand the
unwritten rules of behavior that would forbid such contacts between Indians and the English.
6. The word “sahib” identifies Heaslop as one who accepts his role in the Anglo-Indian governing class,
displays class and ethnic solidarity, and can be counted on to maintain acceptable opinions and behavior.
7. This party is one to which Indians of a certain rank are invited in order to bridge the gap between them and
the Anglo-Indians.
8. They believe the “natives” will not respect them anymore if they are able to meet socially. They pride
themselves on hardly ever speaking to Indians.
9. Fielding believes that in order to know the real India, it is necessary to meet the actual Indian inhabitants.
This causes him to be regarded as “not pukka.”
10. The Major treats him like a subordinate, frequently summons him after hours, causes him to leave pleasant
social occasions, and then keeps him waiting on the verandah or does not turn up at all.
Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why do the other Indians allow Nawab Bahadur to convince them to go to the party?
2. What information does Mrs. Turton give Mrs. Moore about the rank of Englishwomen in India in relation
to Indian women?
3. Why does Mrs. Turton know only the imperative forms of Urdu?
Part I, Chapters I – III: Questions and Answers 38
4. What does Heaslop believe is the purpose of the English in India?
5. What does Mrs. Moore believe their purpose is?
6. Why doesn’t Aziz go to the party?
7. What proves Major Callendar’s ignorance of Indian life?
8. Why is it offensive to Dr. Panna Lal when Aziz hits the Brahminy bull with his polo mallet?
9. In what ways are Aziz and Heaslop similar in their attitudes toward work?
10. What are Aziz’s feelings as he gazes at the photograph of his dead wife?
1. As a wealthy landowner, the Nawab has more prestige than the others and is considered a leader.
2. Mrs. Turton tells Mrs. Moore that she—and by implication, any Englishwoman—is superior in rank to any
Indian woman except one or two of the Ranis, who are equal in rank to the Anglo-Indians.
3. Mrs. Turton is accustomed to speaking the language only to servants and has never bothered to study it for
any other purpose.
4. He feels the English are in India to do justice and keep the peace. He believes he is in India “to work and
hold this wretched country by force.”
5. Mrs. Moore believes the English “are in India to be pleasant.” As God has put people on earth for the same
6. It is the anniversary of his wife’s death and he is saddened by his reverie about her. He is afraid the
Anglo-Indian women will make fun of his sorrow.
7. When Major Callendar begins to rebuke Aziz for not arriving on time the previous week, the Major cannot
understand why Aziz’s bicycle should have broken down in front of the Cow Hospital. It doesn’t occur to
him that instead of being at home, Aziz might have been visiting friends, and that this activity indicates the
weaving of a new social fabric among the Indians.
8. The Brahminy bull, and cows in general, are held sacred by the Hindus.
9. They both work hard and are often not recognized or rewarded for it, Heaslop by the Indians, Aziz by the
10. Tears flow from Aziz’s eyes as he gazes at his wife’s photograph. He feels self-pity as well, and attempts
unsuccessfully to remember his wife.
Part I, Chapter VII: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why does Aziz go biking in English dress rather than a fez?
Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Questions and Answers 39
2. Why is Aziz offended by Fielding’s response to his remark about Post-Impressionism?
3. What is Fielding’s definition of the difference between a mystery and a muddle?
4. Why does Aziz invite the party to the Marabar Caves?
5. Why does Heaslop tell Fielding he shouldn’t have left Miss Quested alone with Aziz and Professor
6. What is Aziz’s description of Deccani Brahmins?
7. What does Professor Godbole say about the Marabar Caves?
8. Why does Miss Quested feel she should have told Heaslop about her decision not to settle in India before
telling the others?
9. Why is everyone irritable as they say good-bye?
10. Does Shri Krishna answer the yearning call of the milk-maidens in Professor Godbole’s song or in any
other one?
1. Aziz has discovered that he is often stopped by the police if he is wearing native dress, in this case, a fez.
2. Aziz believes—wrongly—that Fielding is implying that a native could know nothing about such topics as
3. Fielding believes that a mystery is “only a high-sounding term for a muddle.”
4. Aziz is horrified at the thought of the others seeing his miserable one-room shanty. He invites them to the
caves in order to distract them and to provide another setting.
5. In the view of Anglo-Indians, native men constitute a threat to Englishwomen, and it is the duty of an
Englishman to chaperone Miss Quested.
6. He believes they have a very high opinion of themselves. They are also subtle, extremely rich, and have a
great deal of influence.
7. Professor Godbole is vague in his description of the caves. He says there is an entrance in the rock, that
there are no sculptures in them, and that they are not ornamented in any way.
8. Since Miss Quested may become engaged to Heaslop, her decision not to stay in India means she will not
marry him. She feels this is a private decision, and strangers have no right to hear it first.
9. Mrs. Moore has been disturbed by Adela’s announcement that she will not stay in India. Heaslop’s arrival
and his snubbing of Aziz and Professor Godbole has upset everyone except the Brahmin himself. Aziz has
chattered tactlessly; Heaslop has irritated Fielding by criticizing him and irritated Mrs. Moore and Miss
Quested by his rudeness. Only Professor Godbole is inundated with tranquility.
10. No, according to Professor Godbole, Shri Krishna does not arrive, in this or any other devotional song.
Part I, Chapter VII: Questions and Answers 40
Part I, Chapter VIII: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why didn’t Heaslop pay attention to Aziz’s previous announcement that Miss Quested would not stay in
2. Why is Miss Quested ashamed of Heaslop’s behavior at the tea party?
3. Why does the chauffeur take the Marabar Road rather than the Gangavati?
4. Why is Mr. Harris self-conscious when he is together with Indians and Anglo-Indians?
5. In what way is Miss Derek condescending to Heaslop?
6. What is Miss Quested’s reaction to this condescension?
7. What is the Nawab Bahadur’s mental picture of the Maharani? What is his opinion of superstition at this
8. Why does Miss Quested feel humiliated after she agrees to marry Heaslop?
9. What makes the Nawab Bahadur a “show Indian”?
10. Why is Heaslop concerned about the approach of the Mohurram festival?
1. It has never occurred to Heaslop that an Indian might convey something important between two English
2. She feels he has been gross and spoiled both the conversation and the song, the latter by walking away in
the middle of it. She also dimly realizes that she is really irritated with herself and is taking it out on him.
3. Heaslop changes the instructions that the Nawab has given the chauffeur. He says that Gangavati Road is
under repair. They end up on Marabar Road.
4. Mr. Harris is Eurasian and feels rejected by both races.
5. Miss Derek implies that Heaslop is of lower status, since he has no contact with the wealthy and titled
Indians that she is employed by.
6. Miss Quested is annoyed by the condescension and feels protective of Heaslop.
7. The Nawab imagines the Maharani as uneducated and superstitious. He praises British reason and
orderliness in contrast, and says that superstition must be eradicated in India.
8. She feels that she is now labeled and her life will be all too predictable.
9. He tends to agree with and praise the English rule and to help induce other Indians to fulfill the wishes of
their rulers. Therefore, he can always be pointed to as an example of an Indian who helps the Anglo-Indians to
sustain their fantasies about themselves.
Part I, Chapter VIII: Questions and Answers 41
10. Mohurram, a festival in which there is loud and emotional mourning for the martyred sons of Mohammed,
is a time when Hindus and Muslims frequently find occasion for quarrels and fighting.
Part I, Chapters IX – XI: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why is Rafi called “the Sherlock Holmes of Chandrapore”? Is he an accurate detective?
2. How do Aziz’s visitors react to the poem he recites?
3. Why does Fielding’s remark about atheism lead the Indians to ask him why the English are justified in
holding India?
4. What is the reply Fielding could have made and doesn’t? Why not?
5. Why are the Indians unable to understand the terms in which Fielding is talking?
6. Why had Aziz ordered his servant not to bring Fielding’s horse when the other visitors left?
7. What is the corollary that Aziz adds to his remark that all men are brothers?
8. On what grounds do the Hindus and Muslims begin to quarrel?
9. How does Fielding feel about intimacy?
10. Why does Aziz think that Fielding is unwise?
1. Rafi claims to know everyone’s secrets, but most of the rumors he purveys turn out to be inaccurate.
2. Although Hamidullah is the only one beside Aziz who is a reader of poetry, the rest are touched by it; they
appreciate its pathos and it voices their loneliness.
3. The Indians take it for granted that authority should be rooted in spiritual qualities. On hearing that most
educated English people are atheists, they naturally question the grounds for English rule of “spiritual” India.
4. The standard British answer would be: “England holds India for her good.” Fielding cannot in honesty say
this, since he does not entirely believe it.
5. Fielding is talking in terms of chance and self-interest. The Indians are used to thinking in terms of justice
and morality, and find it difficult to comprehend an argument that makes no reference to these values.
6. Aziz wanted to detain Fielding so they could have a conversation alone.
7. He says that all men are brothers when they behave as such.
8. They begin to insult each other and each other’s relatives, seemingly out of latent hostility. No particular
incident provokes these insults.
Part I, Chapters IX – XI: Questions and Answers 42
9. Fielding realizes he will not become an intimate friend of Aziz, or of anyone else. Then he reflects that this
is all right with him.
10. Fielding’s candid talk with a group of people he doesn’t know very well seems reckless to Aziz, who
warns that they might be inclined to harm him by reporting his words to others.
Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What do visitors usually feel about their experience of the Marabar Caves? Why do they find it difficult to
discuss them?
2. What do the walls of the circular chamber look like when a match is lit inside?
3. What version of Miss Quested’s remark in the Club reaches Aziz?
4. In what ways does Aziz rely on his friends’ help to organize the expedition?
5. Why does Aziz suggest the women send their servant back? Why do they agree?
6. Why do Fielding and Godbole miss the train?
7. What is Mrs. Moore’s opinion of marriage?
8. What mistake does Aziz make in overrating hospitality?
9. How does Aziz characterize the three Moghul Emperors he mentions, and why does he prefer Babur to
10. What causes Mrs. Moore to fall into a state of despair?
1. Visitors tend to be unsure whether or not they have had an interesting experience, or whether they have had
an experience at all. It is the monotony of the caves, their lack of ornamentation, that makes them difficult to
2. In the light of a match, the walls look like a mirror inlaid with beautiful colors.
3. According to the version that reaches Aziz, the ladies have been waiting for his invitation to the caves and
are deeply offended because it has not arrived.
4. Aziz asks Fielding to invite the ladies for him, he borrows servants from his friends and cutlery from
Mahmoud Ali. His greatest challenge is the elephant, which he manages by enlisting Hamidullah Begum to
call on Nureddin’s mother and asks her to ask Nureddin to approach the Nawab Bahadur about the elephant.
5. Aziz wants the servant gone because he is a Hindu; the ladies agree because he has acted snobbish and
6. Godbole delayed them by doing a pujah, or ceremony of religious worship.
Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Questions and Answers 43
7. She feels that marriage has been overrated, and that centuries of sexual relations have not brought people
closer to understanding each other.
8. Aziz mistakes hospitality for intimacy and does not understand its inherent possessiveness.
9. Aziz says that Babur never abandoned hospitality and pleasure, and that he never betrayed a friend. The
more pious Alamgir, he says, reserved his disapproval for Akbar, who attempted to embrace all of India with
his new, syncretizing religion.
10. Terrified in the cave, Mrs. Moore has lost control. She begins to feel that the echo is destroying her values
and the idea of value itself. As she sits alone, the incomprehensible vastness of the universe makes her
Christian faith seem ridiculous.
Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why does Adela not want to break her engagement to Heaslop, even though she has realized that they
don’t love each other?
2. What train of thought leads her to ask Aziz how many wives he has? Why is Aziz shocked by it? Is she
aware of his shock?
3. Why does Aziz strike the guide?
4. What is Aziz’s reaction when he hears that Miss Quested and Miss Derek have driven back to
5. What causes the awkwardness between Mrs. Moore and Fielding? How does Aziz feel about it?
6. Why does Aziz conceal the truth about what happened in the caves?
7. Why does Mrs. Moore feel apathetic and cynical?
8. Why is Fielding annoyed with Miss Derek and Miss Quested?
9. Why does Fielding prevent Aziz from escaping arrest?
10. What forms of madness does Fielding perceive after the arrest? Does he understand madness?
1. Miss Quested reflects that marriage does not seem to depend on love. There is also the probability that
breaking the engagement would cause her social embarrassment.
2. Adela has been musing about love and marriage herself, so it is natural for her to ask Aziz if he is married.
It occurs to her that Muslims may have more than one wife, she then asks Aziz how many he has. For Aziz,
having more than one wife is an old-fashioned custom of which he, as a modern Muslim, is ashamed. Adela is
unaware that she has offended him.
3. Aziz strikes the guide because he feels frightened and worried and chooses to blame him for not looking
after Miss Quested.
Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Questions and Answers 44
4. He is relieved, assuming that they have obeyed the same kind of impulse that he has often followed.
5. Mrs. Moore is suffering from her experience of despair. Fielding is annoyed with himself and chooses to
include Mrs. Moore in his self-blame. They do not know each other well and feel awkward at finding
themselves together on account of an Indian.
6. Aziz has never been particularly interested in verbal truth to begin with. He is embarrassed for Miss
Quested, and wants to protect her by concealing the fact that she asked him such an insensitive question. His
natural inventiveness then carries him away into a pleasant embroidery of the original story.
7. Her fainting in the cave has changed Mrs. Moore permanently. Her whole vision of India has been altered.
8. He feels they have been rude to Aziz by accepting his hospitality and then leaving without even an
9. Fielding can foresee that if Aziz escapes, there will be a manhunt and his guilt will seem certain.
10. Madness has taken possession of the collector, who is raving about the insult Miss Quested has suffered
and the way the good name of his district has been ruined. He is angry with Fielding for not joining the
collective madness that has engulfed all the other Europeans in Chandrapore. Fielding says that Miss Quested
must have been mad to accuse Aziz in the first place.
Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why is Fielding’s first request to see Aziz denied?
2. Why is Mr. McBryde triumphant when he finds a picture of a woman among the contents of Aziz’s
3. What change has occurred in the Anglo-Indian women’s feelings toward Miss Quested?
4. What are Mr. Turton’s emotions as he speaks to the Anglo-Indians at the Club? Is he entirely ruled by his
emotions at this time?
5. Why does Major Callendar feel guilty? How does he deal with his guilt?
6. What rumors does Major Callendar relay about Aziz? Are these rumors generally believed?
7. Why does Callendar’s first attack on Fielding fail to mature?
8. Why do the Anglo-Indians rise to their feet when Heaslop enters? Why doesn’t Fielding rise with the
9. Why does Fielding resign from the Club? Why does Mr. Turton call him weak?
10. Why does Fielding classify his rudeness to Heaslop as a tactical and moral error?
1. Fielding has revealed that the collector is against him, so McBryde feels both justified and supported in
Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Questions and Answers 45
denying the request. McBryde also feels strongly that Anglo-Indians must stick together. In his eyes, by
maintaining Aziz’s innocence, Fielding is acting like a traitor.
2. The case McBryde is building against Aziz in his mind involves a picture of someone who is obsessed with
sex. He’s already found a letter from Aziz to a brothel-keeper; he assumes the picture must be of a prostitute.
3. Miss Quested, who has been regarded as an awkward outsider, now arouses all their protective feelings,
along with a certain amount of guilt about their earlier treatment of her.
4. Mr. Turton is raging with pity and heroism. Officially he speaks to the British sense of fairness when he
urges the others not to convict all Indians because one has been charged with a crime. We know Mr. Turton’s
thoughts; he is consumed with a desire for revenge on all Indians.
5. Major Callendar says that he contributed to the alleged attack by granting Aziz leave. His sense of guilt
inspires outbursts of emotion in which he wants the army called up. He finds a way out by scapegoating
Fielding, transferring his own guilt onto someone else.
6. The Major reports that Aziz bribed Godbole to make Fielding miss the train. He also says that Aziz paid
natives to suffocate Mrs. Moore in the cave. Although Callendar’s drunken and hysterical cries for calling up
the army are discounted, his version of Aziz’s premeditation seems to be generally believed.
7. Mr. Turton, who is the controlling figure at the Club, fails to support Callendar’s attack.
8. They rise to honor him and to assure him of their support. Fielding is afraid that he will be carried along in
solidarity with the rest if he does not make his position clear.
9. Fielding resigns from the Club as a sign that he is taking Aziz’s side in this matter. Major Callendar calls
Fielding weak because he refused to stand up with the other Anglo-Indians.
10. It is suggested that by refusing to stand, Fielding has insulted Heaslop. His intention was to make his own
position clear. The tactical error may lie in his losing all hope of influence with the Anglo-Indians.
Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why does Miss Quested long to see Mrs. Moore?
2. What does her response to Fielding’s letter suggest about her inner state?
3. What do Mrs. Moore’s words and actions indicate when Adela arrives at the bungalow?
4. What are Heaslop’s unspoken opinions of his mother?
5. Why does Heaslop ask Miss Quested not to speak of Aziz’s innocence again?
6. What does Mrs. Moore mean by saying, “There are different ways of evil, and I prefer mine to yours”?
What is Mrs. Moore’s way of evil?
7. Why does Mrs. Moore believe Aziz is innocent? What do Heaslop and Miss Quested think of her belief?
Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Questions and Answers 46
8. Why does Heaslop suddenly want to send his mother away from India?
9. Why does Lady Mellanby offer to let her share her private cabin?
10. What is the significance of Mrs. Moore’s remark, “there are worse evils than love”?
1. Miss Quested feels that her friendship with Mrs. Moore is deep and real. No one else understands her.
2. Her distracted response to Fielding’s letter indicates that she is not able to face the question of Aziz’s guilt
or innocence.
3. Mrs. Moore doesn’t rise to greet her. She seems uninterested in Adela and indifferent to her plea for
friendship. Her words are ominous rather than reassuring.
4. Heaslop believes that others do not know his mother as he knows her. They think that she is just a sweet,
old lady, but he has seen other sides to her that are less attractive and less kind.
5. He says that all his servants are spies, and that such a remark would help Aziz’s defense if it were
6. Mrs. Moore implies that the accusation against Aziz and his trial are evil actions committed in the name of
justice. Her way of evil may be non-participation, the refusal to take sides.
7. She says it is a matter of character, and that both English people and Indians have spoken well of Aziz. It
isn’t something he would do, she believes.
8. Heaslop scornfully dismisses this as “feeble.” However, Adela’s doubts are increased. She cannot dismiss
the idea that she might be wrong.
9. This is a gesture of Anglo-Indian solidarity. It is the only thing Lady Mellanby can do in response to the
appeal from the ladies of Chandrapore.
10. Mrs. Moore is preoccupied with evil at this point. She believes that an attempted sexual assault, here
interpreted as love, is a lesser evil than the vengefulness and hatred that has possessed the Anglo-Indians.
Part II, Chapter XXIV: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What are the ominous signs of unrest that precede the trial?
2. Why is Miss Quested sure she will get her verdict?
3. What point does Miss Quested not want to tell the truth about?
4. Why does Heaslop support Mr. Das in asking the Europeans to step down?
5. Why does Mahmoud Ali leave the court?
6. How does Heaslop react to hearing his mother turned into a Hindu goddess?
Part II, Chapter XXIV: Questions and Answers 47
7. When McBryde states that Miss Quested entered the cave alone and then Aziz followed her in, what reply
does he expect? Why does he expect this answer?
8. Why does Mr. Das insist on addressing Miss Quested himself? Is this in keeping with his previous
9. Why does Major Callendar want to stop the proceedings?
10. What is Aziz’s reaction to the verdict?
1. A stone thrown at the Turtons’ car, a group of threatening students, strikes by Sweepers, and a hunger
strike by Muslim women indicate that trouble is brewing.
2. She has been surrounded by Anglo-Indians who have assured her that anything else is unthinkable.
3. She intends to tell the truth; the difficulty is that, like Aziz earlier, she is determined not to admit to the
conversation they had just before entering the caves. She is embarrassed at having blundered, and now
speculates that the question about marriage may have inflamed him and led to the attack.
4. Heaslop is himself a magistrate and has a sense of fairness that leads him to applaud a correct decision.
5. Mahmoud Ali has been in a rage throughout the trial. Rather than withdraw his sensational charge, since he
cannot prove it, he leaves.
6. He is revolted.
7. McBryde expects Miss Quested to agree. Only two hours before, she has signed a deposition testifying to
this. He led her through the questions before the trial began.
8. Mr. McBryde does not want her to withdraw the charges, and is attempting to influence her to return to her
original version. This is the only way for Mr. Das to hear what she has to say. He has previously been timid,
but is now at ease and authoritative.
9. Major Callendar wants to avoid the acquittal of Aziz. By claiming that Miss Quested is ill, he may imply
that she has suffered a nervous breakdown which invalidates her current testimony.
10. He faints in Hamidullah’s arms.
Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What rumor has been circulating about Miss Quested’s recantation?
2. Why does Aziz feel that Fielding has deserted him?
3. What rumor does Mahmoud Ali start about Nureddin?
4. How does Dr. Panna Lal avert disaster?
Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Questions and Answers 48
5. What is the theme of the Nawab Bahadur’s speech? What is ironic about his change of title?
6. What are the four possibilities Fielding suggests to account for Miss Quested’s behavior? Does she seem to
favor any one of them over the others?
7. What does Hamidullah mean by saying, “A great deal has been broken, more than will ever be mended”?
8. Why isn’t Hamidullah impressed by Miss Quested’s honesty in admitting her mistake?
9. Why does Heaslop at first remain outside on Fielding’s verandah?
10. Why is Fielding horrified at Amritrao’s suggestion that Miss Fielding pay 20,000 rupees in
1. The mob believes that she did not in fact recant, but was struck down by divine power for giving false
2. In aiding Miss Quested instead of remaining with his friend, Fielding seems to have gone over to the “other
3. He claims that he heard Major Callendar call Nureddin a “nigger” and boast of putting pepper rather than
antiseptic on his wounds.
4. He publicly asks Aziz to forgive him; then he clowns, allowing the crowd to feel superior. Finally, he
brings out Nureddin and shows the crowd that he is safe.
5. The Nawab Bahadur speaks of justice, courage, liberty, and prudence. He announces that he will give up
his British title and be known from now on as Mr. Zulfiqar. The irony in this is that “Mr.” is also a British
6. Fielding suggests the following: that Aziz did attempt to assault her; malice on her part; hallucination; that
she was attacked by someone else. In response to Fielding’s suggestion, Miss Quested assents that it might
have been the guide.
7. Hamidullah means that any possibility of trust between the Indians and Anglo-Indians has been destroyed,
and the social fabric of Chandrapore along with it.
8. Hamidullah has been infuriated by the overheard conversation in which Fielding and Miss Quested
speculate that it could have been the guide.
9. Fielding insulted him by not standing up at the Club. Fielding understands his response as part of the social
10. Fielding senses that Miss Quested is going to “lose” her marriage with Heaslop; he doesn’t want her to
lose all her money as well.
Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Questions and Answers
Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Questions and Answers 49
Study Questions
1. Why does Aziz say that he should have become anti-British much sooner?
2. What does Fielding try to explain about Miss Quested? On what grounds does he ask Aziz to spare her
from paying excess costs?
3. Why is Fielding offended by Aziz’s suggested letter of apology?
4. Why does Ronny Heaslop continue to inwardly criticize Mrs. Moore after her death?
5. Why is the letter that Fielding helps Miss Quested write a failure?
6. Why does Heaslop break off the engagement?
7. How does Miss Quested feel about her broken engagement? Why didn’t she break it herself?
8. Why does Miss Quested feel that she will be all right in England?
9. Why do both Fielding and Miss Quested feel an odd sense of dissatisfaction even while they are agreeing
about various topics?
10. What does the missionary’s remark about a turn and a return mean to Adela Quested?
1. If Aziz had become anti-British sooner, he never would have invited the women to the Marabar Caves and
thus never been imprisoned and tried.
2. Fielding points out that she is genuine and brave. She spoke out and said that she was wrong even though
surrounded by Anglo-Indian friends. He appeals to Aziz to be merciful.
3. He says that it hurts him. Possibly, he is both hurt by the insult to Miss Quested and saddened to see his
friend Aziz indulging in blatant self-congratulation.
4. He was unfair to her and finds it easier to compound the unfairness than to repent of it.
5. She has no real love for Aziz or the Indians, and they sense this. Fielding tells her that Indians will always
prefer kindness and affection to justice.
6. He looks on her as belonging to a past he has outgrown, one connected with his earlier life in England.
7. She says it was wise of Heaslop to break the engagement; she should have broken it off herself, but that she
was drifting in a state of inertia.
8. She has money, friends, and will find work. Above all, she feels that she belongs in England.
9. They have a sense of being tiny, almost insignificant. Although they do not wish to seek for larger or
greater truths, some shadow of this possibility falls on them.
10. The missionary’s casual remark allows her to see that her own life is at a turning point. She has turned to
the East and now she is returning to the West.
Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Questions and Answers 50
Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How do Aziz and Mr. Das feel about each other during their outwardly friendly conversation?
2. Why does Aziz resolve to leave British India and to go live in a Hindu state?
3. What is the “naughty rumor” Mohammed Latif is spreading?
4. Does Hamidullah insist that his wife keep purdah, or is it her choice?
5. What is Fielding’s reaction when Aziz tells him about the rumor that Mohammed Latif is spreading?
6. Why does Aziz claim to have remembered a previous dinner engagement with Mr. Das?
7. According to Fielding, why is it difficult for Indians to write poetry?
8. Why is Aziz, who is not a mercenary man, haunted by the thought of the 20,000 rupees he did not claim
from Miss Quested?
9. What is Aziz’s most extreme fantasy about Fielding and Miss Quested, the one he comes to accept as fact?
10. Why does Fielding feel a sense of disloyalty while he is appreciating the beauty of Venice?
1. Aziz wishes that Hindus did not remind him of cow-dung, while Mr. Das thinks to himself that some
Muslims are very violent.
2. He wants to escape from British India and believes once outside it, he will be able to write poetry again.
3. Mohammed Latif claims to have heard that Fielding is having an affair with Miss Quested.
4. Although the Muslim women claimed that they would give up purdah during Aziz’s trial, the Begum
Hamidullah invents excuses for not seeing Fielding. Hamidullah believes that Indian women actually make
their own decisions.
5. Fielding says it is unimportant and begins to explain why it is not true.
6. Aziz has been deeply insulted by Fielding’s calling him a “little rotter.” He invents another engagement to
avoid having to dine with Fielding.
7. Fielding tells Aziz that Indians cannot go on repeating the tired clichés of traditional poetry, and, since
India is not unified under one government, truly patriotic or nationalistic poetry is impossible.
8. Aziz cannot forget the money because he feels that he was tricked about it.
9. Aziz convinces himself that Fielding talked him out of claiming a large compensation so that he could
marry Miss Quested for her money. Aziz believes that they have gotten married.
Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Questions and Answers 51
10. Fielding has been in India for some time, and feels that he is criticizing his home by praising the beauty of
Part III, Chapter XXXIIIQuestions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How much time has passed since Fielding left India?
2. What is Professor Godbole’s title in Mau?
3. What is the expression on the faces of the worshippers when they see the image of Shri Krishna?
4. Why are Godbole’s musicians unperturbed by the Europeanized band?
5. Does Professor Godbole make an effort to remember Mrs. Moore for a particular reason?
6. Who is the ruler of the State of Mau? What is his role in the festival?
7. According to legend, at what time was Shri Krishna born?
8. Who are the two physicians who take care of the Rajah?
9. What games are played after the Rajah has been carried away?
10. What are Professor Godbole’s thoughts after the festival?
1. Two years.
2. He is the minister of education.
3. Their faces wear a beautiful and radiant expression, an impersonal beauty that makes them all resemble
each other.
