Summary of the Novel
A Passage to India begins in the town of Chandrapore. The first section, entitled Mosque, introduces a gathering of Muslim friends who are discussing the problem of friendship with the Anglo-Indians, their British rulers. Among them is Dr. Aziz, a surgeon, who afterwards has a fateful meeting in a mosque with Mrs. Moore. Their conversation brings them close and later she introduces him to her younger friend, Miss Quested, who has arrived to marry Mrs. Moore’s son.
Various attempts are made to bridge the gap between the Indians and the English: an awkward mixed “bridge-party” at the English Club; Aziz’s brief experience of fellowship while playing polo with a subaltern; and an “unconventional” gathering of the Muslim Aziz, the Hindu Professor Godbole, Mrs. Moore, and Mrs. Quested at a teaparty at Fielding’s house. The relative success of the tea party inspires Aziz to invite all present to accompany him on a planned excursion to the Marabar Caves.
Miss Quested decides not to marry Ronny Heaslop, but then changes her mind and they become engaged. Driving in a car with the Nawab Bahadur, they have an accident; this draws them together and they announce their engagement to Mrs. Moore. Meanwhile, rumors, suspicion, and mutual rancor between Muslims and Hindus emerge in a gathering attended by Aziz, Dr. Panna Lal, and others, though they maintain a superficial politeness.
In the second section, The Caves, Aziz’s excursion begins. Fielding and Professor Godbole are delayed and do not join Aziz and the two women on the train. Once in the caves, Mrs. Moore is disoriented and overcome by incomprehensible sensations. She leaves the caves. Aziz and Miss Quested continue, but after she asks an annoying question, he leaves her and goes into another cave. When he emerges, he sees her far down the hill. Fielding, who is just arriving, asks about Miss Quested. Instead of telling the truth, Aziz invents a story. When they return to Chandrapore, Aziz is arrested. Miss Quested has charged him with attempting to “insult” her in the caves. This is clearly a euphemism for a sexual advance or attack.
The British community is furious and indignant; Aziz is denied bail. Fielding’s attempts to speak to Adela Quested fail. Mrs. Moore refuses to remain in India to testify at the trial. She books passage on a ship for England. Miss Quested tells her fiancé that Aziz is innocent, but Heaslop will not do anything about it. At the trial, when she finally takes the witness stand, she admits that she was mistaken about the supposed assault. The Muslims stage a march to celebrate Aziz’s release. Fielding rescues Miss Quested by taking her to his garden house. There, they learn that Mrs. Moore has died at sea, before the trial. Ronny Heaslop breaks his engagement to Adela, who leaves for England. Fielding resigns from the Club. Aziz has begun to distrust Fielding; he believes that Fielding is trying to keep Miss Quested from paying compensation and even that he is having a secret affair with her.
The third and final section, The Temple, takes place years later. Professor Godbole and Aziz are now living and working in the Native State of Mau, ruled by an aging Rajah. The section opens with Professor Godbole, who is now minister of education in Mau, and soon leads into the Gokul Ashtami, a great festival celebrating the birthday of Shri Krishna. There, Professor Godbole dances in worship of the god and remembers Mrs. Moore with love. Aziz has refused to read Fielding’s letters, still imagining that he has married Miss Quested. When Fielding arrives in his role as inspector of education, he attempts to make peace with Aziz, pointing out that his wife is not Miss Quested but Mrs. Moore’s daughter, Stella. Stella and her brother, Ralph, have come to India with him. Aziz at first treats Ralph roughly, but then, remembering Mrs. Moore, he softens toward him. The Rajah has died, although his death is being concealed. Aziz and Fielding go for a last ride together and recapture much of their old intimacy. Yet Aziz insists that the British must be forced out, so that India will be a sovereign nation. Fielding disagrees. Although the two men want to be friends, the historical circumstances do not allow for friendship between them.
The Life and Work of E. M. Forster
Edward Morgan Forster was born in London on January 1, 1879. After graduating from Tonbridge School, he attended King’s College, Cambridge where he was exposed to the values of liberal humanism and discovered an appreciation of the human being as an individual and the value of friendship. Many of the friendships he made at Cambridge were lasting ones, and he was later to travel to India for the first time with university friends.
