Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...©
Passage to India
is a novel of cultural, social, psychological, and religious conflict arising
mainly from clashes between India's native population and British imperialist
time is the early twentieth century, probably about 1920. The novel begins
in Chandrapore, a fictional Indian city along the Ganges River. Forster
appears to have modeled Chandrapore after Bankipur, a community near the
city of Patna in the state of Bihar in northeastern India. The narrator
says Chandrapore u0093presents nothing extraordinaryu0094 and u0093trails for a couple
of miles along the [river] bank, scarcely distinguishable from the rubbish
it deposits so freely.u0094 Other scenes in India take place (1) aboard a train
traveling from Chandrapore to the Marabar Caves, a distance of twenty miles;
(2) at a picnic site in front of the caves, (3) inside the caves; (4) on
a train traveling from Chandrapore to Bombay (Mumbai), and (5) in the city
of Mau, several hundred miles west of Chandrapore.
Chapter 29, the setting shifts to a ship sailing from Bombay to Port Said,
Egypt. In Chapter 30, the setting shifts back to India. In Chapter 32,
the scene shifts briefly to Egypt, Crete, and Venice, Italy, before returning
to India in Chapter 33.
interest in India began when the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama arrived
there in 1498. In 1600, England chartered the East India Company to exploit
Asian resources and within decades established trading posts in key Indian
cities. Over the next two-and-a-half centuries, Britain expanded its economic
interest in India. In 1858, Britain transferred control of the Indian subcontinent
from the East India Company to the British government. The British overlords
directly imposed their will and their
ways on three-fifths of the populace in what became known as "British India"
and indirectly on two-fifths of the populace in autonomous native states.
Consequently, Britons dominated the economic, political, and social life
of the country. To be sure, the British made improvements, constructing
roads, railways, and telegraph lines and providing educational and economic
advancements. Some Indians even grew wealthy. Generally, however, the Indians
were poor second-class citizens, especially in British India. The British
got the best jobs, held the top government posts, and exploited the natural
resources. They also erected social barriers between themselves and the
natives and brought in missionaries to proselytize. All the while, Indian
resentment of the English was building. In the early twentieth century,
when Forster wrote
A Passage to India, this resentment continued
to increase. Between 1920 and 1924, when Forster was completing the novel,
Mahatma Gandhi was active in his campaign of passive resistance to British
rule. Indians by the millions joined his crusade, conducting boycotts and
peaceful protests in the streets. In March 1922, Gandhi defended his campaign
in a courtroom after he was arrested. He said, in part:
Little do town-dwellers
know how the semi-starved masses of Indians are slowly sinking to lifelessness.
Little do they know that their miserable comfort represents the brokerage
they get for the work they do for the foreign exploiter, that the profits
and the brokerage are sucked from the masses. Little do they realize that
the government established by law in British India is carried on for this
exploitation of the masses. No sophistry, no jugglery in figures can explain
away the evidence the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye.
I have no doubt whatsoever that both England and the town-dwellers of India
will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity
which is perhaps unequalled in history. The law itself in this country
has been used to serve the foreign exploiter. My experience of political
cases in India leads me to the conclusion that in nine out of every ten
the condemned men were totally innocent. Their crime consisted in love
of their country. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, justice has been
denied to Indians as against Europeans in the courts of India. This is
not an exaggerated picture. It is the experience of almost every Indian
who has had anything to do with such cases. In my opinion the administration
of the law is thus prostituted consciously or unconsciously for the benefit
of the exploiter.Point
M. Forster tells the story in omniscient third-person point of view, enabling
the narrator to reveal the thoughts of the characters. In Chapter 23, the
narrator also uses second-person point of view when he addresses the reader
directly while discussing the effect of the cave on Mrs. Moore: "Visions
are supposed to entail profundity, butu0097 Wait till you get one, dear reader!"
Dr. Aziz: Young Indian
surgeon and dedicated Muslim. He is the novel's protagonist. Along with
his Indian friends, he objects to the British presence in India. However,
he befriends the few English who treat him with respect. He highly values
his reputation and is extremely sensitive about what others think of him.
Although he assists the chief Civil Surgeon of Chandrapore, Major Callendar,
Aziz is the more skillful medical practitioner. He is a widower with three
children. Aziz is the defendant in a sensational trial in which an Englishwoman,
Adela Quested, accuses him of sexual assault. Although he is acquitted,
suspicion of him lingersu0097especially among the British.
Mrs. Moore: Elderly
Englishwoman who travels to India to see her son by her first marriage,
Ronny Heaslop, the city magistrate of Chandrapore. After her husband died,
she remarried and had two more children, Ralph and Stella Moore. She respects
the Indians and their culture and becomes friends with Aziz. A visit to
the mysterious Marabar Caves near Chandrapore profoundly affects her attitude
about religion and life in general.
Adela Quested: Young
English schoolmistress who is considering marrying Ronny Heaslop. She accompanies
Mrs. Moore to India and tells her after their arrival that she wants to
see the "real India." Like Mrs. Moore, she undergoes a profound change
after visiting the Marabar Caves. Miss Quested becomes the plaintiff in
a sensational trial after accusing Dr. Aziz of sexual assault in one of
Ronny Heaslop: Son
of Mrs. Moore by her first marriage and City Magistrate of Chandrapore.
Unlike his mother, he scorns the Indians as woefully inferior to the British.
Cyril Fielding: Principal
of the British government's college for Indians. He is the one English
official who accepts and befriends the Indians and, in so doing, earns
their admiration and trust. However, a misunderstanding temporarily estranges
him from his good friend Aziz. At the end of the novel, he reconciles with
Aziz but angers him after he mocks Aziz's view that India will one day
become a united nation free of British rule.
Chief Civil Surgeon of Chandrapore and Aziz's workplace superior. He is
a thoroughgoing bigot who despises all Indians.
Mrs. Callendar: Wife
of Major Callendar and militantly anti-Indian.
Harry Turton: English
governor of Chandrapore and its tax collector. He is prejudiced against
the Indians but pretends to respect them. Turton arranges a party at which
Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested can meet Indians.
Mary Turton: Openly
racist wife of Turton.
and friend of Aziz. Hamidullah was educated at Cambridge University in
England. He believes it is possible for an Indian to befriend an Englishmanu0097but
only in England, not in India.
Wife of Hamidullah and aunt of Aziz.
Mahmoud Ali: Attorney
and friend of Aziz. Ali strongly objects to the British presence in India.
He is a rumormonger.
Mohammed Latif: Elderly
relative of Hamidullah. Latif, who receives free food and lodging in the
Hamidullah household, is a "gentle, happy and dishonest old man," the narrator
says; "in all his life he had never done a stroke of work." He accompanies
Aziz, Mrs. Moore, and Adela Quested on their visit to the Marabar Caves.
Professor Narayan Godbole:
Hindu instructor at Fielding's college. In the tense atmosphere of Chandrapore,
nothing upsets him. He remains calm and even-tempered at all times.