4. They are in a state beyond competition.
5. No. She simply floats into his head, along with other memories.
6. The Hindu Rajah. He must say, “I name this child Shri Krishna,” and put it into the cradle.
7. Krishna was born at midnight.
8. A Hindu physician and Dr. Aziz.
9. Children are carried around and treated like gods. Later, a large jar is hung and hit with sticks until it breaks
and rains a sort of rice pudding over the children.
10. He realizes that he has seen Mrs. Moore and the wasp, and around her clinging forms of trouble. In
placing himself in the position of God and including her in love, he has done all that he could do.
Part III, Chapter XXXIIIQuestions and Answers 52
Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Is Aziz tolerated in this Hindu state? What is the most important distinction there?
2. Why doesn’t Aziz know that Fielding has married Mrs. Moore’s daughter?
3. How has Aziz’s life changed since he left Chandrapore?
4. Who is Colonel Maggs? Why is he unable to influence the Rajah against Aziz?
5. Why does Aziz tear up Fielding’s note?
6. Why is the news of the Rajah’s death concealed?
7. Who is and who is not stung inside the Shrine of the Head?
8. What conditions at the Guest House cause Fielding to complain?
9. What reveals Aziz’s mistake about Fielding’s marriage?
10. What is Aziz’s reaction?
1. Aziz is tolerated in this Hindu state, where the greatest division is between Brahmin and non-Brahmin, the
highest caste Hindus and the lower castes.
2. When the letter arrived in Chandrapore, Aziz read only the first lines, then tossed it to Mahmoud Ali to
answer. Aziz tore up all of Fielding’s other letters.
3. Aziz now lives with a woman and has his children with him. He runs the small hospital himself, instead of
working under an Anglo-Indian.
4. Colonel Maggs is the political agent. It seems that the British Viceroy has changed policy and the Hindu
rulers are aware that the political agent no longer has much power over them.
5. Aziz assumes that Miss Quested is the woman Fielding married; he wants nothing to do with the couple.
6. The news of the Rajah’s death is concealed so that the festival can proceed joyfully.
7. Fielding’s brother-in-law is stung; Aziz’s son Ahmed, who entered earlier, was not stung.
8. There are no eggs and the mosquito nets are torn. They want to go out in a boat, but cannot find the oars.
9. Aziz addresses Fielding’s brother-in-law as “Mr. Quested.”
10. Filled with shame and rage, he turns pale.
Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Questions and Answers 53
Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why doesn’t the usual dramatic performance depicting the life of Krishna take place?
2. Why is it difficult for Aziz to understand the atmosphere that surrounds the festival?
3. Why does Aziz intend to bring the ointment back with him after treating Ralph? Why does he change his
4. What is the Sweeper’s band? What is its function in the festival?
5. Who are the letters from and what do they say?
6. Why is Aziz rough with Ralph at first? When and why does his attitude change?
7. Why is Aziz puzzled by his gratitude toward Mrs. Moore?
8. What is the place that Ralph directs Aziz toward in the boat?
9. What are the “syllables of salvation” Aziz hears when the chant changes?
10. What upsets the two boats?
1. It is traditionally performed in front of the Rajah, who is dead.
2. As a Muslim, Aziz does not participate. He is also aware of the suspicion and selfishness that characterize
Mau for most of the year, and does not understand how these could have been suspended.
3. Aziz changes his mind when he begins to see Ralph as Mrs. Moore’s son. He wants to give him a present
in acknowledgment, and the ointment is the only one available.
4. The Sweepers are Untouchables, the lowest caste in India. This is a moment reserved for the despised and
rejected. All other music is silenced; it is their tune alone that will bring the god out of his house.
5. The letters are from Heaslop and Miss Quested. Heaslop’s indicates that he wants to make up a quarrel
with Fielding. Miss Quested’s shows concern for Ralph Moore and a sense of a debt that she owes to India.
6. Aziz is still angry and ashamed. He perceives Ralph as weak, and this increases his cruelty. Then the
chanting reaches his ears. The mood changes, and Ralph’s perceptiveness reminds Aziz of Mrs. Moore.
7. Aziz knows that Mrs. Moore did not actually do anything tangible for him.
8. He directs him toward an effigy of the Rajah’s dead father.
9. For Aziz, the syllables of salvation are “Esmiss Esmoor,” the chant that preceded Miss Quested’s
recantation at the trial.
10. The two boats capsize when Stella moves back and forth between Fielding and Aziz.
Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Questions and Answers 54
Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why do Fielding and the others have to leave Mau so soon?
2. Why hasn’t Professor Godbole shown Fielding around the high school?
3. In what sense has Fielding’s visit been a failure? In what sense has it been a success?
4. What does Aziz say in his letter to Miss Quested?
5. Why does Fielding want Aziz to talk to Stella or to Ralph?
6. What question does Fielding ask himself when he reflects on the events surrounding the trial?
7. Why does Fielding persist in questioning Aziz about the Krishna festival?
8. What is Aziz’s visionary experience?
9. During their playful quarrel, Fielding makes fun of Aziz. What does he choose to ridicule about Aziz?
10. What is Fielding’s position now on British rule in India? What is Aziz’s position?
1. The State is officially in mourning, now that the Rajah’s death has been announced.
2. The school has been converted into a granary, and Godbole is embarrassed to admit it.
3. In terms of his official mission, the visit is a failure because he has not been able to inspect the school. In
personal terms, it is a success because of the resumption of a friendship with Aziz.
4. Aziz tells her that thanks to her, he is able to live happily in Mau with his children instead of in jail.
5. Fielding knows that Ralph and Stella have a mystical sense that he lacks. Identifying Aziz as a mystical
Indian, he feels Aziz may be able to understand it and explain it to him.
6. He asks himself whether he would have the courage to defy the Anglo-Indians again, since he now feels
that he is one of them.
7. Fielding believes that if he can understand the Krishna festival, he will have some clue to Stella and
Ralph’s attitude toward Hindu spirituality.
8. Aziz suddenly sees butterflies everywhere; he then hears in his mind a poem about Mecca and about the
thornbushes that await pilgrims who have not seen God the Friend before they die.
9. Fielding criticizes Aziz for going back to charms instead of Western medicine, saying that this is an
example of how India goes to seed without British supervision.
10. Fielding now believes that British rule is necessary for India. Aziz is determined that either his own or his
children’s generation will expel the British.
Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Questions and Answers 55
A Passage to India: Themes
Culture Clash
At the heart of A Passage to India —and in the background—is a clash between two fundamentally different
cultures, those of East and West. The British poet Rudyard Kipling, who was born in India and lived there for
several years as an adult, wrote: "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." Without
quoting or acknowledging Kipling, Forster adopts this premise as a central theme of A Passage to India.
The West is represented by the Anglo-Indians (the British administrators and their families in India) in
Chandrapore. They form a relatively small but close-knit community. They live at the civil station, apart from
the Indians. Their social life centers around the Chandrapore Club, where they attempt to recreate the
entertainments that would be found in England. Although these Westerners wish to maintain good relations
with the Easterners whom they govern, they have no desire to "understand" India or the Indians. Early in the
book Ronny Heaslop remarks that "No one can even begin to think of knowing this country until he has been
in it twenty years." When Adela Quested rebukes him for his attitudes, he replies that "India isn't home"—that
is, it is not England.
Mrs. Moore, Adela, and Mr. Fielding are three English characters who challenge this received wisdom.
Significantly, Mrs. Moore and Adela are newcomers who have no experience of India and thus are not fully
aware of the gulf that separates the two cultures: "They had no race-consciousness— Mrs. Moore was too old,
Miss Quested too new— and they behaved to Aziz as to any young man who had been kind to them in the
country." However, Adela shows her ignorance of Indian customs when she asks Dr. Aziz how many wives
he has. The Turtons throw a "Bridge Party" to "bridge the gulf between East and West," but this event only
emphasizes the awkwardness that exists between the two cultures. Mrs. Moore senses that India is full of
"mystery and muddle" that Westerners cannot comprehend. Following Aziz's arrest, Turton tells Fielding that
in his twenty-five years in India "I have never known anything but disaster result when English people and
Indians attempt to be intimate socially."
The culture clash, however, is not only between Indians and Anglo-Indians, but also between two distinct
groups of Indians—Moslems and Hindus. The narrative makes it clear that these two groups have very
different traditions. Dr. Aziz is proud of his Moslem heritage and considers the Hindus to be almost alien.
Hindus "have no idea of society," he tells Mrs. Moore, Adela, and Fielding. At the same time, although he is
quite conscious of being an Indian, Aziz has a sentimental affection for Persia, the land from which Moslem
culture originally spread to India. The Moslem-Hindu divide closes somewhat when a Hindu attorney, Mr.
Amritrao, is called in to defend Aziz. After the trial, Hindus and Moslems alike celebrate Aziz's acquittal. In
the book's final section, Aziz is living in a Hindu state, where he regards himself as an outsider.
E.M. Forster considered friendship to be one of the most important things in life. He once remarked,
controversially, that if he were faced with the choice of betraying his country or betraying his friends, he
would betray his country. A Passage to India explores the nature of friendship in its various forms, and the
word "friend" occurs frequently throughout the book. When we first meet Dr. Aziz and his friends Hamidullah
and Mahmoud Ali, they are discussing whether it is possible for Indians to be friends with the British.
Hamidullah, who is pleasant and easy-going, fondly recalls his friendship with a British family long ago.
When Dr. Aziz meets Mrs. Moore at the mosque, he feels she is someone with whom he can develop a
friendship. He also wants to make friends with Cyril Fielding, whom he regards as a sympathetic and
enlightened Englishman. However, despite his general impulsiveness, Aziz realizes that "a single meeting is
too short to make a friend."
A Passage to India: Themes 56
Aziz has a curious friendship with Professor Godbole. He likes Godbole but is unable to understand him.
Godbole himself has a friendly attitude, but he is vague and distracted. When Fielding tells him that Aziz has
been arrested, Godbole seems unconcerned. Instead, he asks Fielding for advice about what name to give to a
school that he is thinking of starting. Still, Fielding acknowledges that "all [Godbole's] friends trusted him,
without knowing why."
Of all the British characters in the book, Fielding has the greatest gift for friendship. Mrs. Moore feels
friendliness for Aziz when she first meets him, but she loses interest in friendship—and in life itself—when she
loses her faith at the Marabar Caves. Among the other British characters, a sense of duty generally takes
precedence over friendship. Although he had known her in England, Ronny is unable to sustain a relationship
with Adela in India. In their words and actions, Anglo-Indian officials such as Ronny, Mr. Turton, and Mr.
McBryde demonstrate that while they may get along with Indians on one level, it is impossible and indeed
undesirable to be friends with them.
The book concludes with a conversation between Aziz and Fielding about the possibility of friendship—the
theme that had been the subject of the first conversation. Aziz tells Fielding that they cannot be friends until
the English have been driven out of India. Fielding replies that he wants to be friends, and that it is also what
Aziz wants. The last paragraph, however, suggests that the impersonal forces at work in India will not yet
allow such a friendship.
Public vs. Private Life
The various attempts at friendship throughout A Passage to India are frustrated not only by cultural
differences but also by the demands of public life, or duty. These demands are strongest among the
Anglo-Indian officials of Chandrapore. In general, characters such as Turton, Callendar, McBryde, and Ronny
put their jobs above whatever personal desires they may have. The Turtons' "Bridge Party" is more a
diplomatic exercise than a truly personal gesture. McBryde, the superintendent of police, prosecutes Aziz
because it is his duty to do so; personal feelings do not enter into his decision. Ronny breaks off his
engagement with Adela partly because her actions in the court are seen by the Anglo-Indians as a public
disgrace. His marriage to her would offend the members of his community, who disapprove of Adela because
of her behavior at the trial.
Cyril Fielding, the principal of the government college, seems to be the only British character willing to act
out of personal conviction rather than public duty. The Anglo-Indian authorities believe it is important to keep
up a public image of unity on the question of Aziz's guilt. In speaking up for Aziz, Fielding goes against the
public behavior that is expected of him and is seen as "letting down the side." Because of this transgression,
he is expelled from the English club at Chandrapore.
McBryde's affair with Miss Derek, revealed later in the book, is perhaps a minor instance in which another
British official chooses to fulfill a personal desire at the risk of his public image. However, we do not see the
consequences of this choice.
Dr. Aziz himself is torn between his public life as a doctor at a government hospital and his private dreams.
When he attempts to transcend the distinction between private wishes and the public constraints, "Trouble
after trouble encountered him, because he had challenged the spirit of the Indian earth, which tries to keep
men in compartments." Only in Professor Godbole does the division between public and private life seem to
disappear. For Godbole, the two are simply different forms of one existence. Godbole's prayers, for example,
have both a private and public function, and it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.
A Passage to India is full of ambiguity, and its most important characters—Dr. Aziz, Mrs. Moore, Cyril
Fielding, Adela Quested—are beset by doubt at key points in the narrative. The terms "mystery" and "muddle"
A Passage to India: Themes 57
are introduced during Fielding's tea party and are repeated several times throughout the book. When Adela
remarks that she "hates mysteries," Mrs. Moore replies that "I like mysteries but I rather dislike muddles." Mr.
Fielding then observes that "a mystery is a muddle."
Doubt and ambiguity surround two key incidents in the book that occur at the Marabar Caves. On a literal
level, Adela does not know if she has really been attacked in the cave or if she has only imagined this
incident. If she has been attacked, was Dr. Aziz the attacker? While the reader might not doubt Aziz's
innocence, there is a larger ambiguity about what really did take place. For Anglo-Indian authority figures
such as Ronny Heaslop, Major Callendar, and Mr. McBryde, there is no doubt whatever; it is only characters
such as Cyril Fielding who are capable of entertaining doubt and, thus, of thinking critically about events.
