Critical Essays
Routledge Sourcebook
Forster on Novel Genre
Kindle Edition
A Passage to India
By E. M. Forster (1879-1970)
A Study Guide
Cummings Guides Home..|..Contact This Site
Type of Work
Historical Background
Point of View
Plot Summary
Title Origin
General Theme
Specific Themes
The Caves
The Cave Echo
Echo as Hindu Sound
Nature Imagery
Other Figures of Speech
Glossary of Terms
Study Questions
Essay Topics
Forster Biography
Complete Text
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2009
Type of Work

.......A 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 occupiers. 


.......The 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 “presents nothing extraordinary” and “trails for a couple of miles along the [river] bank, scarcely distinguishable from the rubbish it deposits so freely.” 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. 
.......In 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. 

Historical Background

.......European 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 of View

.......E. 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, but— 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 lingers—especially 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 the caves. 
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. 
Major Callendar: 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.
Hamidullah: Uncle and friend of Aziz. Hamidullah was educated at Cambridge University in England. He believes it is possible for an Indian to befriend an Englishman—but only in England, not in India.
Hamidullah Begum: 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. Nawab 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.
McBryde: Superintendent 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 Das.
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 in England.
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 Aziz.
Nureddin: Grandson 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.
Amitrao: Oxford-educated 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.
Mrs. Bhattacharya: Indian who invites Mrs. Moore to her home but fails to follow through on the invitation.
Subaltern: British 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.
Jamila: Daughter of Dr. Aziz.
America Missionary: Man who befriends Adela Quested when the latter stops at Port Said, Egypt, on her return trip to England.
Servant of Major Callendar: Man who greets Aziz when the latter is summoned to Callendar's house.

Plot Summary
by Michael J. Cummings.© 2009
.......It 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 possible—but only in England. 
.......Hamidullah had studied in England at Cambridge. On his vacations, a clergyman and his wife—the Rev. and Mrs. Bannister—invited 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. 
.......“Once is enough,” Aziz tells her politely, although he is a bit irritated. 
.......Hamidullah asks her to stop pressing Aziz on the subject. 
.......Aziz has three children—two 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. 
.......During 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 general.
.......On 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 profusely. 
.......“May I know your name?”
.......“Mrs. Moore,” 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. 
.......Aziz 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 natives—or 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 children—Ahmed and Karim, both boys, and Jamila, a girl. 
.......Aziz 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.
.......When 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. 
.......Inside the club, Mrs. Moore goes to the billiard room, where a young woman named Adela Quested tells her, “I want to see the real India,” 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, Heaslop—who had served as stage manager for the production—enters 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, “Fielding, how does one see the real India?”
.......“Try seeing Indians,” 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. 
.......When 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."
......."Even from one's patients?" Adela asks.
.......Mary 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."
.......Mr. 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 “I didn't realize [the local Indians] would amuse you.” 

The Bridge Party

.......Adela says she wishes to see “those Indians whom you come across socially—as your friends.” 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"—that 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 cart). 
.......The event—held on a Tuesday at the club—does 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 “seditious.” Mrs. Turton joins in the criticism and tells Mrs. Moore that Britons are “superior to everyone in India except one or two of the Ranis, and they're on an equality.” 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. 
.......Mr. 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. 
.......While 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 bridge party. 
......."[W]here have you been?" he says. "I waited ten full minutes' time at your house, then left."
.......Aziz 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. 
.......At 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 Hindus—they 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]."
.......Aziz then invites everyone to his house. Mrs. Moore and Adela accept the invitation—to Aziz's horror—for 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 earshot—including Mrs. Moore—that 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.
.......Mrs. 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 the information.
.......Ronny 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 at once. 
.......When 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, “Can't you see that fellow's a bounder?” Fielding defends Aziz, then pacifies Heaslop. The party breaks up while Godbole is singing a song. 
.......Mrs. 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. 
.......The 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 chauffeur—Mr. Harris, a Eurasian—sit 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 animal—perhaps 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. 

The Caves

.......Aziz 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 on. 
.......When 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. 
.......After 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. 
.......“Crammed with villagers and servants, the circular chamber began to smell,” the narrator says. “She [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.” 
.......It did not matter what a person said or shouted. Any noise—even the blowing of a nose [or] the squeak of a boot—produced a monotonous sound: boum, or bou-oum, or ou-boum. Anxiety stricken, Mrs. Moore escapes the cave and returns to the picnic site, there to regain herself. 
.......After 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, “I adore them.” As he responds, she notices “what a handsome little Oriental” 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.
.......“Have you one wife or more than one?” she asks.
.......The 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 has—appalling, 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, “This is the end of my career, my guest is lost.” 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. 
.......All seems well again for Aziz. But all is not well. 
.......After 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.”
.......Adela, 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. 
.......There 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. 
.......Mrs. 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"—something that existed before time and space—"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.