Nawab Bahadur: Wealthy
landowner, philanthropist, and leading citizen of Chandrapore.
is an honorary title bestowed on him by the British. It can mean governor,
viceroy, or simply nobleman of exalted status. Although he gets along with
the British, he gives up his honorary title after the trial of Aziz.
of police in Chandrapore. He prosecutes the case against Aziz.
Das: Assistant magistrate
for Chandrapore. He presides at the trial of Aziz.
Mrs. Das: Wife of
Nancy Derek: Bigoted
young Englishwoman in the employ of a Hindu maharajah and maharani. She
drives Fielding to the Marabar Caves and returns from the caves with Miss
Quested. She has an affair with McBryde.
Mrs. McBryde: Wife
of Superintendent McBryde. She sues for divorce after discovering his affair
with Nancy Derek.
Mrs. Lesley: Friend
of Mrs. Turton.
Rev. and Mrs. Bannister:
Britons who befriended Hamidullah when he was studying at Cambridge University
Hugh Bannister: Son
of the Rev. and Mrs. Bannister. When Hamidullah was in England, he took
Hugh to the funeral of Queen Victoria. Hugh has become a leather merchant
in India, but Hamidullah never visits him out of fear that he has become
just another haughty English overseer.
Ram Chand: Indian
who criticizes the Nawab Bahadur for agreeing to attend the party that
Harry Turton arranges for Englishmen to meet Indians.
Sir Gilbert Mellanby:
Lieutenant-Governor of the state in which Chandrapore is located. He goes
to Chandrapore to oversee efforts to deal with the upheaval resulting from
the trial of Dr. Aziz.
Lady Mellanby: Wife
of Sir Gilbert. She helps arrange ship passage out of India for Mrs. Moore
Antony: Servant of
Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore. He attempts to bribe Miss Quested when she
leaves India, falsely accusing her of having had an affair with Cyril Fielding.
Hassan: Servant of
of the Nawab Bahadur. He is rumored to have been tortured by the British
during the trial of Aziz.
Syed Mohammed: Assistant
engineer for Chandrapore and a friend of Aziz.
Rafi: Nephew of Syed
Mohammed. He calls attention to the fact that Godbole and Aziz became ill
after a tea party given by Cyril Fielding.
Hindu attorney who volunteers his services on behalf of Aziz at his trial.
Amitrao is staunchly anti-British.
Dr. Panna Lal: Hindu
physician of low caste who works with Aziz. He and Aziz dislike each other.
Dr. Lal agrees to testify against Aziz at the latter's trial.
Mr. Haq: Policeman
who arrests Aziz.
Mr. Harris: The Nawab
Bahadur's Eurasian chauffeur.
Indian who invites Mrs. Moore to her home but fails to follow through on
officer who practices polo with Aziz.
Colonel Maggs: Official
who keeps Aziz under surveillance after he moves to Mau.
Ahmed, Karim: Sons
of Dr. Aziz.
of Dr. Aziz.
Man who befriends Adela Quested when the latter stops at Port Said, Egypt,
her return trip to England.
Servant of Major Callendar:
Man who greets Aziz when the latter is summoned to Callendar's house.
is the early 1920s in India. In the city of Chandrapore on the Ganges River,
a young Muslim (Forster uses the word Moslem) surgeon named Aziz
and his uncle, Hamidullah, await dinner at Hamidullah's house with their
friend, Mahmoud Ali, while bemoaning the condescending treatment they receive
from the British. Ali maintains it is impossible to become an Englishman's
friend. Hamidullah says it is possibleu0097but only in England.
had studied in England at Cambridge. On his vacations, a clergyman and
his wifeu0097the Rev. and Mrs. Bannisteru0097invited him into their home and treated
him as a member of the family. He became close to their little boy, Hugh.
Now, years later, Hugh works in the leather trade in India, but Hamidullah
does not attempt to contact him for fear that he has become just another
haughty Englishman. Before dinner, Aziz goes to the kitchen with Hamidullah
to visit Hamidullah's wife. She asks Aziz when he is going to remarry,
as she is wont to do whenever she sees him.
is enough,u0094 Aziz tells her politely, although he is a bit irritated.
asks her to stop pressing Aziz on the subject.
has three childrenu0097two little boys and a little girl, who stay with the
mother of Aziz's late wife. He supports the children generously while living
a spartan life himself.
the meal, a message arrives for Aziz: He must go at once to the home of
Major Callendar, the region's Civil Surgeon and Aziz's superior. Annoyed,
Aziz leaves, wondering whether there is a real medical emergency or whether
Callendar has called him just to demonstrate his authority. While Aziz
is riding his bicycle to Callendar's, a tire goes flat. Because there is
no time to repair the tire, he leaves the bicycle at the house of a friend.
Precious minutes pass while he hails a tonga (a small horse-drawn carriage
that serves as a taxi) for the rest of the trip. When he arrives at Callendar's,
a servant says the major went out but left no message instructing Aziz
what to do. Meanwhile, Mrs. Callendar and her friend, Mrs. Lesley, leave
the residence and take the tonga without asking Aziz. The entire experience
further annoys Aziz with the Callendars in particular and the British in
his way home, Aziz stops in the courtyard of an old mosque to spend a quiet
moment pondering the majesty of the building and the religion it represents.
After several minutes, an elderly Englishwoman enters. Angrily, Aziz shouts
that she cannot enter a holy place without first removing her shoes. The
woman, who has a kind face, says she has already done so. Aziz apologizes
I know your name?u0094
Moore,u0094 she says. She was attending a play at a nearby club for Englishmen.
Because she had already seen the play in London and because it was so hot
indoors, she decided to get a breath of air. They strike up a conversation.
correctly guesses that she only recently arrived in India. When she asks
how he knew, he tells her that her attitude toward him was the clue. (Apparently,
the longer Englishmen stay in India, the more they look down upon the nativesu0097or
so Aziz believes.) Mrs. Moore says she came to India to see her son, Ronny
Heaslop, the City Magistrate. His surname differs from hers, she says,
because he is the product of her first marriage. After her first husband
died, she remarried, becoming Mrs. Moore, and gave birth to two more children,
Ralph and Stella. Aziz tells her that he also has three childrenu0097Ahmed
and Karim, both boys, and Jamila, a girl.
offers to show her some morning the place where he works, Minto Hospital,
but she tells him that Major Callendar and his wife have already taken
her through it. When she reveals that she does not like Mrs. Callendar,
Aziz tells her that both Callendars treat him poorly. Mrs. Moore listens
attentively and sympathetically. Aziz is pleased.
Mrs. Moore returns to the club, Aziz escorts her. At the club's entrance
gate, she says she would invite him inside but cannot because she is not
a member. Aziz replies that even if she were a member, he could not accept
her offer. The club forbids Indians from entering even as guests.
the club, Mrs. Moore goes to the billiard room, where a young woman named
Adela Quested tells her, u0093I want to see the real India,u0094 a desire that
Mrs. Moore shares. Miss Quested, a schoolmistress, is Mrs. Moore's traveling
companion and the girlfriend of Heaslop, who expects to marry her. However,
Adela has not yet decided whether to go through with the marriage. After
the play ends, Heaslopu0097who had served as stage manager for the productionu0097enters
the billiard room to see Adela and his mother. When Adela repeats her request
to see the real India, he asks a gentleman passing by, u0093Fielding, how does
one see the real India?u0094
seeing Indians,u0094 he says. The gentleman is Cyril Fielding, the principal
at Government College, an institution for Indians. Unlike Heaslop, the
Callendars, and almost every other Englishman in government service, Fielding
does not look down on the Indians.