An even larger, more metaphorical ambiguity surrounds Mrs. Moore's experience at the caves. While she is
inside one of the caves, she hears an echo and suddenly feels that everything—including her religious faith—is
meaningless. So powerful is the doubt that fills Mrs. Moore, that she loses her grip on life.
God and Religion
E.M. Forster was not a religious man nor a religious writer. However, religion is a major preoccupation in the
book. India is seen as a meeting point of three of the world's historic religions—Islam, Christianity, and
Hinduism. Indeed, the three parts of the book—"Mosque," "Cave," and "Temple"—generally correspond to
these religions. Aziz loves the cultural and social aspects of his Moslem (Islamic) heritage, but he seems less
concerned with its theology and religious practice. He is aware that Moslems are in the minority in India, and
he thus feels a special kinship with other Moslems such as Hamidullah. The Anglo-Indians are nominal
representatives of Christianity, although there is little overt sign of such Christian virtues as charity, love, and
forgiveness. Ronny Heaslop admits that for him Christianity is fine in its place, but he does not let it interfere
with his civil duty. Mrs. Moore is basically Christian in her outlook. However, she experiences a crisis of faith
during her visit to the Marabar Caves, and her belief in God or in any meaning to life is destroyed. Hinduism
is the main religion of India, and Professor Godbole is the central Hindu figure in the book. He is also, by far,
the most religious character. For Godbole, Hinduism is "completeness, not reconstruction." The central
principle of this religion is the total acceptance of things as they are. Forster suggests that this is the most
positive spiritual approach to life. It is also most representative of the true spirit of India.
A Passage to India: Style
Point of View
A Passage to India is written in the third person, with an impersonal narrative voice. This technique makes the
narrative seem traditional and straightforward, especially when compared to the more obviously experimental
narrative techniques that were being used at the time by such novelists as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.
The narrator here is apparently omniscient, telling the reader much about India at the same time as describing
the situations in which the various characters find themselves. At the same time, however, the narrative
withholds a full explanation of certain events, most notably the misadventures that befall Mrs. Moore and
Adela Quested at the Marabar Caves. Indeed, in recounting these details, the narrator is ambiguous rather than
omniscient. A degree of ambiguity also surrounds the depiction of certain characters. Often, relatively minor
characters (such as Mr. Turton, Mrs. Callendar, Mahmoud Ali, and the Nawab Bahadur) will appear in a scene
without much introduction Forster seems to take their presence for granted. This technique mimics the way
that people might come and go in real life. Forster also assumes that the reader will have some knowledge of
the social nuances of British India.
At times, the narrative focus shifts from a depiction of external events and enters the consciousness of one
character or another, almost without the reader noticing that such a shift has occurred. This
stream-of-consciousness effect is evident when Forster writes about Mrs. Moore's experiences at the caves
A Passage to India: Style 58
and when he reports Adela's perceptions during the trial. It is also used several times when the narrative
records Aziz's thoughts about his Islamic heritage and about his place in India.
The action of the first two sections of the book takes place in the town of Chandrapore and at the Marabar
Caves, located outside the town. Within the town itself, which is fairly nondescript, Forster identifies several
localized settings. When we see the Anglo-Indian officials such as Major Callendar and Mr. Turton and their
wives, it is almost invariably at the Civil Station, the area where the Anglo-Indians live and work. Often they
are at the Chandrapore Club, which is exclusively for the Anglo-Indians and their British guests such as Mrs.
Moore, and which Indians cannot enter. Although this setting emphasizes the Anglo-Indian's superior social
status, it also shows their isolation from the mass of Indians who live around them. By contrast, the Indians
are often shown at their own homes or in public places. The third section is set in Mau, a Hindu state several
hundred miles from Chandrapore. (The book's three section headings—"Mosque," "Caves," and
"Temple"—indicate the symbolic settings; see "Structure" and "Symbolism," below.)
Apart from these specific settings, India itself is the larger setting of the book. Indeed, some critics have
remarked that India is not only the setting: it is also the subject and might even be considered a "character."
Critics have argued about the extent to which A Passage to India reflects actual historical and political
conditions of the time in which it is set. Indeed, there is some critical dispute over exactly when the novel
takes place; Forster gives no dates in the narrative. One Indian who admired the book believed that it was
more representative of India at the time of Forster's first visit, 1912. Several Western critics have agreed with
this analysis, and one has claimed that the action of the novel occurs "out of time." It may be safe to assume
that the time setting is an amalgamation of the early 1910s and the early 1920s.
A Passage to India is divided into three parts or sections. Each part has its own particular symbols,
correspondences, and associations. Each is set in a different season and opens with a chapter that describes a
particular aspect of India. Part I, titled "Mosque," takes place during the cool, dry season. The Mosque where
Dr. Aziz meets Mrs Moore corresponds to Islam and the Islamic or Moslem aspect of India, as represented by
Dr. Aziz and his family and friends. Despite some hints of possible trouble, the prevailing mood is one of
harmony. The main events of this part of the book are Aziz's meeting with Mrs. Moore and Mr. Fielding's tea
Part II, "Caves," takes place during the hot season. The focus shifts to the British domination of India and to a
contemporary British Christian perspective. Adela Quested becomes the center of attention. This part of the
novel is marked by misunderstanding and conflict (or mystery and muddle, to use Mrs Moore's earlier terms).
Mrs. Moore gives in to despair after she hears the echo while she is in the cave, and Adela becomes
completely confused. The incident at the Marabar Caves and the trial of Dr. Aziz make up the main dramatic
Part III, "Temple," takes place during the rainy season several years after the action of Parts I and II Dr. Aziz
has settled in a Hindu state, Mau. Professor Godbole becomes a more prominent character. This part of the
novel concentrates on the themes of rebirth and reconciliation. The primary events are the Hindu festival
celebrating the rebirth of Krishna and Fielding's return to India. Part III is the shortest of the three sections of
the novel and might be considered as an epilogue.
Just as the three-part structure gives the novel dramatic shape, the use of certain motifs helps to give the book
dramatic unity. A motif is a recurring image or incident that has a suggestive and even a symbolic quality.
One prominent motif in A Passage to India is the interrupted or delayed journey. This first occurs in chapter
A Passage to India: Style 59
two, when Dr. Aziz is riding his bicycle to Major Callendar's bungalow at the English civil station and gets a
flat tire. He has to find a tonga, or carriage, to take him the rest of the way. By the time he finally arrives, the
major has left. Aziz's failure to arrive on time suggests the wide gulf that separates the Indians and the British.
(To make matters worse, two English ladies appear and take Aziz's carriage, leaving him without
Another interrupted journey is the ride that Adela and Ronny take in the Nawab Bahadur's car. There is a
minor accident—in the darkness the car runs off the road, stranding the passengers until Miss Derek comes
along and offers to take them back to Chandrapore in her car. (But she leaves the Nawab's chauffeur behind)
During this episode, Adela and Ronny decide that they will marry after all; but their engagement will prove to
be temporary. This interrupted journey suggests their failure to marry.
In Part II of the novel, Cyril Fielding and Professor Godbole miss the train that they are intending to take on
the trip to the Marabar Caves. This failure separates them from Aziz, Mrs. Moore, and Adela, who go on
without them. The reader is left to imagine that if Fielding and Godbole had been able to accompany Aziz and
the women as they had planned, the terrible and confusing incidents that befall the members of the party at the
Marabar Caves might never have occurred. Later, Mrs. Moore dies on her voyage back to England.
In the final section, as they travel to the native state of Mau where Aziz and Godbole are living, Fielding,
Stella, and Ralph are delayed by floods caused by the monsoons. Just before the end of the book, Aziz takes
Ralph out on the river in a boat ("a rudderless dingy"); the oars had been "hidden to deter the visitors from
going out." Fielding and his wife have already gone out in another boat, using long poles to push themselves.
Aziz fears that the couple "might get into difficulties, for the wind was rising." The two boats collide and the
passengers spill into the river. Despite the accident, this time the journey ends safely. The four characters have
witnessed the Hindu celebrations, and their immersion in the water suggests not drowning but rebirth and
E.M. Forster has been called an ironic writer, and A Passage to India is perhaps the most ironic of all his
works. Several layers of irony are evident. For example, it is ironic that Aziz has organized the trip to the
Marabar Caves in order to entertain his English guests. Rather than being the pleasant outing that Aziz
intended, the excursion ends in disaster for everyone concerned. Something happens to Adela while she is in
one of the caves: she believes that she has been attacked by Aziz. Aziz, who had prided himself on his
hospitality, instead finds himself punished for a crime he did not commit. (There is also a minor irony in that
Aziz finds Adela physically unattractive and is offended that anyone could think that he would want to rape
her.) Mrs. Moore too suffers a fate more terrible than Adela's. While she is in the cave she hears an echo that
is simply a meaningless noise—"ou-boum." She takes this to mean that everything is meaningless, and thus she
loses her faith. It is also ironic that, although the caves are reputed to be famous, there is really nothing
remarkable about them except their effect on the visitors.
A further irony occurs later in the book when Dr. Aziz assumes that his friend Cyril Fielding has married
Adela Quested. In fact, Fielding has married Stella Moore, the daughter of the late Mrs. Moore, whom Aziz
greatly liked and admired. Also ironic is the suggestion that Stella, who has just arrived from England, may
have a greater understanding of the mystery of India than does Aziz himself.
Although A Passage to India is a realistic novel, it also contains many symbolic elements. The most obvious
symbols are those that give the titles of the book's three sections—mosque, cave, and temple. Both for Aziz
and Mrs. Moore, the mosque is a symbol of refuge and peace, a place of sanctuary. The first meeting of Aziz
and Mrs. Moore takes place in the mosque at night, under the moonlight. Mrs. Moore has gone to the mosque
because she is bored with the play she has been attending at the Chandrapore club. The English play, Cousin
A Passage to India: Style 60
Kate, seems artificial and out of place in India. The mosque, by contrast, is one symbol of the "real" India.
The cave bears some resemblance to the mosque, in that both are enclosed spaces. Here, however, the
resemblance ends. The cave is dark, featureless, and menacing. Although there are many caves at Marabar, it
is impossible to tell one from another; they are all alike. Critics have argued about the symbolic meaning of
the cave. It is at least certain that whatever else they might suggest, they stand for misunderstanding and
meaninglessness, or what Mrs. Moore calls "muddle."
Prominent among other symbols is the wasp. When Mrs. Moore goes to hang up her cloak at the end of
chapter three, she sees a wasp. The symbolic significance of the wasp is not spelled out. However, it suggests
the natural life of India, and also carries a hint of uncertainty. Much later, in Part II, Professor Godbole recalls
"an old woman he had met in Chandrapore days." He then remembers "a wasp seen he forgot where... He
loved the wasp equally..."
A Passage to India: Historical Context
Forster's England
Although the action of A Passage to India takes place entirely in India, it should be remembered that Forster
was a British writer, and that most of his readers were British. Thus, the work reflects not only the
contemporary India, which is its overt subject, but also England and the milieu in which Forster lived and
wrote. Moreover, although Forster published the book in 1924 during the reign of King George V (r.
1910-36), he is commonly regarded as an Edwardian novelist. Forster's first four novels were written in the
first decade of the twentieth century, during the reign of King Edward VII (r. 1901-10), and his values and
outlook were developed during this period, before World War I. Thus, like Forster's earlier books, A Passage
to India is commonly regarded as an Edwardian book (an Edwardian novel of manners, at that), even though it
was not written during the Edwardian period.
Between the time Forster first visited India and began writing this novel (1912-13) and the time he finished it
(1924). Britain had undergone the traumatic experience of World War I. Britain and her allies won the war,
but more than 750,000 British soldiers were killed, along with another quarter of a million soldiers from other
parts of the British Empire; another two million British and Empire soldiers were wounded, many of them
severely. These losses affected people's attitudes toward tradition and authority. The self-confidence that
earlier had marked Britain's attitude about its empire and its place in the world was replaced with doubt and
uncertainty. Nonetheless, although there was some sympathy for the Indian cause, most British people at the
time would have supported the British presence in India.
Between 1912 and 1924, the British political landscape had also changed. At the beginning of this period, the
Liberal Party had been one of the two major parties in Britain. (The other major party was, and remains, the
Conservative Party.) The Liberals had won the majority of votes in the election of 1908, and were in power
from that time until 1915. However, during this decade the Liberals lost much of their support to the newer
and more radical Labour Party, which favored a socialist program. The Labour Party had its first election
victory in 1924: by this time, the Liberal Party had dwindled to a third-party status, and it never won another
general election. (Forster and most of his circle, including the members of the Bloomsbury Group, were
Labour supporters.) Although Labour remained in power for only ten months in 1924, the party had become
the main alternative to the Conservatives.
During this period the British Empire was beginning to change. This change was most evident in Ireland, the
only region of the British Empire that was right on Britain's doorstep. On Easter Sunday, 1916, a group of
Irish rebels declared Irish independence from Britain and attempted to seize control of Dublin. Although the
British army quickly crushed the rebellion, a more widespread Irish independence movement soon arose, and
A Passage to India: Historical Context 61
in 1921 the British government signed a treaty recognizing self-rule for the twenty-six southern counties of
The Indian Context
Although the Irish rebellion had no direct effect on British rule of India, the fact that Ireland had gained
limited independence helped to strengthen the idea of possible Indian independence in the minds of many
Indians. Forster's novel is set during a time of increased tension between the British and their Indian subjects.
The British presence in India had begun in the 1600s, when a British trading company, the East India
Company, gained a strong foothold in Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta. At this time, much of India was
nominally governed by a royal Moslem dynasty, the Moguls. (It was the Mogul emperors and their court that
Dr. Aziz in the novel idealized.) However, the Mogul government was weakened by fighting and was unable
to control all of India. The Indian population consisted of a number of different ethnic and religious groups,
with little sense of an overall Indian identity. The British were thus able to increase their power in India.