The Trial

.......At 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 “nothing but trouble” 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 legal costs. 
.......After 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, “It'll make them squeal and it's time they did squeal.” 
.......Mrs. Turton says, “Why, 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.” 
.......As the trial is about to begin, the courtroom is full and the heat is oppressive. The assistant magistrate—Mr. Das, an Indian—is 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 “something in his aloofness.”
.......McBryde 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, “Even when the lady is so uglier than the gentleman?” Das orders the shouter removed from the courtroom, but the police remove the wrong man. 
.......McBryde 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. 
.......When 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, “I am not sure.” A moment later, she says, “I'm afraid I have made a mistake.” 
.......Major Callendar interrupts from the seating area, saying, “I stop these proceedings on medical grounds.” But the assistant magistrate, paying no attention to Callendar, asks her whether she is withdrawing her charge against Aziz. 
.......“I withdraw everything,” she answers.
.......The trial ends. 

The Aftermath

.......Aziz 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.
.......The 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. 
.......Elsewhere, 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 at sea. 
.......After resting awhile at the college, Fielding and Adela talk. Adela asks, “Have you any explanation of my extraordinary behavior?” Fielding says, “Why make such a charge if you were going to withdraw it?”
.......She 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, “Either 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.”
.......They 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.
.......Hamidullah arrives to summon Fielding to a victory celebration for Aziz. In defense of herself, Adela tells Hamidullah, “I 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.” Hamidullah responds angrily. 
.......“I 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.' ” 
.......While 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.
.......Aziz, 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. 
.......“She must pay all your costs, that is only fair, but do not treat her like a conquered enemy,” Fielding says. 
.......Aziz 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. 
.......Meanwhile, 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.
.......Heaslop 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.
.......“We ought never to have thought of marriage,” she says.
.......Ten 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 Milner.
.......Hamidullah 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. 
......."That pure-minded fellow," Aziz says sarcastically. "However, he will blame the Indian climate. Everything is our fault really." 
.......Aziz next informs him that there is to be a new Civil Surgeon, Major Roberts, but says he is no better than Callendar.
......."All my suffering has won nothing for us," Aziz says.
.......Aziz then brings up the rumor about Fielding and Adela Quested.
......."To speak perfectly frankly," Aziz says, "they say you and she have been guilty of impropriety."
.......Fielding 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. 
.......Two years pass.
.......Professor 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, “he had married again—not exactly a marriage, but he liked to regard it as one . . .” He also writes poetry, mostly about “Oriental womanhood.” 
.......One 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 Englishmen—especially 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. 

The Title and General Theme

.......E. M. Forster took the title of the novel from American author Walt Whitman's poem “Passage to India,” 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.)
.......The 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. 

Specific Themes

The Evils of British Imperialism in India

.......The 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. 


.......In 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

**.......It is difficult in India to achieve unity and harmony amid cultural and religious diversity—unity 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 succeed—for 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. 

Religious Rivalry

.......Muslims and Hindus have always been—and continue to be—antagonists in India. In A 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, Aziz—though deeply insulted by British prejudice against Indians—frequently 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 Hindus—they have no idea of society; I know them very well because of a doctor [Panna Lal] at the hospital. Such a slack, unpunctual fellow!" Aziz—and no doubt many other Indians—also 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 house—different 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 wisdom.

.......The final section of the novel—which takes place in the Hindu city of Mau, to which Aziz has relocated—offers 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. 

The Caves

.......E. 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. 

The Cave Echo
What It Means to Mrs. Moore and How It Affects Adela Quested

.......In the first of the Marabar Caves, all sounds—sneezes, whistles, shouts—return the same echo: boum, or a variation of it such as ou-boum. This echo appears to mock the Hindu concept that the entire universe—and everything in it—consists 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 Brahman—that is, all are the same essence. The echo unnerves Mrs. Moore because she vaguely understands that it represents a force that reduces everything to sameness—a 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. 