Adela expresses a wish to do as Fielding suggested, other ladies gather
around to express surprise that an Englishwoman actually wants to meet
the natives. One woman says that when she was a nurse to Indians before
her marriage, she remained "sternly aloof from them."
from one's patients?" Adela asks.
Turton, the wife of the governor of Chandrapore, Harry Turton (known as
the Collector because part of his job is to collect taxes), interrupts,
saying, "Why the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die."
Turton then says, "Do you really want to meet the Aryan brother, Miss Quested?
That can be easily fixed up?" He says he can arrange for her to see any
type she would like, noting that u0093I didn't realize [the local Indians]
would amuse you.u0094
The Bridge Party
says she wishes to see u0093those Indians whom you come across sociallyu0097as
your friends.u0094 Turton replies that he does not socialize with Indians,
then excuses himself and leaves. However, he does arrange a social event
at which Adela and Mrs. Moore can meet natives. He calls it a "bridge party"u0097that
is, a party designed to bridge the gap between Englishmen and Indians.
Among the Indians who accept an invitation to the party is the Nawab Bahadur,
a wealthy landowner and philanthropist from Dilkusha (twenty-five miles
away) who maintains cordial relations with the English. (Nawab is
an honorary title bestowed on Bahadur by the British. It can mean governor,
viceroy, or simply nobleman of exalted status.) Although one Indian, Ram
Chand, criticizes Bahadur for deciding to attend, other Indians follow
his example and go to the party. Aziz and a coworker, the elderly Dr. Panna
Lal, a Hindu, plan to go together in the latter's tum-tum (horse-drawn
eventu0097held on a Tuesday at the clubu0097does not go well. There is little mingling
between the English and the Indians. Heaslop criticizes the way the Indians
dress and remarks to Mrs. Turton that most of them are u0093seditious.u0094 Mrs.
Turton joins in the criticism and tells Mrs. Moore that Britons are u0093superior
to everyone in India except one or two of the Ranis, and they're on an
equality.u0094 Nevertheless, Adela and Mrs. Moore befriend the Indians, who
appreciate the attention they receive. When Mrs. Moore asks whether she
may visit one woman, Mrs. Bhattacharya, the woman agrees to receive them
on Thursday. Her husband says he will send a carriage and servants to pick
up Mrs. Moore and Adela.
Turton briefly leaves his English friends to greet the Indians perfunctorily,
then returns to his group. Cyril Fielding also greets the Indians, but
he remains with them. It is obvious that they like him. Pleased that Adela
and Mrs. Moore treat the Indians with respect, he invites them to his home
for a tea party. Narayan Godbole, a Hindu professor at Fielding's college,
will be there. Fielding also agrees to invite Aziz after Adela expresses
a wish to meet him. Aziz had decided not to attend the bridge party with
Panna Lal, as planned; instead, he stayed home to observe the anniversary
of his wife's death.
the bridge party is still in progress, he goes out to visit Hamidullah
but discovers that he is at the party. Aziz then borrows Hamidullah's pony
and polo mallet and goes to a field in the Maidan section of the town to
practice. While there, he and a British subaltern (officer with a rank
below that of captain) team up to polish their skills; they get along well.
At least on a polo field, Aziz and an Englishman are equals. However, when
they stop to rest, the narrator says, "Nationality was returning, but before
it could exert its poison they parted, saluting each other. A moment later,
a voice calls out to Aziz. It is Dr. Panna Lal, who is coming from the
have you been?" he says. "I waited ten full minutes' time at your house,
apologizes and makes an excuse. Dr. Lal complains further and also says
Aziz's absence was noticed. Irritated, Aziz says he does what he wants
when he wants. Dr. Lal rides off after accusing Aziz of making up the excuse.
Aziz does not worry that he might have offended Lal, for he does not like
Lal any more than he does Major Callendar, who, by way, sharply reprimanded
Aziz for not showing up late at his house when summoned.
Cyril Fielding's tea party on Thursday, Aziz arrives first. He and Fielding
become instant friends. After the women arrive, they express disappointment
that the Bhattacharyas failed to pick them up, as promised, to visit the
the Bhattacharya home. Aziz says of the Bhattacharyas, "Slack Hindusu0097they
have no idea of society; I know them very well because of a doctor [Panna
Lal] at the hospital. Such a slack, unpunctual fellow! It is as well that
you did not go to their house, for it would give you a wrong idea of India.
Nothing sanitary. I think for my own part they grew ashamed of their house
and that is why they did not send [a carriage]."
then invites everyone to his house. Mrs. Moore and Adela accept the invitationu0097to
Aziz's horroru0097for his own house, a bungalow, exhibits the same distinguishing
feature of Dr. Panna Lal's: shabbiness. Aziz had merely been making conversation.
He did not expect the women to take him up on his offer. Another unsettling
moment occurs after Aziz asks Adela whether she plans to live in India.
No, she says, she will be returning to England. Her reply indicates to
everyone within earshotu0097including Mrs. Mooreu0097that she has decided not to
marry Ronny Heaslop. Mrs. Moore is taken aback. Adela herself is stunned
at her own words, for she has not even informed Ronny of her decision.
Professor Godbole arrives. The elderly sage looks quite distinguished with
his turban and gray mustache. The ladies expect him to deliver himself
of profound philosophical observations, but he goes for the food and eats
on and on while the others converse.
Moore says she would like Fielding to show her the college, and he accommodates
her. Adela remains behind with Aziz and Godbole, for she has no interest
in seeing institutions. Instead, she again asks Aziz whether she may visit
his home, but he again dodges the question. To divert her attention, he
asks her whether she would like to see the mysterious Marabar Caves (the
fictional name of the real-life Barabar Caves in the Indian state of Bihar).
She would indeed, she says, then asks what makes them special. Aziz does
not have a ready answer, for he himself has never visited the caves. Godbole
gives only vague answers about them. He knows more, it seems, but is withholding
Heaslop shows up, looks around, and asks where his mother and Fielding
are. There is to be a polo match, Heaslop says, and he wants Adela and
his mother to attend it with him. Godbole informs him that they will return
shortly from a tour of the college, which is next door. Heaslop ignores
him and tells Adela that he has taken the afternoon off just so he could
take her and his mother to the match. Aziz invites him to sit down and
wait, but Heaslop won't be put off. He orders a servant to summon Fielding
Fielding and Mrs. Moore return, Heaslop tells Fielding he should not have
left Adela alone with two Indians. Of Aziz, who is speaking with Mrs. Moore,
Heaslop says, u0093Can't you see that fellow's a bounder?u0094 Fielding defends
Aziz, then pacifies Heaslop. The party breaks up while Godbole is singing
Moore does not wish to attend the polo match. Heaslop drops her off, then
continues on to the match with Adela. After the game, Adela informs Heaslop
that she has decided against marrying him. He takes the news in stride.