In 1773, the English Parliament created the post of Governor General for India. Under Governor-General
Cornwallis (1786-93), the British established a sophisticated colonial administration in India. (Cornwallis was
also the British general who had surrendered to George Washington at the end of the American Revolutionary
War.) Cornwallis instituted a system of British rule that was still mostly intact at the time of A Passage to
India. Indians were forbidden to hold high government office and were subject to other laws that kept them in
a subservient position, both legally and economically. A number of areas of the country— known as Native
States or Independent States— were not under direct British rule, but were governed by local Indian princes or
maharajahs. However, the British authorities kept close watch on these states, which had friendly policies
toward the British.
The British suppressed an Indian rebellion (known as the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Rebellion) in 1857. By the
time of A Passage to India, there was a significant organized movement for Indian equality and eventual
independence, in the form of the Indian National Congress. In 1919, nearly 400 Indians were shot to death and
another 1,200 wounded when soldiers under British command opened fire on a crowd that had gathered
illegally in the northeast Indian town of Amritsar. The Amritsar Massacre, as it became known, caused a
public outcry both in India and Britain. India stood poised on the edge of widespread violence. In this tense
atmosphere, a British-educated Indian lawyer named Mohandas K. Gandhi began a long nonviolent campaign
of civil disobedience against British rule. Gandhi advocated Indian equality as well as peaceful cooperation
between the country's Hindu and Moslem populations. Forster does not mention Gandhi or the Amritsar
Massacre, but the division between India's Hindus and Moslems is a major concern in the novel.
There is some critical dispute over the time period during which Forster's novel is set. One Indian who
admired the book believed that it was representative of India at the time of Forster's first visit, 1912. One
American critic has claimed that the action occurs "out of time." Most cntics and readers feel that the action
takes place in the early 1920s, contemporary with the time that the book was finished and published.
In any case, Forster's novel is not only concerned with its own time but also looks forward to the future. The
novel hints that the two groups may be able to put aside their traditional differences and live in harmony as
Indians. However, this did not turn out to be the case. As independence grew nearer, Moslems demanded the
creation of a separate Moslem nation. Pakistan Indian independence in 1947 was accompanied by violent
clashes between Hindus and Moslems, with tens of thousands of deaths on both sides. The next year, Gandhi
was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic who believed that Gandhi was making too many compromises with the
Moslems. Ironically, today both India and Pakistan have relatively good relations with Britain and the British.
So it is likely that Dr. Aziz and Mr. Fielding would today be able to have the sort of uninhibited friendship
that is mentioned at the end of the book.
A Passage to India: Historical Context 62
A Passage to India: Critical Overview
When A Passage to India was published in 1924, E.M. Forster was already a well-known and highly respected
novelist. However, he had not published a novel for fourteen years (Howards End, 1910, was his previous
book). Upon its publication, A Passage to India was reviewed widely in British newspapers and literary
journals, as well as in American magazines. Most of these early reviews were very favorable and helped to
ensure the book's success.
Among the first reviewers of A Passage to India in Britain and America were the English novelists Rose
Macaulay (Daily News, June 4, 1924) and L.P. Hartley (The Spectator, June 28, 1924); the British writer and
publisher Leonard Woolf (The Nation and Atheneum, June 14, 1924); and the Scottish poet Edwin Muir (The
Nation, October 8, 1924). All of these reviews were positive; in fact, these writers believed that A Passage to
India was the best novel that Forster had written. A review in the London Times Literary Supplement
concluded that Forster "portrays the super-sensitiveness, the impulsiveness, the charm and the weakness, of
Mohammedan and Hindu India, in order to emphasize the honesty, the arrogance...and the moral tremors of
the governing caste." In the United States, Robert Morss Lovett wrote a favorable review in The New Republic
(August 16, 1924). However, E.A. Home in The New Statesman in London criticized Forster for his
unsympathetic portrayal of the book's Anglo-Indian (British) characters and pointed out some inaccuracies in
Forster's depiction of India.
Two of Forster's distinguished contemporaries expressed differing views of A Passage to India in personal
remarks. The celebrated military hero T.E. Lawrence—Lawrence of Arabia—told Forster that A Passage to
India was "universal- the bitter hopeless picture a cloud might have painted, of man in India." However, the
novelist D.H. Lawrence (no relation to T.E. Lawrence) commented that the book was filled with "people,
people, and nothing but people."
In the decades since its publication, A Passage to India has continued to receive close and respectful attention
from many distinguished scholars and critics, often as part of a consideration of Forster's writing in general.
With her husband Leonard, Virginia Woolf was an early—though not entirely uncritical—supporter of Forster's
work. She discussed the book in a 1927 essay, "The Novels of E.M. Forster," in the Atlantic Monthly. Rose
Macaulay, who like Forster was a graduate of Cambridge University, wrote one of the first full-length books
about Forster, The Writings of E.M. Forster, published in 1938. That same year the influential English critic
F.R. Leavis wrote about Forster in his Cambridge journal, Scrutiny. The famous American critic Lionel
Trilling discussed A Passage to India in 1943 in E.M. Forster: A Study, thereby helping to revive American
interest in the work nearly twenty years after its publication.
More recent academic studies in both Britain and America have focused attention on particular aspects of
Forster's book, such as its narrative technique, symbolism, and politics. Malcolm Bradbury and Jeffrey
Meyers are among those who have made important contributions to scholarship on A Passage to India.
A Passage to India: Character Analysis
Dr. Aziz
A young doctor who is the central Indian character in the novel, Dr. Aziz is a Moslem and a widower. His
three children live with his wife's mother. He is described as "an athletic little man, daintily put together but
really very strong." He works at the government hospital in Chandrapore, under the supervision of Major
Callendar. In addition to his practical skill as a doctor, he also has a romantic side and writes poetry. His
favorite poetic themes are "the decay of Islam and the brevity of Love." Although he is thoroughly Indian, he
A Passage to India: Critical Overview 63
idealizes the cultures of Persia and Arabia, where the Islamic faith originated. He regards the historical Mogul
emperors of India as his models. In the early part of the novel he is disdainful of Hindus; although they are
Indians, he considers them foreign. Because of his good education and respected professional situation, Aziz
believes that he can be accepted by the British as almost their equal. Despite a melancholy streak, Aziz
possesses a sense of humor, and hospitality is important to him. He is eager to please and impress people
whom he considers kind and thoughtful, and early in the novel he especially wants to make friends with Mrs.
Moore and Mr. Fielding. However, his very goodwill and his somewhat impulsive nature get him into
situations that cause him trouble. ("Aziz overrated hospitality, mistaking it for intimacy, and not seeing that it
is tainted with the sense of possession.") He at first wants to invite Mrs. Moore and Fielding to his house, but
then realizes that this is not a suitable place for entertaining Western guests. On the spur of the moment, he
asks Mrs Moore, Fielding, and Adela Quested to join him for a picnic at the Marabar Caves, a famous natural
landmark outside the town. The picnic results in disaster, however, when Adela believes that Aziz has
attacked her in one of the caves. He is brought to trial in Chandrapore. Although Adela drops the charges
during the trial and Aziz is freed, his reputation is ruined. He becomes completely disillusioned with his
position in life and develops a hatred of the British. In Part III of the novel, he has moved to the Hindu state of
Mau and given up his medical ambitions; instead, he is content to be a simple "medicine man" to the state's
ailing ruler. At the end of the book he is reconciled with his British friend Fielding but tells him that they can
only be true friends after the British have left India.
Mr. Cyril Fielding
The principal of the Government College (that is, a British-run school) in Chandrapore. Fielding develops a
close friendship with Dr. Aziz during the course of the novel and is the only Englishman to publicly express
his belief in Aziz's innocence. In contrast to such Anglo-Indian (British) career administrators as Mr. Turton
and Major Callendar, Fielding arrived in India relatively late in his life— after the age of forty. By the time he
arrives in India, he has already had a "varied career." He is described as "a hard-bitten, good-tempered,
intelligent fellow on the verge of middle age, with a belief in education." Because of his more easy-going and
broad-minded attitudes, he is regarded with some suspicion by his fellow expatriates, especially the women.
Indeed, he has no particular enthusiasm for the conventional social life of Chandrapore's Anglo-Indian
community, and thus "the gulf between himself and his countrymen...widened distressingly " Moreover, he
has "no racial feeling"—he regards Indians simply as people from another country, not as inferiors. He believes
that people from different parts of the world can understand one another "by the help of good will plus culture
and intelligence." He is "happiest in the give-and-take of private conversation." This emphasis on the
importance of friendship and the personal over the professional life makes Fielding a representative of
Forster's own views. In Chapter VII, Fielding gives a tea party attended by Aziz, Mrs Moore, Adela Quested,
and Professor Godbole (who teaches at the college). The party is a success, bringing together Christian,
Moslem, and Hindu as equals. However, the party sets in motion the disastrous events of the excursion to the
Marabar Caves. Fielding is supposed to travel to the caves with Aziz and the English women, but he misses
the train. When Adela returns to Chandrapore with Miss Derek and claims that Aziz has attempted to rape her,
Fielding goes to see Inspector McBryde. Fielding tells McBryde that there has been some misunderstanding
and that Aziz is innocent, but McBryde becomes angry at Fielding's interference. Because he supports Aziz
and insults Ronny Heaslop, Fielding is forced to resign from the English club in Chandrapore. Adela stays
with Fielding after the trial. Fielding has a long conversation with Aziz at the post-trial victory party at the
Nawab Bahadur's house, but their friendship cools. Fielding soon returns to England, and Aziz believes that
he has married Adela. The friendship is revived somewhat when Fielding eventually returns to India with his
new wife, Stella, the daughter of Mrs. Moore. However, Aziz tells Fielding that they cannot be true fnends
until the British have left India, and the novel concludes on this ambiguous note.
Dr. Aziz 64
Mrs. Moore
An Englishwoman who is a central figure in the book. She is the most sensitive and reflective of the English
characters. An elderly widow, she is the mother of Ronny Heaslop, the Chandrapore city magistrate, by her
first marriage. She also has another son, Ralph, and a daughter, Stella, by her second marriage. Mrs. Moore
has recently arrived in India with Adela Quested, who is expected to marry Ronny. Mrs. Moore is introduced
in Chapter II when she encounters Dr. Aziz in the mosque in Chandrapore. Dr. Aziz has gone into the mosque
after his unsuccessful attempt to find Major Callendar and is startled when he discovers that a stranger—an
Englishwoman—is also there. The two talk, and a friendship develops: Aziz is happy to have met an English
person who is sympathetic toward him and India, while Mrs. Moore finds Aziz charming, intelligent, and
interesting. (Adela Quested later tells Aziz that Mrs. Moore "learnt more about India m those few minutes'
talk with you than in the three weeks since we landed.") Uncomfortable in what she considers the superficial
company of the English expatriate community, Mrs. Moore decides that she wants to see "the real India." Her
plans to visit two Indian women are unsuccessful, but she enjoys Mr. Fielding's tea party. At the tea party,
Aziz invites Mrs. Moore, Adela, Fielding, and Professor Godbole to join him on an excursion to the Marabar
Caves. (At the tea party Mrs. Moore also discusses "mysteries and muddles"; these words take on a special
significance in the book.) In the meantime, Mrs. Moore quarrels with Ronny, who she finds has become
narrow-minded during his time in India. When it becomes clear that Ronny and Adela will not marry, Mrs.
Moore realizes that "My duties here are evidently finished. I don't want to see India now; now for my passage
back." By the time of their visit to the caves, Mrs. Moore has lost interest in the trip. Tired by the heat, she
finds the caves "a horrid, stuffy place," hits her head, and nearly faints. Moreover, she is alarmed by "a
terrifying echo." When she emerges from the cave "the echo began in some indescribable way to undermine
her hold on life." For her, the echo's message is "Everything exists, nothing has value." Shortly thereafter—just
before Aziz's trial—she leaves India; we later learn that she has died on the voyage back to England However,
her presence continues to be felt after her death. Although Dr. Aziz's career is ruined by Adela's false charge
of rape and he develops a hatred of the English, Aziz continues to think fondly of Mrs. Moore. Indeed, on his
acquittal, the Indian crowd acclaims her as "Esmiss Esmoor," transforming her into a Hindu goddess. (The
Indians apparently believe that she had somehow intervened to testify on Aziz's behalf, and regard her as a
deity of justice.) At the end of the novel, the spirit of Mrs. Moore returns to India symbolically in the form of
her daughter Stella, who has married Cyril Fielding.
Miss Adela Quested
A young Englishwoman who comes to India with Mrs. Moore. She is expected to marry Mrs. Moore's son
Ronny Heaslop, the Chandrapore city magistrate. Adela is a catalyst for the central dramatic events of the
novel, and her behavior in these events radically affects the lives of the characters around her. Her accusation
against Dr. Aziz, followed by her recantation during the trial, exposes the deep divisions between the British
and Indians. On a more symbolic level, Adela may also be seen to represent most people's inability to
communicate or to understand the deeper patterns and meaning of life.
Adela is described as "plain." (Because of her very plainness, Aziz is not at all attracted to her, and he is later
insulted by the idea that anyone could think he would have wanted to rape her.) Although initially she is
well-intentioned toward India, she does not possess Mrs. Moore's sensitivity and imagination. As a newcomer,
she is somewhat naive about the nature of relations between the Anglo-Indians (British) and the Indians.
Ronny expresses his disapproval of Adela's desire to see "the real India." While she is at Fielding's tea party,
she off-handedly remarks that she is not planning to stay long in India. Immediately she—and the
reader—realizes that unconsciously she has decided not to marry Ronny. However, she changes her mind
temporarily when she and Ronny are in a minor accident in the Nawab Bahadur's car.