“[S]uddenly, at the edge of her mind, Religion appeared, poor little talkative Christianity, and she knew that all its divine words from “Let there be Light” to “It is finished” 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 . . . .”
.......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 “muddle” 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. “Why should I be in the witness box?” she later says to her son Ronny. “I have nothing to do with your ludicrous law courts.” The narrator then reports Heaslop's thoughts: “She was by no means the dear old lady outsiders supposed, and India had brought her out in the open.” 
.......Elderly 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. 
.......Like 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 religions—Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, and so on—and even attempted to establish a new religion that combined elements of other religions. 
.......When discussing Akbar with Aziz (Chapter 14), Adela says, “[W]asn't Akbar's new religion very fine? It was to embrace the whole of India.” Aziz, acknowledging that Akbar was a great ruler, responds that Akbar's idea of a single Indian religion was wrong. “Nothing embraces the whole of India, nothing, nothing, and that was Akbar's mistake.” Adela then says, “I hope you're not right. There will have to be something universal in this country—I don't say religion, for I'm not religious, but something, or how else are barriers to be broken down.” She ends up saying that without a unifying force she would find it difficult as an Anglo-Indian to “avoid becoming like them [Mrs Turton and Mrs. Callendar].”
.......Later, 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, “If you don't know, you don't know; I can't tell you.”
.......Unable 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 leaves India.
.......The departure of Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore foreshadows the historical British exit from India in 1947, which Forster may have seen as inevitable. 

The 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 and 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)

.......The climax of the novel occurs in the courtroom in Chandrapore when Adela Quested says on the witness stand, “I'm afraid I have made a mistake.” Her admission frees Aziz but hardens the division between the Indians and the English. 
Nature Imagery

.......Using personification and other figures of speech, Forster turns nature into a character—sometimes 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 beauty—that 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)

The assemblage [of caves], ten in all, shifted a little as the train crept past them, as if observing its arrival. (Chapter 14)

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 “false sunrise,” Adela Quested attempts to explain it scientifically, then ends up saying that she prefers sunrises in England. 
[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.
......."Ah, that must be the false dawn—isn'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)
The following metaphor-personification underscores the British inability to understand India. It also may be an oblique allusion to Indian disenchantment with Indian rule—the key words being stabbing and purple throat. Throughout history, purple—whose hues can extend to deep crimson—has been the preferred color for royal robes and other emblems of monarchical or imperial power. 
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 (Chapter 19).
Other Examples of Figures of Speech


The elephant had knelt, grey and isolated, like another hill. (Chapter 14)
The train . . . wobbled away through the fields, turning its head this way and that like a centipede. (Chapter 14)
Its [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 29)

Simile and Alliteration

[T]he hot weather advanced, swelled like a monster at both ends, and left less and less room for the movements of mortals. (Chapter 22)

Simile, Alliteration, and Hyperbole

[The cave walls were] smoother than windless water. (Chapter 12)


Flames of suspicion leapt up in the breast of each man. (Chapter 9)

Metaphor and Alliteration

The young man had much to worry himthe heat, the local tension, the approaching visit of the Lieutenant-Governor, the problems of Adelaand threading them all together into a grotesque garland were these Indianizations of Mrs. Moore. (Chapter 30)

Glossary of Terms in the Novel

begum: In Muslim countries, a title for a woman of nobility or elevated social rank; Muslim wife or widow.
bhakti: In Hinduism, devotion to a deity that helps a person gain salvation.
Bo Tree of Gya (or Bodhi 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. 
bulbul: perching songbird of Asia and Africa.
burra: Great; deserving respect.
chuprassi: Messenger; servant; henchman.
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.
howdah: Canopied 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 person.
Krishna: Incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
landau: Horse-drawn 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.
nautch: Performance 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 language. 
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 India. 
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 peace used as a greeting by Muslims.
sari: Ankle-length 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 restorer.
shawm: Wind instrument similar to an oboe.
shikar: Sport hunting.
tonga: Horse-drawn carriage.
topi: Head covering to protect the wearer against the sun.
tumtum: Horse-drawn carriage.
vakil: Lawyer.
victoria: Horse-drawn 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. 

Study Questions and Essay Topics

1....Who is the most admirable character in the novel? Who is the least admirable? Explain your answers.
2....From 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 your selections.

Dr. Aziz
Mrs. Moore
Adela Quested
Cyril Fielding
Professor Godbole
3....In his attitude toward women, does Aziz exhibit any progressive views? 
4....Does Ronny Heaslop have many good qualities?
5....Why does the Nawab Bahadur drop his honorary title?
6....Mrs. Moore's death should not come as a surprise to the careful reader. Cite several passages that foreshadow—or at least prepare the reader for—her death.
7....Read 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?
8....In 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 time period.
9....Write 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?