There are no harsh words. They remain friends.
Nawab Bahadur, who had also attended the polo match, comes over and offers
to take them for a ride in his new car. They accept. Bahadur and his chauffeuru0097Mr.
Harris, a Eurasianu0097sit in the front, and Heaslop and Adela in the back.
On the road, Adela's "hand touched his, owing to a jolt, and one of the
thrills so frequent in the animal kingdom passed between them, and announced
that all their difficulties were only a lovers' quarrel," the narrator
says. In the darkness, the car strikes something, swerves, bumps a tree,
and comes to rest. No one is injured. When the driver and passengers get
out, they surmise that the car had struck an animalu0097perhaps a hyena. Heaslop
then flags down an oncoming car with the words "Mudkul State" on the front.
The driver is an Englishwoman of his acquaintance, Nancy Derek. She had
dined with Heaslop and Adela after the bridge party, along with the police
superintendent, Mr. McBryde, and his wife. Miss Derek agrees to give them
a ride. The car belongs to her employers, the Maharajah and Maharani of
Mudkul; she had simply borrowed it for her own use without their permission.
There is room for everyone except Harris. Bahadur tells him to stay behind
and repair the car. Bahadur says he will send another man out with food
for the chauffeur. After Miss Derek drops off Bahadur, Adela tells Ronny
that she would like to marry him after all. He agrees to the proposal,
and they become engaged.
eventually makes good his promise to take Adela to the caves. He also invites
Mrs. Moore, Fielding, and Godbole and arranges for his cousin, Mohammed
Latif, and hired servants to go along . Early in the morning on the day
of their departure from the train station, Aziz, Latif, and his servants
are waiting on the platform when Mrs. Moore and Adela arrive with their
servant, Antony. Aziz says Antony is unnecessary, an observation that pleases
Adela, who does not like the servant. When she dismisses Antony, he insists
on remaining, saying Heaslop ordered him to remain with the ladies during
the trip. Aziz calls on Mohammed Latif for help, and he bribes Antony to
leave. Meanwhile, Fielding and Godbole are nowhere to be seen, and the
train pulls out without them. As it leaves the station, Aziz spies them
at a railroad crossing. The gate is down. It is too late for them to hop
the train pulls in downhill from the caves, an elephant awaits to carry
the travelers the rest of the way. Aziz had arranged for it at great expense
as a special treat. He is delighted to see that the prospect of riding
the beast up to the caves excites Adela and Mrs. Moore. The ladies, Aziz,
and Latif climb up into the howdah (seat), and the elephant begins the
slow climb. The servants follow.
they arrive, they enjoy refreshments served by Aziz's men, then enter the
darkness of a nearby cave. It is a horrid experience for Mrs. Moore.
with villagers and servants, the circular chamber began to smell,u0094 the
narrator says. u0093She [Mrs. Moore] lost Aziz and Adela in the dark, didn't
know who touched her, couldn't breathe, and some vile naked thing struck
her face and settled on her mouth like a pad. She tried to regain the entrance
tunnel, but an influx of villagers swept her back. She hit her head. For
an instant she went mad, hitting and gasping like a fanatic. For not only
did the crush and stench alarm her; there was also a terrifying echo.u0094
did not matter what a person said or shouted. Any noiseu0097even the blowing
of a nose [or] the squeak of a bootu0097produced a monotonous sound:
or bou-oum, or ou-boum. Anxiety stricken, Mrs. Moore escapes
the cave and returns to the picnic site, there to regain herself.
everyone else comes out, Aziz and Adela chat awhile with Mrs. Moore, who
has had enough of caves. Aziz and Adela then leave with their guide for
caves on a higher level in a rock face known as Kawa Dol. Aziz says these
caves are more interesting, more mysterious. On the steep climb, Adela
thinks about her relationship with Heaslop and concludes that she does
not love him. Nevertheless, she believes she will probably go through with
the marriage. She then questions Aziz about his background. When she asks
whether he has married, he answers yes but does not tell her his wife is
deceased. He also tells her he has three children, saying, u0093I adore them.u0094
As he responds, she notices u0093what a handsome little Orientalu0094 he is and
imagines that many women of his own race are drawn to him. Mrs. Turton
had told her that Muslim men always have several spouses.
you one wife or more than one?u0094 she asks.
question deeply insults Aziz. The narrator says,
"If she had said,
'Do you worship one god or several?' he would not have objected. But to
ask an educated Indian Moslem how many wives he hasu0097appalling, hideous!
He was in trouble how to conceal his confusion. 'One, one in my own particular
case,' he sputtered. . . . Quite a number of caves were at the top of the
track, and thinking, 'Damn the English even at their best,' he plunged
into one of them to recover his balance. She followed at her leisure, quite
unconscious that she had said the wrong thing, and not seeing him, she
also went into a cave, thinking with half her mind 'sight-seeing bores
me,' and wondering with the other half about marriage.".......Aziz
smokes a cigarette as he thinks up an excuse for why he had suddenly disappeared.
When he emerges, he cannot find Miss Quested. He scolds and slaps his guide
for not keeping an eye on her and frantically begins searching for her,
thinking, u0093This is the end of my career, my guest is lost.u0094 In a moment,
however, he sees her down below in a car with a woman driver. Relieved,
he concludes that she simply decided on a whim to go with the woman for
a drive. On his way back down, he notices Adela's binoculars lying just
inside the entrance to a cave. The strap is torn in half. Thinking she
must have accidentally dropped them, he picks them up, puts them in a pocket,
and returns to the picnic site. When he arrives, he is overjoyed to see
that his good friend Fielding is there. Fielding explains that Nancy Derek
had driven him to the cave site after hearing that he had missed the train.
He indicates that she is the driver of the car Adela had entered.
seems well again for Aziz. But all is not well.
he and the others return to Chandrapore, police arrest him on a charge
that the Superintendent of Police, Mr. McBryde, later explains to Fielding:
"He followed [Adela Quested] into [a] cave and made insulting advances.
She hit at him with her field-glasses; he pulled at them and the strap
broke, and that is how she got away.u0094
distraught, is recovering in the McBryde home, where Miss Derek and Mrs.
McBryde remove cactus needles that became embedded in her flesh as she
ran down from the caves through cactus fields.
is widespread interest in the case. The English think Aziz is certainly
guilty. The Indians think the charges are an attempt to embarrass them.
Of all the Britons in the community, only Fielding actively supports Aziz,
believing that the doctor is incapable of assaulting a woman. Meanwhile,
Adela tells Heaslop that she may be wrong about Aziz, but he tells her
she is "over-tired". When she again expresses doubt about what she thought
happened in the cave, he tells her, "I don't quite know what you're saying,
and I don't think you do." Eventually, he persuades her that she was right
to make the charge.