Mrs. Moore 65
Adela accompanies Dr. Aziz and Mrs. Moore to the Marabar Caves. Here, while she is in one of the caves,
something unexplained happens and she hurriedly runs out of the caves Miss Derek, who happens along in her
car, drives Adela back to Chandrapore, where Adela tells the authorities that Dr. Aziz had attempted to rape
her. Ill and confused after her experience, Adela stays with the McBrydes before the trial. Although earlier
Adela had not endeared herself to the British officials and their wives, they rally around her and denounce
Aziz because she is "an English girl, fresh from England." However, when she withdraws her charge against
Aziz during the trial, she in effect renounces her own people. She breaks off her engagement with Ronny and
stays with Fielding for a while before leaving India and returning to England. She does not reappear after this.
However, in Part III, Dr. Aziz continues to harbor bad feelings toward her. He mistakenly believes that
Fielding, who has also gone back to England, has married her—a misunderstanding that is not cleared up until
just before the conclusion of the novel.
Other Characters
A close friend of Dr. Aziz. A Moslem and a lawyer, he is often in the company of Aziz and Hamidullah.
Mahmoud Ali declares that it is not possible for Indians to be friends with the English; Hamidullah argues that
such friendship is possible. Mahmoud Ali is generally cynical, and he often makes sharp comments about
other characters. He helps to defend Aziz at Aziz's trial.
Mr. Amritrao
A famous Hindu barrister (trial lawyer) from Calcutta who is hired to defend Dr. Aziz at his trial. Mr.
Amritrao, reputed to be one of the finest Indian lawyers m the country, has made his name as a radical who is
"notoriously anti-British." His hiring causes some controversy, and the move is regarded as a political
challenge to the British. During the trial, Amritrao objects to the fact that Adela's British supporters have been
allowed to sit on a platform at the front of the courtroom, and they are forced to move.
Nawab Bahadur
A distinguished Moslem who is a leading figure in the Indian community m the Chandrapore district
("Nawab" is an honorary title.) The Nawab Bahadur is an older man, "a big proprietor and a philanthropist, a
man of benevolence and decision." A supporter of British rule in India, he is also known for his hospitality
and loyalty to his friends. Ronny Heaslop and Adela Quested are riding in the Nawab's car when it runs off
the road. Following the incident at the Marabar Caves, the Nawab proclaims Dr. Aziz's innocence and attends
his trial. After the trial he renounces his title and is known simply by his original name, Mr. Zulfiqar. A
victory banquet is held at his mansion, where Aziz, Fielding, and Hamidullah lie on the roof and discuss the
trial and its consequences.
Major Callendar
The head of the government hospital in Chandrapore and a figure of some authority in the Anglo-Indian
(British) community. Major Callendar holds the post of civil surgeon and is Dr. Aziz's immediate superior at
the hospital. The most arrogant of the British officials in Chandrapore, he is "dour," gruff, and plain-spoken to
the point of offensiveness. In Chapter II he summons Dr. Aziz to his bungalow, interrupting Aziz's pleasant
evening with his friends. When Aziz arrives after a short delay, a servant informs him that Callendar is not at
home and has not left a message. After Aziz's aborted trial, Callendar makes some intemperate remarks about
Indians at the club, where the members of the Anglo-Indian community have gathered. We later learn that
Callendar has been replaced as civil surgeon by a Major Roberts.
See Mr. Turton
Miss Adela Quested 66
Mr. Das
The assistant magistrate (judge) in Chandrapore and thus the assistant to Ronny Heaslop, the magistrate. Das,
a Hindu, presides over the trial of Dr. Aziz. (Ronny has excused himself from sitting on the case because of
his relationship with Adela Quested, who has brought the charges against Aziz.) Ronny expresses confidence
in Das's ability to conduct an orderly trial, but Major Callendar declares that Das is not trustworthy because he
is an Indian. Das follows correct procedures in the trial and does not show favoritism toward either the
prosecution or the defense. After the trial Das visits Dr. Aziz for medical treatment and also requests a poem
from Aziz for his brother-in-law's magazine. Das's friendly visit represents a new spirit of cooperation
between the Moslem and Hindu communities.
Miss Nancy Derek
An unconventional Englishwoman. Young and single, Miss Derek is regarded with some distrust by the
British community at Chandrapore because of her unorthodox behavior. She is not part of the civil station at
Chandrapore, but serves as a personal assistant to the Maharani of Mudkul, an independent Indian state. When
Adela Quested and Ronny Heaslop are in a minor car accident, Miss Derek comes along and drives them back
to Chandrapore. She again shows up in her car near the Marabar Caves as Adela is running from the caves and
drives Adela back to Chandrapore. After Dr. Aziz's trial, Aziz and Fielding discuss a rumor that Miss Derek is
having an affair with Mr. McBryde, the Superintendent of Police.
Narayan Godbole
See Professor Godbole
Professor Godbole
An Indian who teaches at the college in Chandrapore, where Mr. Fielding is the principal. He is a friend of Dr.
Aziz. Godbole is a Hindu (of the Brahmin caste, the highest caste in the Hindu religion) and remains
somewhat aloof. Godbole is supposed to take part in the trip to the Marabar Caves organized by Aziz.
However, he and Fielding miss the train on which Aziz, Mrs. Moore, and Adela Quested are traveling because
Godbole takes too much time saying his prayers before leaving for the station. In the third part of the novel,
"Temple," Professor Godbole has moved to the Hindu state of Mau, where he is Minister of Education in the
local government. Godbole is the central symbolic figure in this part of the book, representing the Hindu
philosophy of acceptance. Ironically, he may also be more representative of the "real" India than is Aziz. He
takes part in the ceremony held to celebrate the rebirth of the Hindu god Krishna.
A Moslem Indian who is a good friend of Dr. Aziz. He was educated at Cambridge University in England and
is "the leading barrister [trial lawyer] of Chandrapore." In chapter II, Hamidullah, Aziz, and Mahmoud Ali
discuss whether it is possible for an Indian to be friends with the British. Hamidullah recounts his own
experience in England some years earlier. He had been welcomed into the home of an English couple, whom
he recalls with great affection. Hamidullah helps to organize Dr. Aziz's defense after Aziz is charged with
having assaulted Adela Quested in the Marabar Caves.
Ronny Heaslop
A young Anglo-Indian (British) civil servant who is the city magistrate of Chandrapore. He is the son of Mrs.
Moore by her first husband. At the outset of the novel, Ronny is expected to marry Adela Quested, whom he
had originally met m England. Educated in an English public (the equivalent of an American private) school,
Ronny embodies a narrow, rigid concept of duty and represses the personal side of his life. He expresses the
view that the Indians are not capable of governing themselves, and that Britain rules India for India's own
good. When his mother and Adela arrive in India, they are disappointed to find that Ronny has changed.
Adela perceives that "India had developed sides of his character that she had never admired," such as
"self-complacency," "censorious-ness," and "lack of subtlety " She also finds that "when proved wrong, he
was particularly exasperating." Ronny disapproves of his mother's and Adela's attempts to see "the real India"
Other Characters 67
and to mix with Indians socially. He becomes impatient with what he considers their naive attitude toward
India. According to Ronny, "No one can even begin to know [India] until he has been in it twenty years." The
alleged attempted rape of Adela at the Marabar Caves and her subsequent withdrawal of the charges against
Aziz during the trial cause Ronny much embarrassment, and he breaks off their engagement.
Dr. Panna Lai
A colleague of Dr. Aziz at the government hospital in Chandrapore. A Hindu, he is described as "timid and
elderly" and "of low extraction." Dr. Aziz regards Dr. Lai as "Major Callendar's spy," and he and his friends
make Lai the butt of some humor. Dr. Lai urges Aziz to go with him to the Turton's Bridge Party, but at the
last minute Aziz decides not to go. In Chapter VI, Dr. Lai meets Aziz and asks why he was not at the party;
Aziz makes up the excuse that he had to go to the post office. In Chapter IX, Dr. Lai goes to Aziz's bungalow
to treat him for a mild illness.
Mohammed Latif
A poor distant relation of Hamidullah. He is described as "a gentle, happy, and dishonest old man" who "had
never done a stroke of work." Mohammed Latif serves Dr. Aziz as a general servant and dogs-body. He is
often present in the book but never speaks unless he is spoken to. He accompanies Aziz, Mrs. Moore, and
Adela Quested on their picnic to the Marabar Caves. In the last section, "Temple," he has left Chandrapore
with Aziz and settled in Mau.
Mr. McBryde
The district superintendent of police in Chandrapore. McBryde formally arrests Dr. Aziz after Adela Quested
reports the incident in the Marabar Caves. Forster describes McBryde as "the most reflective and best
educated of the Chandrapore officials." He was born in India (in the town of Karachi, in present-day
Pakistan), not in Britain, and he has "read and thought a good deal." His experiences, including an unhappy
marriage, have made him cynical; but unlike Major Callendar, he is not a bully. He is personally sympathetic
toward Aziz and acts against him out of his professional duty, not out of malice. McBryde gets angry at
Fielding when Fielding tries to tell him that Aziz is innocent. He acts as the prosecutor at Aziz's trial. Aziz
and Fielding later hear that McBryde has been having an affair with Miss Derek and is divorcing his wife.
Ralph Moore
The son of Mrs. Moore by her second husband. He is thus the brother of Stella and half-brother of Ronny
Heaslop. Ralph is mentioned several times in the book but does not appear until near the end of the novel,
when he arrives in Mau with his sister Stella and her new husband, Cyril Fielding. Dr. Aziz meets Ralph and
treats his bee stings.
Stella Moore
Mrs. Moore's daughter. Stella's father was Mrs. Moore's second husband; she is thus the full sister of Ralph
and the half-sister of Ronny Heaslop. Stella is mentioned by Mrs. Moore and referred to at several points in
the novel. She lives in England and does not actually appear until the end of the novel, when she arrives in the
Hindu native state of Mau with Ralph and with her new husband, Cyril Fielding. Dr. Aziz had mistakenly
assumed that Fielding had married Adela Quested. Aziz is surprised and pleased when he learns that Stella,
not Adela, is Fielding's wife. However, Aziz's attitude toward Stella is ambiguous because she is related both
to Mrs. Moore, whom Aziz had admired, and to Ronny, whom he dislikes. Fielding confides that Stella "has
ideas I don't share... My wife's after something." This suggests that she has a deeper understanding of life than
either Aziz or Fielding.
Mr. Turton
An Anglo-Indian (British) government administrator in Chandrapore. He holds the post of Collector, and is a
generic representative of British authority in the district. Aziz uses the phrase "your Turtons and Burtons" to
refer off-handedly to all British civil servants. Turton has been in India for twenty-five years, but his
Other Characters 68
comments and actions show that he really does not understand the Indians. For example, he remarks that
"India does wonders for the judgment, especially in hot weather." He organizes a "Bridge Party" so that Adela
Quested and Mrs. Moore can meet some Indians. Although Turton is not particularly sensitive or imaginative,
he is basically a decent man.
Mrs. Turton
The wife of the Collector at Chandrapore, Mr. Turton. She is a generic memsahib—the wife of an
Anglo-Indian (British) official. She is something of a snob. Mrs. Turton prefers to socialize with other British
wives and their husbands in the tight-knit Anglo-Indian community and does not socialize with Indians except
at formal events. She disapproves of Adela Quested.
Mr. Zulfiqar
See Nawab Bahadur
A Passage to India: Essays and Criticism
Possible Interpretations of Forster's Novel
A Passage to India is E. M. Forster's final and perhaps finest novel. Forster visited India twice and wrote
another novel, the posthumously published Maurice, before finally completing A Passage to India in
1924—more than ten years after it was begun. Although Forster has stated that the novel is not really about
politics and that it is less concerned with the incompatibility of East and West than it is with the difficulty of
living in the universe, the novel does address issues such as colonialism, racism, nationalism, and rape. As a
result, much of the critical analysis has focused on political and social themes. One of the major issues the
novel attempts to address is introduced in the second chapter through a conversation in which Dr. Aziz,
Mahmoud Ali, and Hamidullah discuss "whether or not it is possible to be friends with an Englishman."
Shortly after this discussion, Dr. Aziz is befriended by two Englishwomen and the Anglo-Indian Principal at
the College, Mr. Fielding. But most critics tend to look beyond the relationships between individuals and
discuss the novel in terms of its depiction of Anglo-Indian colonial society. Debate over whether or not A
Passage to India is critical of colonialism is ongoing. Many critics agree that the novel does attack the
traditional justifications for British domination, but convincing arguments can also be made that Forster's
attempt to represent India implicates him in the "muddle" of imperial power.
At the centre of the novel is the visit to the Marabar Caves. All the connections and friendships established in
the first section of the novel lead to this expedition. Much has been written about what actually happens in the
caves but the mystery remains unsolved. One might read Mrs. Moore's and Miss Quested's experiences in the
caves as a breakdown of established values resulting from the exposure to "other" conceptions of culture and
being. Adela's experience in particular is often read as a hallucination or hysterical reaction brought about by
sexual repression. But the mystery remains a mystery because the pivotal scene involving Adela and Aziz is
never told. Mrs. Moore has a "horrifying" experience inside one of the caves and sinks into a state of apathy
and cynicism. All that is known of Adela's misadventure is that she suffers a maybe-real, maybe-imagined
sexual assault and that Aziz is charged with the crime. Whether or not there even was a crime committed,
either by Aziz or by someone else, is never revealed.
After witnessing the unsuccessful Bridge Party, Adela vows that she will never succumb to Anglo-Indian
ideology. Yet, as Jenny Sharpe has noted in her article "The Unspeakable Limits of Rape: Colonial Violence
and Counter-Insurgency in Genders," the accusations Adela makes against Dr. Aziz seemingly confirm the
fears and racist assumptions used to justify imperialism—that the "native" world is chaotic, uncontrollable, and
evil and thus in need of English domination. Following Aziz's arrest, many of these hateful and unfounded
fears are openly manifested. The District Superintendent of Police, Mr. McBryde, is not surprised by Aziz's
A Passage to India: Essays and Criticism 69
downfall because he believes that "all unfortunate natives are criminals at heart, for the simple reason that
they live south of latitude 30." At the Club, people begin to voice their concern for the safety of the "women
and children" and one young woman even refuses to "return to her bungalow in case the 'niggers attacked.'"