Forster’s literary career began in 1903, when he began writing for The Independent Review, a liberal and anti-imperialist publication that he co-founded with Lowes Dickinson. He soon published his first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905); by 1910, he had written three more. The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908), and Howard’s End (1910) exhibit a growth in the novelist’s skill and in the range of his subjects. In A Room with a View, which is set first in Florence and then in English suburbia, Forster reveals himself as a critic of social snobbery and suburban pretension.
In addition to their observation of social codes, all of Forster’s novels portray sensitive characters struggling with the inflexibility of these codes and the insensitivity of those around them. Although Forster’s point of view is often comic and ironic, his characters’ personal feelings are usually presented as serious, or at key moments, sacred. This is especially apparent in Forster’s last novel, A Passage to India, first published in 1924. A Passage to India is the novelist’s acknowledged masterpiece.
Although Forster was born and raised in England, and lived much of his life there, travel was an important element in his life and work. During World War I, he obtained a position with the Red Cross in Alexandria, Egypt. By this time Forster was already an established and recognized writer. Forster’s life and career spanned many historical changes, including two world wars and the dismantling of much of the British Empire. He observed the British colonial administration first-hand in 1912, when he made the long journey by sea to India. After this trip, he wrote most of the first section of A Passage to India, but it was not until after a second visit, in 1921, when he spent six months as private secretary to a Hindu Maharajah, that he completed it. His masterpiece was published in 1924 and unanimously praised by literary critics. Members of the British colonial society in England were less enthusiastic. They criticized its portrayal of the colonial administrators, while some Indians wrote that he had misunderstood the Indian characters or treated them condescendingly. However, Forster’s goal was not to produce a documentary portrayal of India or Indian society; for example, he changed the names of Indian towns and regions, even inventing his own Marabar Caves in place of the actual Ajanta Caves. Instead of drawing a portrait of a country, he was presenting an overall impression that continually emphasized the way in which the inner qualities of certain individuals and universal feelings were restricted by social, religious, and ethnic codes. Above all, his novel dramatically depicted the deep spiritual tensions of two clashing civilizations: the East and the West.
After A Passage to India, his greatest success, Forster never wrote another novel. He turned, instead, to short stories, essays, and biographies. In 1925, he was awarded the Tait Black Memorial and femina Vie Heureuse prizes. Forster never married and he died in 1970. It was not until the year after his death that his 1914 novel Maurice was published for the first time.
Beginning with the Oscar-winning film of A Passage to India, which appeared in 1984, Forster’s popularity has increased. David Lean’s version of A Passage to India was followed by the Merchant-Ivory productions of A Room with a View and Howard’s End, in 1987 and 1992, respectively. The success of these films has led to a renewed appreciation of Forster’s gift for portraying the complex inner lives of his characters and the rigid, yet temporary, nature of the social structures they inhabit.
The political structure of the India that Forster visited and depicted in A Passage to India over 70 years ago was fundamentally different from that of India today. In Forster’s day, India was ruled by the British. It had not yet won its independence, nor had it endured the partition and savage rioting that followed it. Forster’s India was one country, not yet separated into India and Pakistan. The caste system, a strict social categorization that would later be attacked and weakened by Mahatma Gandhi and others, still ruled Hindu life and culture.
The India of Forster’s novel is still recognizable as a huge, hot, sprawling country, home to a multitude of ethnic groups and religions. Some 200 languages are spoken there. Religious and spiritual life seem to play a different, more open and imposing role in India than in the West. The major religions are Hindu and Muslim, with important minorities such as Sikhs and Parsis. The overall impression is one of diversity, sometimes accompanied by tolerance and sometimes by riots and massacres, during which one group attacks another or destroys sacred sites associated with another tradition.
A Passage to India is set in India under what was known as the British Raj, a system of colonial administration that began in a few coastal states as an outgrowth of the British East India Company. It grew to include almost all of India. The British East India Company’s major trade was in cotton goods, silks, spices, and saltpeter. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, aided by the British army and its Indian contingents, the Company extended its power and profits in India. In 1858, after the Indian Mutiny, the Company came under the direct rule of the British crown.
Although the mutiny is mentioned occasionally in Forster’s novel, it remains a ghostly presence and a reminder of a time when the subjects rose up against the representatives of the foreign power in their midst. The shock of the uprisings that took place in various parts of India, during which people were shot or hacked to death, reverberated in the memory of the English colonialists, while Indians never forgot the revolting punishments imposed when the mutiny was put down and the British Army took its revenge. Another and more recent massacre had occurred in the Punjab in 1919, between Forster’s first and second trip to India, when hundreds of peaceful Sikh demonstrators were shot down by the British Army at Amritsar.