Moore tacitly supports Aziz, but she idly sits by, having never quite recovered
from her unsettling experience in the cave. The narrator says "something
very old and very small"u0097something that existed before time and spaceu0097"had
spoken" to her in the cave. She decides to leave India, to put behind her
the whole confusing muddle. However, all the ships at her point of embarkation,
Bombay, are booked full. Hearing of her plight, Lady Mellanby, the wife
of the Lieutenant-Governor of the state in which Chandrapore is located,
comes to her rescue. Lady Mellanby herself will be sailing to England in
her own reserved cabin, and she offers to share it with Mrs. Moore. It
is a generous gesture made by a woman known for her generosity, and Mrs.
Moore accepts it. After traveling by train across India to Bombay, she
boards the ship and travels in style. But the sound of the caves still
echoes in her mind.
seven-thirty on the morning when the trial is to begin, Adela is at the
Turton residence preparing for her ordeal. Heaslop is with her. Adela,
quite upset, tells him that she brings him u0093nothing but troubleu0094 and says
that perhaps they should not be married after all. He dismisses her comment;
for in her suffering, he admires her more than ever. Adela also worries
that she will break down under the questioning of Mr. Amritrao, a renowned
Oxford-educated Indian attorney brought in to help Mahmoud Ali defend Aziz.
The Nawab Bahadur, convinced of Aziz's innocence, will be paying the doctor's
Adela, Heaslop, and the Turtons arrive at court, where crowds are gathering,
they take refuge in Heaslop's private room. Several of their supporters
are also there, including the Callendars and Nancy Derek. Callendar, believing
a verdict of guilty is certain, says of the Indians, u0093It'll make them squeal
and it's time they did squeal.u0094
Turton says, u0093Why, they ought to crawl from here to the caves on their
hands and knees whenever an Englishwoman's in sight, they oughtn't to be
spoken to, they ought to be spat at, they ought to be ground into dust,
we've been far too kind with the Bridge Parties and the rest.u0094
the trial is about to begin, the courtroom is full and the heat is oppressive.
The assistant magistrateu0097Mr. Das, an Indianu0097is the presiding judge instead
of Ronny Heaslop because of the latter's relationship with the alleged
victim. Adela notices the handsome young Indian who pulls the rope that
works the punkah (fan). She is impressed by u0093something in his aloofness.u0094
presents an overview of the case and says Dr. Panna Lal and Major Callendar
are scheduled to testify about Aziz's character. McBryde then presents
what he believes is an accepted fact: that dark-skinned people are attracted
to whites, but not vice versa. Someone from the seating area shouts, u0093Even
when the lady is so uglier than the gentleman?u0094 Das orders the shouter
removed from the courtroom, but the police remove the wrong man.
then recounts events at the cave, maintains that Aziz's alleged assault
was premeditated, and tells of Miss Quested's escape down the hill to Miss
Derek's car. He cites the field glasses found on Aziz as incriminating
evidence. He also says that Aziz "is now entirely vicious and beyond redemption"
and charges that the doctor deliberately had Mrs. Moore "crushed into a
cave" in order to disorient her and get rid of her. Angry, Mahmoud Ali
brings a countercharge: that McBryde and Adela's supporters had Mrs. Moore
"smuggled out of the country" so that she could not testify on Aziz's behalf
and prove him innocent. He declares the trial a farce, hands his legal
documents to Amritrao, and leaves the courtroom.
Adela takes the stand, she tells her story under questioning from McBryde.
When he suggests that Aziz followed her into a cave, she hesitates, then
says, u0093I am not sure.u0094 A moment later, she says, u0093I'm afraid I have made
Callendar interrupts from the seating area, saying, u0093I stop these proceedings
on medical grounds.u0094 But the assistant magistrate, paying no attention
to Callendar, asks her whether she is withdrawing her charge against Aziz.
withdraw everything,u0094 she answers.
and his Indian supporters celebrate. However, a mob of them roves the streets
seeking vengeance. "Down with the Collector, down with the Superintendent
of Police," shouts Mahmoud Ali. Moments later, he says, "Down with the
Civil Surgeon . . . rescue Nurredin." Ali then explains that he overheard
Major Callendar bragging about torturing Nurredin, the grandson of the
Nawab Bahadur, at Minto Hospital, although Bahadur himself doubts that
such is the case. (Nurredin had been injured in a car accident several
days before and taken to the hospital for treatment.) When Ali says Callendar
called Nurredin a "nigger" and put pepper on his wounds, the mob marches
on the hospital. Dr. Panna Lal is already there. To save himself from the
crowd, he profusely apologizes, admitting that he was wrong to agree to
testify against Aziz.
Nawab Bahadur, in a show of solidarity with the Indians, renounces the
honorary title the British gave him and becomes known simply as Mr. Zulfiqar.
Relations between Muslims and Hindus improve, but Adela becomes an object
of scorn to most of the Indians and to many of the British. Fielding is
happy that she confessed but disappointed in her for having brought the
charges in the first place. However, to protect her from the mobs of Indians,
he takes her to the Government College.
Ronny Heaslop receives word that his mother, Mrs. Moore, died aboard her
ship while it was steaming southwestward in the Indian Ocean. She was buried
resting awhile at the college, Fielding and Adela talk. Adela asks, u0093Have
you any explanation of my extraordinary behavior?u0094 Fielding says, u0093Why
make such a charge if you were going to withdraw it?u0094
replies that she was not well on the day she visited the caves and thinks
she might have hallucinated. (Aziz and Godbole had also been sick recently,
perhaps as a result of something they ate at Fielding's tea party.) Fielding
says, u0093Either Aziz is guilty, which is what your friends think; or you
invented the charge out of malice, which is what my friends [Indians] think;
or you have had an hallucination. . . . I believe that you yourself broke
the strap of the field-glasses; you were alone in the cave the whole time.u0094
also consider the possibility that Aziz's guide had assaulted her. He disappeared
from the scene after Aziz struck him. The culprit could also have been
a member of a roving Pathan gang, they speculate.
arrives to summon Fielding to a victory celebration for Aziz. In defense
of herself, Adela tells Hamidullah, u0093I realized before it was too late
that I had made a mistake, and had just enough presence of mind to say
so. That is all my extraordinary conduct amounts to.u0094 Hamidullah responds
see you drag my best friend into the dirt, damage his health and ruin his
prospects in a way you cannot conceive owing to your ignorance of our society
and religion, and then suddenly you get up in the witness-box: 'Oh, no,
Mr. McBryde, after all I am not quite sure, you may as well let him go.'
standing at a window, Hamidullah notices Heaslop approaching the college.
Embarrassed to face him, Adela asks Fielding to go outside to talk with
him. Fielding leaves and confers for a moment with Heaslop on the verandah,
then returns to tell Adela that Fielding has news for her. After Adela
goes out, Fielding informs Hamidullah that Heaslop has received a cable
notifying him that Mrs. Moore has died. When Adela comes back in, she is
upset over the death of Mrs. Moore. For that reason and for her protection
against roving Indians, Fielding allows her to lodge temporarily at the
college while he stays elsewhere.
meanwhile, plans to sue Adela for all the trouble she has caused. When
Fielding visits him, he urges Aziz not to do so, saying it would ruin her.
must pay all your costs, that is only fair, but do not treat her like a
conquered enemy,u0094 Fielding says.
is unbending. However, in time, he decides to drop his legal action because
it was what Mrs. Moore would have wanted him to do. The English think no
better of him for sparing Adela. Aziz is not surprised. He is well aware
that he will be forever tainted in the minds of many of them.
a rumor circulates that Mrs. Moore was killed by her son to prevent her
from testifying for Aziz. Some Indians believe her grave is near a tannery;
others, that it is another location. In a week or so, the rumor dies down.
breaks up with Adela, who decides to return to England and become a schoolmistress
once again. She tells Fielding the breakup did not upset her or Heaslop.
ought never to have thought of marriage,u0094 she says.
days later she boards a ship and heads home, taking up residence in Hampstead,
a suburb of London. Heaslop, too, leaves Chandrapore, for he has been transferred
to new duties elsewhere in India. His replacement is a young man named
informs Aziz that he heard talk that Fielding had been intimate with Adela.