The prevailing attitude is best represented by McBryde's words at Aziz's trial. He delivers his opening
statement almost indifferently because he believes that Aziz's guilt is already accepted as fact. The possibility
that Aziz may in fact be innocent is never even considered because, as McBryde tells the court, it is a "general
truth" that the "darker races are physically attracted by the fairer, but not vice versa."
But passages such as these do not lend authority to Adela's allegations against Dr. Aziz. On the contrary, the
rhetoric used to justify imperialism is severely parodied. The scenes paint an ugly picture of the English
officers sent to India to "do justice and keep the peace"; they become almost ridiculous when it is remembered
that the colonizers' prejudices and fears are aroused by an event that may not have taken place. McBryde's
"general truth" is based not on evidence or, as he claims, scientific fact, but on the assumptions and premises
which are necessary to support notions of Western superiority.
Similarly, the mystery surrounding the caves and the events that transpired inside them undermine any sense
of certainty in the novel. Adela herself becomes unsure about what actually happened in the caves and is
plagued by the echoing doubt that her accusations may have been fabricated. Sharpe has argued that this
element of uncertainty, introduced into a crime which supposedly confirms the "native's" depravity, reveals
the fictionaliry of what she terms "colonial truth-claims. " In other words, Sharpe illustrates how the
declaration of Aziz's innocence "undermines the racist assumptions underpinning an official discourse that
represents anticolonial insurgency as the savage attack of barbarians on innocent women and children " The
novel's exposure of such politically constructed "truths" thus subverts the conventional justifications for
British domination.
However, the novel's condemnation of imperial ideology is not unproblematic. Benita Parry has noted, in
"The Politics of Representation in A Passage to India", from E. M. Forster: Contemporary Critical Essays,
that while the text does lampoon colonial rhetoric, its overt criticism of colonialism is phrased in the feeblest
of terms. One scene which several critics have singled out even suggests that colonialism might have been
more acceptable had the British only been a little kinder: "One touch of regret...would have made [Ronny] a
different man, and the British Empire a different institution." The novel's ending is also troublesome. Fielding,
the one man who stood against his countrymen to defend Aziz, finally throws in "his lot with Anglo-India by
marrying a countrywoman" and "acquiring some of its limitations." He even begins to doubt whether he
would repeat his defiance of his own people "for the sake of a stray Indian."
Moreover, there are instances in the novel where the narrator appears to be guilty of making broad
generalizations about Indians. Compared to the loud and offensive remarks spoken by McBryde, the narrator's
occasional reinforcement of racial stereotypes is easily overlooked. But seemingly harmless comments—"like
most Orientals, Aziz overrated hospitality"—do contribute to the West's textual construction of the East. And,
as alluded to above, it is this kind of fabricated report which can eventually become accepted as a "general
truth." While narrative comments such as these do not necessarily invalidate the novel's criticism of
colonialism, they do suggest that the Western novelist's prose about India, like the "pose of seeing India"
criticized in the novel, can be a "form of ruling India "
Of course, it is possible to discuss the novel without emphasizing the political and colonial themes. A
completely different reading is offered by Parminder Bakshi in A Passage to India: Theory and Practice
Series. Bakshi argues that A Passage to India, like all of Forster's fiction, contains homo-erotic themes and
was inspired not by colonial issues but by the barriers to male friendship. She contends that Forster strives to
dissociate friendship from politics and illustrates how the novel moves towards creating intimacy between
Fielding and Aziz. Central to her argument is the theme of friendship which, Bakshi believes, de-centers the
hollow and artificial convention of marriage because it poses a threat to male friendship.
Possible Interpretations of Forster's Novel 70
Perhaps most convincing is Bakshi's reading of the novel's final scene. Although politics appear to be the
reason for Fielding and Aziz's separation, Bakshi argues that politics are actually superfluous. More
traditional readings of the scene interpret Aziz's final words as an acknowledgment that the colonial situation
makes friendship between the English and Indians impossible. But Bakshi points out that it is only at the
suggestion of male intimacy made by Fielding ("Why can't we be friends now? It's what I want. It's what you
want.") that the entire universe rises in protest by hurling countless barriers between them: "the horses didn't
want it—they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass
single-file; the temples, the tank...they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, 'No, not yet,' and the
sky said, 'No, not there.'" Through Bakshi's reading, the novel transcends contemporary politics and becomes
an indictment against the oppression of male love.
Still, it is impossible to read the end of the novel without also considering the political and colonial themes.
Forster's text is not optimistic about the future of East-West relations, but it is prophetic. Early in the novel,
when Aziz is making his way to Callendar's compound, he becomes depressed by the roads which, "named
after victorious generals and intersecting at right angles, were symbolic of the net Great Britain had thrown
over India." In his final meeting with Fielding, Aziz recognizes the immediate need to throw off this net and
foresees that the time for Indian independence will come with the next European war. Will the act of driving
"every blasted Englishman into the sea" make it possible for an Indian to be friends with an Englishman? The
novel provides no simple answer. Forster was certainly aware that the repercussions of British authority would
echo for years after the end of British domination, and while his novel's final words, spoken by a chorus of a
hundred voices, do suggest the possibility of a better future, it is a future that, in 1924, remains uncertain.
Source: Jeffrey M. Lilburn, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 1998.
Lilburn is a teaching assistant at the University of Western Ohio.
Forster's Critique of Imperialism in A Passage to India
The chief argument against imperialism in E. M. Forster's A Passage to India is that it prevents personal
relationships. The central question of the novel is posed at the very beginning when Mahmoud Ali and
Hamidullah ask each other "whether or no it is possible to be friends with an Englishman." The answer, given
by Forster himself on the last page, is "No, not yet... No, not there." Such friendship is made impossible, on a
political level, by the existence of the British Raj. While having several important drawbacks, Forster's
anti-imperial argument has the advantage of being concrete, clear, moving, and presumably persuasive. It is
also particularly well-suited to pursuit in the novel form, which traditionally has focused on interactions
among individuals.
Forster's most obvious target is the unfriendly bigotry of the English in India, or the Anglo-Indians as they
were called. At times he scores them for their pure malice, as when Mrs. Callendar says, "The kindest thing
one can do to a native is to let him die." More tellingly, Forster shows up their bigotry as prejudice in the
literal sense of prejudgment. The Anglo-Indians, as Forster presents them, act on emotional preconceptions
rather than rational and open-minded examination of facts. They therefore fall into logical inconsistencies
which the author exposes with his favorite weapon: irony. For example, at the hysterical Club meeting
following Dr. Aziz's arrest for allegedly molesting Adela Quested, the subaltern defends an anonymous native
with whom he had played polo the previous month: "Any native who plays polo is all right. What you've got
to stamp on is these educated classes." The reader knows, as the subaltern doesn't, that the native was Aziz
himself. Against the bigotry of the Anglo-Indians, Forster urged tolerance and understanding in the widest
Forster does much more in his book...than simply deride the intolerance of a few accidental individuals. He
carefully shows how this intolerance results from the unequal power relationship between English and
Forster's Critique of Imperialism in A Passage to India 71
Indians, from the imperialistic relationship itself... The process is best shown in the book in the case of Ronny,
who has only recently come out from England to be City Magistrate of Chandrapore.
Ronny was at first friendly towards the Indians, but he soon found that his position prevented such friendship.
Shortly after his arrival he invited the lawyer Mahmoud All to have a smoke with him, only to learn later that
clients began flocking to Ali in the belief that he had an in with the Magistrate. Ronny subsequently "dropped
on him in Court as hard as I could. It's taught me a lesson, and I hope him." In this instance, it is clearly
Ronny's official position rather than any prior defect of the heart which disrupts the potential friendship. And
it is his position in the imperial structure which causes his later defect, his lack of true regret when he tells his
mother that now "I prefer my smoke at the club amongst my own sort, I'm afraid."
Forster tells us that "every human act in the East is tainted with officialism" and that "where there is
officialism every human relationship suffers." People cannot establish a friendship of equals when the Raj is
based on an inequality of power...
The one possible exception to this process of corruption among Englishmen is Fielding. He is partially
immune to the influence of the imperialistic power relationship because he works in education rather than
government, and because, as he puts it, he "travels light"—he has no hostages to fortune. Fielding establishes a
friendship with Aziz and maintains it in defiance of all the other Anglo-Indians. There is some doubt,
however, whether he can maintain this course and still remain in imperial India. He is obliged to quit the Club
and says he will leave India altogether should Aziz be convicted. After Fielding marries Stella, thereby
ceasing to travel light, and after he becomes associated with the government as a school inspector, he
undergoes a marked change of attitude toward the Raj. It would surely be a mistake to continue, as several
critics do, to identify Forster with Fielding past this point. The omniscient narrator pulls back and summarizes
Fielding's situation: "He had thrown in his lot with Anglo-India by marrying a countrywoman, and he was
acquiring some of its limitations." Like Ronny and the other English officials, Fielding begins to be corrupted
by his position. Thinking of how Godbole's school has degenerated into a granary, the new school inspector
asserts that "Indians go to seed at once" away from the British. Fielding almost exactly echoes Ronny's
defense of the Raj to his mother when he excuses unpleasantness in the supposedly necessary imperial
presence: he had "'no further use for politeness,' he said, meaning that the British Empire really can't be
abolished because it's rude." Fielding certainly did not start with a defect of the heart, but, as a result of his
new position in the imperial structure, he is acquiring one.
The English, of course, aren't the only ones corrupted by imperialism. Although most of the Indians in the
book have a nearly unbelievable desire to befriend Englishmen, they are ultimately turned from it by the
political reality. Some succumb to self-interest. Mahmoud Ali, for example, seems to have been the first to
subvert his budding friendship with Ronny by advertising their smoke to potential litigants. More often the
Indians succumb to the fear, largely justified but occasionally erroneous, that they will be scorned and
betrayed. The prime example is Aziz. He makes the horrible mistake of assuming that Fielding back in
England has married his enemy Adela and further that Fielding had urged him not to press damages against
his false accuser so Fielding himself could enjoy Adela's money. Aziz, of course, has been conditioned to
expect betrayal from his experience with other Anglo-Indians, and this expectation provides an undercurrent
to the friendship from the very beginning. After Fielding returns to India, and Aziz learns he really married
Stella Moore, their relationship is partially retrieved, but the damage has been done. The new school inspector
has shifted toward the Raj, and Aziz, now leery of all Englishmen, has become a nationalist, saying of India,
"Not until she is a nation will her sons be treated with respect."...
In 1924, when Passage appeared, the Indian movement led by Mahatma Gandhi was still not yet agitating for
independence. They said they wished to achieve dominion status and remain within the empire. Forster took
what was at the time a more radical position by declaring that India inevitably had to become free. In an
article in The Nation and the Athenaeum in 1922, Forster stated that "ten years ago" Indians had looked to
Forster's Critique of Imperialism in A Passage to India 72
Englishmen for social support, but now it was "too late," and he anticipated "the dissolution of an Empire."
These phrases are repeated at the end of the novel when Aziz cries, "Clear out, all you Turtons and Burtons.
We wanted to know you ten years back—now it's too late."
Forster's novel does not explicitly spell out what has happened in the previous ten years, apart from Aziz's
own trial and his blow-up with Fielding. However, the book is full of muted references to recent events. The
most important among these was the 1919 uprising in the Punjab which the British brutally suppressed. At the
town of Amritsar, General Dwyer ordered his troops to fire on an unarmed crowd, killing nearly four hundred.
Later he issued an order requiring Indians to crawl through a street where an English girl, Miss Marcella
Sherwood, had been attacked. In Passage Mrs. Turton, after the supposed attack on Adela, says of the Indians,
"They ought to crawl from here to the caves on their hands and knees whenever an Englishwoman's in sight."
After Amritsar, General Campbell issued an order obliging Indians to approach the houses of Europeans on
foot. Thus Aziz, when he goes to visit Major Callendar, has to get out of his tonga before he reaches the
There are two important drawbacks in Forster's argument for independence on the grounds that it is necessary
for friendship. The first is that his argument takes little account of the less personal, more abstract issues of
imperialism, particularly the economic issues. Apart from a passing reference to "the wealth of India" allowed
"to escape overseas," there is no mention of England's economic exploitation of India. We see no plantations
or mines in British India. Collector Turton presumably takes in tax, but we never see him doing so. And, with
the exception of the punkah wallah, we never see an Indian performing physical labor. Thus we have little
sense of why the English are in India in the first place...
Forster may have omitted the economics of the Raj because he was ignorant of them or didn't see their
significance. Or possibly he did so because he was following the Bloomsbury aesthetic of starting with
characters and bringing in the material world only secondarily. In any case, he left out an important aspect of
the Raj, and this omission has led the Marxist critic Derek S. Savage to attack him fiercely: "The ugly realities
underlying the presence of the British in India are not even glanced at, and the issues raised are handled as
though they could be solved on the surface level of personal intercourse and individual behavior." This
criticism may be justified, but in defence of Forster it should be noted that his particular argument against the
Raj, its disruption of friendship, was shared by the Indian leaders of his day. In a 1921 letter explaining the
purpose of the Non-cooperation Movement, Gandhi wrote: "We desire to live on terms of friendship with
Englishmen, but that friendship must be friendship of equals both in theory and practice, and we must
continue to non-cooperate till...the goal is achieved."