When Aziz has dinner one day with Fielding, he intends to confront him
on this matter. First, however, he informs him that a full-blown scandal
has been whispered across Chandrapore: McBryde and Nancy Derek have been
having an affair and McBryde's wife is suing for divorce.
pure-minded fellow," Aziz says sarcastically. "However, he will blame the
Indian climate. Everything is our fault really."
next informs him that there is to be a new Civil Surgeon, Major Roberts,
but says he is no better than Callendar.
my suffering has won nothing for us," Aziz says.
then brings up the rumor about Fielding and Adela Quested.
speak perfectly frankly," Aziz says, "they say you and she have been guilty
says the rumor is false. However, after Fielding tells him he will be going
to England on business, Aziz believes he is making the trip to marry Adela
for her money.
Godbole is now minister of education in Mau, a Hindu-controlled city several
hundred miles west of Chandrapore. Embittered Aziz has also relocated to
Mau and adjusted to its different cultural life, thanks to the help of
Godbole. Because Aziz respects the Hindus, they generally respect him.
He holds the position of physician to the Rajah of Mau. Life is pleasant
once again and his children are with him. Moreover, the narrator reports,
u0093he had married againu0097not exactly a marriage, but he liked to regard it
as one . . .u0094 He also writes poetry, mostly about u0093Oriental womanhood.u0094
day, Godbole receives a note from Fielding and sends it to Aziz. It announces
that Fielding, his wife, and his brother-in-law have arrived in Mau and
that Fielding will be seeking advice on local customs. Aziz discards the
note. He has no intention of renewing his acquaintance with Englishmenu0097especially
Fielding, Adela, and Adela's brother. However, Aziz soon discovers that
Fielding's wife is not Adela; rather, it is Mrs. Moore's daughter, Stella.
Her brother's name is Ralph. In time, Aziz and Cyril become friendly again.
However, Aziz says they can never be real friends until the English leave
India to the Indians.
Title and General Theme
M. Forster took the title of the novel from American author Walt Whitman's
poem u0093Passage to India,u0094 published in 1871. The word passage refers
to the Suez Canal, the 121-mile-waterway that connects the Mediterranean
Sea to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. When the canal opened on November
17, 1869, ships from England and other European countries could reach the
Orient without sailing around Africa. Whitman's poem celebrates the canal
as a great engineering achievement. More important, though, it hails the
canal as a means to improve communication between East and West and thereby
foster cultural, spiritual, and social interaction benefiting everyone.
(Whitman's poem also hails the 1866 completion of the transatlantic cable
between North America and Europe and the 1869 completion of the transcontinental
railroad between the eastern and western United States.)
general theme of the novel is that in spite of engineering achievements
such the canal the world has a long way to go before people of different
cultures, religions, and social systems can live side by side peacefully
as coequals. Only sincere goodwill can bring them together as brothers,
as Forster points out through his character Cyril Fielding, an Englishman
who sympathizes with Indians.
The Evils of British Imperialism
majority of Indians suffer humiliation and injustice under British rule.
Major Callendar, the chief surgeon at Minto Hospital, and Mrs. Turton,
the wife of the governor of Chandrapore, are among the most bigoted of
the British occupiers. The British get the best jobs and hold the best
government posts. Moreover, they treat the Indians as racially and culturally
inferior and exclude them from their social circles.
separating themselves from the Indians socially, the British limit their
opportunities to learn about Indian customs, religions, traditions, and
so on. Consequently, many of them regard India as a "mystery" and a "muddle,"
in the words of the narrator. This attitude leads to misunderstandings
and heightened tension between the English and the Indians. For example,
Adela Quested unwittingly insults Dr. Aziz when she asks him whether he
has more than one wife. She is unaware that such a question is out of bounds
for an educated Muslim. British ignorance of the Indian ethos and psyche
also leads to absurd generalizations, one of which is that dark-complexioned
people lust after whites. It also leads to wrongful judgments on a personal
level, such as Ronny Heaslop's unfounded assertion that Aziz is a "bounder"
(scoundrel, cad, opportunist).
The Difficulty of Achieving
Unity Amid Diversity
is difficult in India to achieve unity and harmony amid cultural and religious
diversityu0097unity here meaning equality, friendship, brotherhood. Forster
begins developing this theme early in the novel, when Mahmoud Ali asserts
that it is impossible for an Englishman and an Indian to become friends.
Hamidullah counters that he did become friends with a British family while
he was studying at Cambridge University in England. He qualifies his rebuttal,
however, by saying that such an Indian-British friendship can happen only
in England. After their arrival in India, Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested actively
seek friendship with Indians. They succeedu0097for a while, at least. But their
planned visit to the home of a Hindu family, the Bhattacharyas, falls through.
Moreover, their genial relationship with Dr. Aziz ends after the visit
to the Marabar Caves, where they hear diverse sounds echoed back as a single
sound. (For information on the significance of the sound, see The
Caves, The Cave Echo, The
Echo as a Hindu Sound.) Adela then becomes Aziz's enemy after accusing
him of sexual assault at the caves. Mrs. Moore remains his supporter in
the days leading up to his trial, but she leaves India just when he needs
her most. Cyril Fielding, the principal of Government College, befriends
Indians throughout the novel. But his friendship with Aziz also suffers
after a misunderstanding following the trial. The Nawab Bahadur, once on
good terms with the British, sours toward them as a result of the trial.
and Hindus have always beenu0097and continue to beu0097antagonists in India. In
Passage to India, the relationship between Dr. Aziz, a Muslim, and
Dr. Panna Lal, a Hindu underscores the tension between Muslims and Hindus.
Aziz and Lal despise each other, and Lal agrees to testify against Aziz
at the trial. Throughout the novel, Azizu0097though deeply insulted by British
prejudice against Indiansu0097frequently deprecates Hindus with unfounded generalizations
in the same way that the British find fault with the native populace. Of
the Bhattacharya family, he says, "Slack Hindusu0097they have no idea of society;
I know them very well because of a doctor [Panna Lal] at the hospital.
Such a slack, unpunctual fellow!" Azizu0097and no doubt many other Indiansu0097also
object to Christian proselytizing, as a passage in Chapter 9 indicates.
Aziz is lying sick in bed when
He could hear church
bells as he drowsed, both from the civil station and from the missionaries
out beyond the slaughter houseu0097different bells and rung with different
intent, for one set was calling firmly to Anglo-India [the British], and
the other feebly to mankind. He did not object to the first set; the other
he ignored, knowing their inefficiency. Old Mr. Gaylord and Young Mr. Sorley
[Christian missionaries] made converts during a famine, because they distributed
food; but when times improved they were naturally left alone again, and
though surprised and aggrieved each time this happened, they never learnt
final section of the novelu0097which takes place in the Hindu city of Mau,
to which Aziz has relocatedu0097offers hope for a better future. First, Muslim
Aziz receives help from Hindu Godbole. Muslims and Hindus are rivals, but
Aziz and Godbole demonstrate that traditional antagonists can get along
when they treat each other with respect and live together as equals. Second,
Aziz reconciles with Cyril Fielding and befriends Mrs. Moore's son, Ralph.
However, Aziz cautions Fielding that they will never have a lasting friendship
until the English leave India.
M. Forster modeled the fictional caves in A Passage to India on
actual caves about twelve miles from the city of Gaya in the state of Bihar.
However, the real caves are known as the Barabar Caves, not the Marabar
Caves (Forster's fictional name for them). A Buddhist ruler of the second
century BC, tolerant of other religions, ordered workers to hew the caves
from rock faces as holy places for monks of the Ajivika religion. There
are four Barabar caves. Their smooth interior walls sustain prolonged echoes.
What It Means to Mrs.
Moore and How It Affects Adela Quested
the first of the Marabar Caves, all soundsu0097sneezes, whistles, shoutsu0097return
the same echo: boum, or a variation of it such as ou-boum. This echo appears
to mock the Hindu concept that the entire universeu0097and everything in itu0097consists
of a single essence, Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmin
or Brahma). Even the human soul, called atman by
Hindus, is part of this essence. Thus, a whistle is a sneeze and a sneeze
is a soul, since all are Brahmanu0097that is, all are the same essence. The
echo unnerves Mrs. Moore because she vaguely understands that it represents
a force that reduces everything to samenessu0097a monotonous, empty sameness.
Even biblical words that she had lived by become part of the Brahman and
thus lose their meaning, as reported by the narrator in the last paragraph
of Chapter 14. Mrs. Moore is attempting to write a letter to her children,
Stella and Ralph, when ruminating over her experience in the cave.
the edge of her mind, Religion appeared, poor little talkative Christianity,
and she knew that all its divine words from u0093Let there be Lightu0094 to u0093It
is finishedu0094 only amounted to boum. Then she was terrified over an area
larger than usual; the universe, never comprehensible to her intellect,
offered no repose to her soul . . . .u0094.......Thereafter,
her experience in the cave haunts her, and she becomes irritable and depressed.
Like the biblical words, her life and everything she believes in lose their
meaning. India had fascinated her when she arrived in the country; now
it repels her. Its intriguing mystery has turned into the u0093muddleu0094 spoken
of by other Britons. No, she does not curse the country and its people
as Major Callendar and Mrs. Turton do. Nor does she side with Adela against
Aziz in the days leading up to the trial. But she can no longer tolerate
India; it is too much for her. She decides to leave. She does not even
stay to testify for Aziz. u0093Why should I be in the witness box?u0094 she later
says to her son Ronny. u0093I have nothing to do with your ludicrous law courts.u0094
The narrator then reports Heaslop's thoughts: u0093She was by no means the
dear old lady outsiders supposed, and India had brought her out in the
and in declining health, oppressed by the Asian heat, she dies aboard the
ship and becomes part of the vast emptiness of the Indian Ocean.
Mrs. Moore, Adela Quested is fascinated with India when she arrives in
the country. But she worries that its unbridled diversity will turn her
into just another cynical, disenchanted Anglo-Indian if she marries Ronny
Heaslop and becomes a resident of India. However, she sees a glimmer of
hope in Indian history, in particular in the person of the Mogul emperor
Akbar (1542-1605), who reigned from 1556 until his death. To unify the
populace, he instituted reforms that centralized government functions.
And, though a Muslim, he promoted dialogue between people of all religionsu0097Hindus,
Muslims, Parsis, and so onu0097and even attempted to establish a new religion
that combined elements of other religions.
discussing Akbar with Aziz (Chapter 14), Adela says, u0093[W]asn't Akbar's
new religion very fine? It was to embrace the whole of India.u0094 Aziz, acknowledging
that Akbar was a great ruler, responds that Akbar's idea of a single Indian
religion was wrong. u0093Nothing embraces the whole of India, nothing, nothing,
and that was Akbar's mistake.u0094 Adela then says, u0093I hope you're not right.
There will have to be something universal in this countryu0097I don't say religion,
for I'm not religious, but something, or how else are barriers to be broken
down.u0094 She ends up saying that without a unifying force she would find
it difficult as an Anglo-Indian to u0093avoid becoming like them [Mrs Turton
and Mrs. Callendar].u0094
when she enters one of the upper caves alone, she scratches a wall and
hears the echo. It is at this moment, she later reports, that Aziz attacks
her. She fights back with her field glasses, escapes the cave, races through
a field of cactuses that tear her skin and embed needles in it, and returns
with Miss Derek to Chandrapore. She is disoriented, in a state of shock.
After her recovery, she repeatedly hears the echo. But unlike Mrs. Moore,
she has no clue as to its meaning. When she asks the old woman what it
means, Mrs. Moore replies, u0093If you don't know, you don't know; I can't
to understand the sound, she becomes like the other English men and women
who cannot understand Indians. She even begins to question her own perceptiveness
and begins to realize that she has falsely accused Aziz. But Ronny and
the others, who are using her as an instrument to punish the Indians, persuade
her that she was right about Aziz. At the trial, however, she musters
the courage to admit she was wrong and drops the charges. She too then
departure of Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore foreshadows the historical British
exit from India in 1947, which Forster may have seen as inevitable.
Echo as a Hindu Sound
Undoubtedly, the most memorable
figure of speech in A Passage to India is onomatopoeia: the boum
echo in the caves. It calls to mind the om sound chanted by Hindus
and Buddhists. Of this sound, Encyclopaedia Britannica says,
The syllable Om
is composed of the three sounds a-u-m (in Sanskrit, the vowels a
u coalesce to become o), which represent several important
triads: the three worlds of earth, atmosphere, and heaven; the three major
Hindu gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; and the three sacred Vedic scriptures,
Rg, Yajur, and Sama. Thus Om mystically embodies the essence of the entire
universe. It is uttered at the beginning and end of Hindu prayers, chants,
and meditation and is freely used in Buddhist and Jaina ritual also. (Encyclopaedia
Britannica 2001, Standard Edition CD-ROM)Climax
climax of the novel occurs in the courtroom in Chandrapore when Adela Quested
says on the witness stand, u0093I'm afraid I have made a mistake.u0094 Her admission
frees Aziz but hardens the division between the Indians and the English. .
personification and other figures of speech, Forster turns nature into
a characteru0097sometimes a wary observer, sometimes a sinister presence, as
in the following passages:
April, herald of
horrors, is at hand. The sun was returning to his kingdom with power but
without beautyu0097that was the sinister feature. If only there had been beauty!