The second drawback to Forster's anti-imperial argument is perhaps more damaging. It is that even if the
political barriers are overcome, Forster is still sceptical that friendship can be achieved. This scepticism has
the effect of undermining the entire political argument and making us say, "Why bother?" A Passage to India
suggests a number of non-political barriers to friendship: the selfishness inherent in human nature, cultural
differences which cannot be bridged, and the human potential for insanity. The most important barrier,
though, is the echo. There have been many interpretations of the echo in the Marabar caves, and it is difficult
to explain in words since the echo intrinsically resists language, but it seems first of all to indicate the
meaninglessness of the universe. For Mrs. Moore, the echo reduces all human expressions to the same dull
"bourn," and it says, "Everything exists, nothing has value."... In the political aspect of the novel, Forster
attacked the prejudice of the Anglo-Indians by appealing to a reason which would find the true facts; but in
the metaphysical aspect, he tells us that reason is useless.
The effect of the echo on Mrs. Moore is to make her abandon all attempts at human connection. After hearing
it, she realizes she "didn't want to communicate with anyone. She lost all interest, even in Aziz." Mrs. Moore
withdraws into herself, leaves India without any further significant interaction with anyone, and finally dies.
For her, the echo makes friendship impossible. Later, of course, the figure of Mrs. Moore undergoes a sort of
Forster's Critique of Imperialism in A Passage to India 73
apotheosis in which she is imagined as a benefactress of India. She becomes the Hindu demi-deity Esmiss
Esmoor; Professor Godbole makes her part of his ecstatic devotion, and Aziz tells Ralph, "Your mother was
my best friend in all the world." There is no objective basis, however, for this exaltation of her by the Indians,
and Reuben Brower seems right in saying, "We can hardly accept this about-face in Mrs. Moore's role and its
symbolic value. We cannot at the end of the novel regard Mrs. Moore as in tune with the infinite and
conveniently forget the mocking denial of her echo." Whatever her effect on others, she seems irretrievably
isolated by the echo. Although she senses that Aziz is innocent, she is indifferent to his plight and does
nothing at all to help him. When asked to testify, she says irritably, "When shall I be free from your fuss? Was
he in the cave and were you in the cave and on and on...and ending everything the echo." She decides of all
people, including Aziz, "They do not exist, they were a dream." Mrs. Moore's friendship for Aziz thus comes
to an end. The disruption in this case has nothing to do with the Rajor any other political barrier; rather it is
caused by something much more powerful and over-riding: the echo.
A Passage to India does suggest a solution to the echo, of course. There is some doubt, however, whether
Forster himself subscribed to this solution. And the solution contributes nothing to the argument against the
Raj since it transcends politics and all other worldly concerns. The solution is Hinduism, which is shown
countering the echo by abandoning reason and embracing the muddle of the universe with irrational joy. The
negative echo "bourn" is thus transposed into the affirmative chant "OM," representing the Hindu trinity of
Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
While Hinduism may provide a metaphysical solution, it does not, at least according to Forster's novel,
provide a political one Hinduism is shown embracing everything, including the British empire, with equal
mindless affirmation. Professor Godbole points out that good and evil "are both of them aspects of my Lord."
There are no villains: everyone attacked Adela. When Shri Krishna is born in the festival of Gokul Ashtami,
he saves foreigners as well as Indians...
At the very end of the novel when Aziz tells Fielding, "We shall drive every blasted Englishman into the sea,
and then...and then...you and I shall be friends," the Englishman asks him, "Why can't we be friends now? It's
what I want. It's what you want." The question is never answered by either man because their horses swerve
apart. One interpretation of this closing paragraph is that Fielding and Aziz cannot be friends until India
becomes a nation, but another interpretation, a far more chilling one, is that they can never be friends. Not
only politics keep them apart. The very earth and sky do. All of existence and the echo prevent human
Source: Hunt Hawkins, "Forster's Critique of Imperialism in A Passage to India" in South Atlantic Review,
January, 1983, pp. 54-65.
A Passage to India- The Meaning of the Marabar Caves
That E. M. Forster's A Passage to India should, almost forty years after its first publication, continue to have
an enthusiastic reading public is not surprising, though as a political and sociological document it is often
spoken of, even by Forster himself, as dated. The fact is, as many recent articles have made clear, that the
theme of the novel— the resolution of chaos (or the possibility of such a resolution) through human or divine
love—is one which has pervaded the literature of the West from the time of Aeschylus to the present.
Furthermore, analyzed on almost any level—as social comedy, as penetrating study of character, as
metaphysical discourse, or as patterning of detail and episode— the novel is a masterpiece. Even as political
and sociological comment, the novel is, I feel, not so dated as Forster was prepared to admit. Certainly the
situation in India has altered since the book was begun in 1912; however if we take the conflict between
England and India as a pattern of that between France and Algeria, Belgium and the Congo, Portugal and
Angola, or African white and African Negro, we see that the political aspects of the novel are by no means
A Passage to India- The Meaning of the Marabar Caves 74
dated, nor will be so long as political or economic domination leads to conflicts between peoples. This is not
to say that all such conflicts are identical, but it is to say that wherever we find the exploitation of one people
by another, we are likely to find political and social consequences which, if not worse, will be much like those
portrayed in A Passage to India....
The importance of the Marabar Caves is indicated by the emphasis given them in the opening chapter, which
begins, "Except for the Marabar Caves—" and continues with a description of the novel's main setting,
Chandrapore on the Ganges River with the English civil station above. Towards the end of the chapter is
mentioned the "immense vault" of the sky. The description of the sky naturally leads to the horizon and then
to the only interruption of the straight line of the horizon, the "fists and fingers" in the south. The final
sentence of the chapter returns us to the caves: "These fists and fingers are the Marabar Hills, containing the
extraordinary caves."...
Throughout Part One of the novel Forster keeps the reader's attention on the caves by casual references and
more particularly by Aziz's invitation to Adela and Mrs. Moore to visit them. However, the caves remain
mysterious. Indeed they remain mysterious throughout the novel, but in Part One few details are given about
them and no inkling whatever of their impact on the viewer. In Chapter Seven during Fielding's tea party, at
which Mrs. Moore and Adela are present, the caves are discussed by Aziz and Professor Godbole, but only to
leave them in a greater mystery than before. Aziz has never seen the caves himself and knows them only by
hearsay. Godbole has visited the caves but for some unknown reason is not willing to reveal anything about
them except for the most trivial and obvious facts....
The first extended treatment of the caves occurs at the beginning of Part Two, where Forster not only
describes their appearance but also gives a brief geological history of the Indian sub-continent....
The caves are associated with the vast and unknowable expanse of geological time. They derive from the most
remote ages of the Pre-Cambrian era, a period covering the first two or three billion years of the earth's history
and a period of which geologists have merely the slightest knowledge, since only the lowest and most easily
obliterated forms of life existed. The caves antedate even the most primitive fossils. Forster divests them of
any relation to life—human, animal, or plant. "To call them uncanny suggests ghosts, and they are older than
all spirit." The Hindus have made some scratches on them; some saddhus once tried to settle in them but
failed. This is all....
[The] caves represent not only a primitive level of intellectual and emotional activity but also, I believe, those
mysteries of our universe which human beings—because they are, after all, finite, at least in the physical
world—will never understand. Particularly, they symbolize the riddle of life itself, the mystery which lies
behind the creation or appearance of that nonmaterial essence that we call spirit or consciousness....
The description of the caves, then, offers one more example of this pushing back to the unknown. I have
suggested above that the mystery here may be that which lies behind the existence of spirit itself. How can
stone, in which spirit is apparently inherent (for the stones themselves seem alive during the journey of the
Aziz party to the caves), give rise to those forms of matter which we call life and which exhibit so clearly the
quality that we call consciousness? The question, of course, cannot be answered.
The biologist can explain how the one-celled protozoan can evolve into man, but he cannot explain how the
complex molecule becomes the protozoan. This is a crucial step. Professor Godbole, whose sympathies can
comprehend the wasp, cannot make the imaginative leap to stone. One passage particularly in the chapter on
the caves suggests the mystery inherent in the development of life from non-life. Forster writes of the visitor
striking a match upon entering the cave...
Here we have the direct opposition of organic and inorganic matter. The response of the flame in the stone
suggests that spirit is infused through all matter but that only the spirit or consciousness of living beings can
A Passage to India- The Meaning of the Marabar Caves 75
know this; hence the flame in the stone is a reflection of the flame in the air. Ultimately the gap between stone
and flame can never be completely closed because, in this life, the spirit of man can never be completely one
with the spirit of inorganic matter, however broad his sympathies may be....
[The] caves should be understood as symbolic of the womb. Such a meaning reinforces the concept that the
caves represent the mystery of the origin of life. We may say, then, that the caves symbolize this mystery on
two levels: the metaphysical and the sexual.
This interpretation of the meaning of the caves helps to explain the reactions of Mrs. Moore and Adela to their
experiences at the Marabar. For Mrs. Moore the metaphysical problem is dominant. In England her faith had
apparently been that of the orthodox Christian, possibly of rather narrow persuasion. In India her sympathies
instinctively broaden. She feels the presence of God in the Mosque, and she offers a kind of benediction over
the wasp; thus she is becoming a mystic who sees the cosmos as an emanation of, or as infused with, the spirit
of God, a universal God, not a specifically Christian God. In essence she is approaching the Hindu position,
and it is significant that during the trial of Aziz she becomes deified among the Hindus as Esmiss Esmoor and
that she and Professor Godbole are linked through the thoughts of Godbole at the end of the novel.
Intellectually, however, Mrs. Moore finds herself dissatisfied...
Mrs. Moore finds God less efficacious because in her heart she no longer accepts her former religious beliefs
as the final and absolute truth. In the caves and afterwards comes her spiritual crisis, for the caves represent an
unsolvable mystery, a mystery which Mrs. Moore's Christianity cannot cope with. Because of her religious
uncertainty she cannot accept the caves with equanimity like Aziz and Professor Godbole. She reacts almost
violently, and for her the echo of the cave robs everything of truth and value: "Pathos, piety, courage—they
exist, but are identical, and so is filth. Everything exists, nothing has value."...
And so Mrs. Moore, unable to come to grips with the riddle posed by the caves, falls into pessimism and
selfishness. She becomes peevish and petty, unwilling to comfort Adela or to testify at the trial in behalf of
Aziz, though she believes him innocent.
Forster has been criticized for resurrecting Mrs. Moore as a spiritual force later in the novel, through her
children, Ralph and Stella. It is certainly difficult to overlook the dwarfing of her spirit after the episode of the
caves, but Forster does not leave her in this barren state of mind and prepares, though perhaps not sufficiently,
for her spiritual influence over later events. Just before her death as she is leaving India, the mystery of the
Marabar is put in its proper perspective, for one must come to terms with the unknowable. During the
overnight journey from Chandrapore to the port of exit, Bombay, she sees the mosque at Asirgarh. The train
makes a semicircle around the town, and the mosque appears to her once again...
The mosque, which in part represents the positive value of the love of man for man and which presided over
the meeting and establishment of understanding between Mrs. Moore and Aziz, suggests the renewal of
spiritual life. As she sails from Bombay the voices of India impress upon her that the Marabar Caves are a
very small part of the whole of India and that the mystery of the Marabar is a relatively minor problem in the
whole of life... Her journey across India, on one level, is a journey from life to death, for she dies soon after
leaving Bombay; but on the spiritual level it is a journey from death to life, from the Caves to the Mosque.
The effect of the caves on Adela is different. In Mrs. Moore the full impact of the experience builds up
slowly, and her thoughts about it are more terrifying than the experience itself. Adela, however, is suddenly
thrown into a state of mental shock from which she recovers only by reliving the experience at the trial
through the prosecutor's questioning, which has the effect on her of a kind of psychoanalysis. (Fielding refers
to the process as an "exorcizing.") Adela, who on the whole is a rather literal-minded, no-nonsense young
woman quite unaware of the power of suggestion or of the workings of the sub-conscious mind, enters her
second cave having just come to the startling conclusion that she is planning to marry a man she does not
A Passage to India- The Meaning of the Marabar Caves 76
love. But also she has been thinking in a rather disinterested way about Aziz—what a handsome man he is and
what a beautiful wife and children he no doubt has.
Then recalling that Mohammedans often have four wives, she asks a question that shocks Aziz deeply: "Have
you one wife or more than one?" Aziz breaks away from her in anger and the two enter separate caves.
Precisely what happens to Adela is not fully revealed. Did she have a hallucination? Did the guide attack her?
Was she simply thrown into a panic by the echo? Certainly the echo, with its suggestion of mystery, continues
to haunt her until the trial scene. But whatever may have happened to her literally, it is clear, I believe, what
happened to her psychologically. Consciously she rejects Ronny, and subconsciously she desires Aziz. I do
not wish to be misunderstood here. Forster states that Adela has nothing of the vagrant in her, and indeed she
does not. Surely, however, the subconscious desire for Aziz is there. Why otherwise does she dwell on his
physical beauty and why the question about his wives? Conflict is set up between the conscious and
subconscious minds, and Adela resolves the subconscious desire into a supposed sexual attack on the part of
Aziz. In rushing from the cave she is repudiating a part of herself, the cave symbolizing at this point the womb
or sexual consummation...
In the cave, then, Adela faces a mystery of another kind, the mystery of the primitive workings of the
subconscious mind. Like Mrs. Moore she comes to terms with the meaning latent for her in the caves, but
unlike Mrs. Moore she is incapable of the breadth of love and sympathy necessary for universal brotherhood
and she retires from India defeated, dissatisfied, and "at the end of her spiritual tether." Mrs. Moore had some
concept of a realm of the spirit beyond the physical universe, but not Adela...
But even Mrs. Moore did not know all. The ultimate mystery of the Marabar Caves, the mystery behind the
existence of conscious spirit in the universe, is beyond the powers of the human intellect to solve.
Source: Roger L. Clubb, "A Passage to India- The Meaning of the Marabar Caves," in CLA Journal, March,
1963, pp. 184-93.

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