His cruelty would have been tolerable then. Through excess of light, he
failed to triumph . . . ; in his yellowy-white overflow not only matter,
but brightness itself lay drowned. He was not the unattainable friend,
either of men or birds or other suns, he was not the eternal promise, the
never-withdrawn suggestion that haunts our consciousness; he was merely
a creature, like the rest, and so debarred of glory. (Chapter 10)
Not infrequently, Forster personifies
nature to highlight the mystery of India and the failure of the logical
British mind to appreciate it. For example, in the following passage about
India's remarkable u0093false sunrise,u0094 Adela Quested attempts to explain it
scientifically, then ends up saying that she prefers sunrises in England.
The assemblage [of caves],
ten in all, shifted a little as the train crept past them, as if observing
its arrival. (Chapter 14)
[T]he sky to the
left turned angry orange. Colour throbbed and mounted behind a pattern
of trees, grew in intensity, was yet brighter, incredibly brighter, strained
from without against the globe of air. They awaited the miracle. But the
supreme moment, when night should have died and day lived, nothing occurred.
It was as if virtue had failed in the celestial fount. The hues in the
east decayed, the hills seemed dimmer though in fact better lit, and a
profound disappointment entered with the morning breeze. Why, when the
chamber was prepared, did the bridegroom not enter with trumpets and shawms,
as humanity expects? The sun rose without splendour. He was presently observed
trailing yellowish behind the trees, or against insipid sky, and touching
the bodies already at work in the fields.
The following metaphor-personification
underscores the British inability to understand India. It also may be an
oblique allusion to Indian disenchantment with Indian ruleu0097the key words
being stabbing and purple throat. Throughout history, purpleu0097whose
hues can extend to deep crimsonu0097has been the preferred color for royal
robes and other emblems of monarchical or imperial power.
that must be the false dawnu0097isn't it caused by dust in the upper layers
of the atmosphere that couldn't fall down during the night? I think Mr.
McBryde said so. Well, I must admit that England has it as regards sunrises.
Do you remember Grasmere?" (Chapter 14)
They looked out
at the palisade of cactuses stabbing the purple throat of the sky; they
realized that they were thousands of miles from any scenery that they understood
Examples of Figures of Speech
elephant had knelt, grey and isolated, like another hill. (Chapter 14)
train . . . wobbled away through the fields, turning its head this way
and that like a centipede. (Chapter 14)
[India's] houses, trees, and fields were all modelled out of the same brown
paste, and the sea of Bombay slid about like broth against the quays. (Chapter
advanced, swelled like a monster
at both ends, and left
room for the movements
Alliteration, and Hyperbole
cave walls were] smoother than windless
Flames of suspicion leapt
up in the breast of each man. (Chapter 9)
young man had much to worry himu0097the heat,
the local tension, the approaching visit of the Lieutenant-Governor, the
problems of Adelau0097and threading them all together
into a grotesque
were these Indianizations of Mrs. Moore. (Chapter 30)
of Terms in the Novel
begum: In Muslim countries,
a title for a woman of nobility or elevated social rank; Muslim wife or
bhakti: In Hinduism,
devotion to a deity that helps a person gain salvation.
Bo Tree of Gya (or
Tree; or Gaya): Tree in India's Bihar state under which Buddha
sat while attaining enlightenment, according to Buddhists.
Brahma: One of the
three major Hindu deities. His role is that of creator.
Brahman: In Hinduism,
the single eternal essence of which the universe is made.
Brahmin: In Hinduism,
a priest. Brahmins make up the highest class in the Hindu caste system.
songbird of Asia and Africa.
burra: Great; deserving
dharma: In Hinduism,
the law of the universe governing nature and morality; observance of this
law. In Buddhism, the universal truth, according to Buddha.
Goanese: Of or from
Goa, a state on India's west coast.
Gurkha: Hindu soldier
from Nepal who serves in the British or Indian army.
hookah: Water pipe
used to smoke tobacco.
seat for riding on an elephant's back.
huzoor: Term of respect,
such as sir or lord, used by Indians to address or discuss an important
of the Hindu god Vishnu.
carriage with four wheels and a top with front and back sections that can
be lowered separately.
Mohurram: In Islam,
the first month of the calendar. On the tenth day of this month, Muslims
commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of Mohammed.
On this day in A Passage to India, confrontations flare up between
Muslims and Hindus.
of traditional Indian dancing by professional dancers.
nawab: Title of respect
for an important man or a wealthy man.
nullah: Channel for
a watercourse, especially one that is dry; ditch, gully, ravine.
Pathan (or Pashtun):
People from northwestern India (now part of Pakistan) who speak the Pashto
pujah (or puja):
In Hinduism, a daily ritual in the home.
pukkah (or pukka):
Top notch, first rate.
punkah (also punka):
Fan of canvas affixed to a frame, hung from a ceiling and pulled back and
forth by a servant.
purdah: Curtain or
screen used by some Muslims and Hindus to hide women from the public eye;
Muslim and Hindu practice of keeping women fully clothed.
raga: Patterns of
melodies used in Hindu music, especially during improvisation.
raj: Rule or rulership.
Raj, British: British
government rule in India; the period when the British government ruled
ryot: Tenant farmer;
farmer who works a small piece of land.
saddhu: In Hinduism,
a holy man who begs his living.
sahib: Master, sir.
Indians used the word when addressing an Englishman.
salaam: The word
used as a greeting by Muslims.
garment that Indian women wrap around their bodies. One end is drawn up
over the bosom and draped over a shoulder.
Siva (also Shiva):
One of the three major Hindu deities. His role is that of destroyer and
shawm: Wind instrument
similar to an oboe.
shikar: Sport hunting.
topi: Head covering
to protect the wearer against the sun.
carriage for two passengers with a folding top.
Vishnu: In Hinduism,
one of the three major deities. His role is that of preserver.
wallah: Person who
carries out a particular function. A punkah-wallah operates a fan, for
example, and a tonga-wallah drives a tonga. Indians
use wallah in the same way Americans use man in the following
constructions: ice cream man, garbage man, mailman, etc.
Questions and Essay Topics
is the most admirable character in the novel? Who is the least admirable?
Explain your answers.
the following list, select a character you believe to be highly emotional
and a character you believe to be calm and unruffled. Give reasons for
his attitude toward women, does Aziz exhibit any progressive views?
Ronny Heaslop have many good qualities?
does the Nawab Bahadur drop his honorary title?
Moore's death should not come as a surprise to the careful reader. Cite
several passages that foreshadowu0097or at least prepare the reader foru0097her
the opening paragraph of Chapter 33 (up to the paragraph that begins with
"It was the turn of Professor Godbole's choir"). Which sentences in this
paragraph repeat a motif that the narrator presented after Adela Quested
and Mrs. Moore entered the first of the Marabar Caves? Are there any other
examples of this motif in the novel?
an essay, compare and contrast the plight of native-born Indians of the
early twentieth century with the plight of American blacks in the same
a short psychological profile of Dr. Aziz or Adela Quested.
10. To what extent did E.M.
Forster base A Passage to India on his own visits to India?