Deeply shocked by the reports from Amritsar, Forster condemned the massacre as an example of “public infamy.” It was the slaughter of the nationalist demonstrators at Amritsar, as well as Britain’s hostility toward the Khilafat, an Islamic movement, which led Hindus and Muslims to join in a non-cooperation movement. Although Forster lived in the Hindu state of Dewas during his second visit to India, he was aware that this movement was growing rapidly in British India, and was producing marked changes in the Indian social and political scene. Besides protesting against imperialism, social discrimination, and repression, the native inhabitants of the country were attempting to regain control of their own destinies. A Passage to India depicts the conditions under which Indians were deprived of opportunities for advancement and were continually overlooked or insulted by the Anglo-Indian ruling class.
A specific historical situation that Forster probably employed in constructing the central incident in A Passage to India had occurred in Amritsar in 1919, around the time of the massacre. It was written by “an Englishwoman” who was new to India and had lived in Amritsar at the time of the nationalist demonstrations. In her article, published in Blackwood’s Magazine in April 1920, she describes an occasion on which an English girl had been brutally assaulted by a group of Indians. In the aftermath, the Anglo-Indians gathered at the Fort and special trains took the women to the hills, just as in the novel. Forster may well have read this Englishwoman’s account and based parts of A Passage to India on it. Various other features of the historical events, including the conciliatory tactics adopted by the British authorities after the crisis, seem to be reflected or referred to in the novel.
When seen against the historical background of British rule in India, the events of the novel take on greater resonance. For example, in the context of punishments that had actually been inflicted on Indians—such as the “crawling order” that forced them to crawl on all fours through a particular lane after the Amritsar assault—the bitter vengefulness expressed by some Anglo-Indian characters in the novel cannot be attributed simply to individual aberrations. Revenge had become an instrument of government policy. Similarly, the Indians’ deep distrust of their British rulers, which at times seems to border on paranoia, can be understood as a reaction to the system of apartheid instituted by the British Raj.
Master List of Characters
Dr. Aziz—Muslim surgeon, works under Major Callendar; accused by Miss Quested; becomes a friend of Fielding.
Hamidullah—Muslim friend and relative by marriage of Aziz, prominent Chandrapore barrister; aspires to social contact with the English but is aware of the difficulties.
Mahmoud Ali—Muslim lawyer, friend of Hamidullah and Aziz; a troublemaker who is constantly spreading malicious rumors.
Mohammed Latif—Muslim, poor relation of Hamidullah, neither servant nor equal.
Mrs. Moore—Older woman, sensitive to the soul of India, friendly to Aziz and Miss Quested, mother of Ronny Heaslop, later becomes known as a Hindu Goddess; Esmiss Esmoor.
Major Callendar—The civil surgeon, Aziz’s superior but not as good a doctor, disrespectful toward Indians and ignorant of Indian life.
Ronny Heaslop—The city magistrate, Mrs. Moore’s son, insecure, wants to do his duty but bewildered by India; becomes Miss Quested’s fiancé.
Miss Adela Quested—Intellectual, considered unattractive, thinks with her head rather than her heart, close to Mrs. Moore; becomes engaged to Ronny Heaslop, accuser of Aziz, confides in Fielding.
Mr. Turton—The collector, a civil servant.
Mrs. Turton—Insensitive, used to giving orders, at first conventionally prejudiced, later furiously authoritarian and vengeful.
Cyril Fielding—Principal of Government College at Chandrapore; looked down on by Anglo-Indians, becomes friend of Aziz, helps Miss Quested after the trial, later marries Mrs. Moore’s daughter, Stella.
Nawab Bahadur—Muslim, referred to as the “geyser,” wealthy proprietor and philanthropist, grandfather of Nureddin, haunted by a ghost.
Mr. Ram Chand—Hindu associate of Dr. Panna Lal.
Mr. Graysford and Mr. Sorley—Anglo-Indian missionaries.
Miss Nancy Derek—Assistant to a Maharani in Native State, crude, talkative, makes fun of Indians, having an affair with the magistrate, McBryde.
McBryde—District Superintendent of Police, tough-minded, most reflective and best educated of the officials.
Mrs. McBryde—His wife.
Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharya—Hindus of some wealth and status.
Dr. Panna Lal—Low-caste Hindu, fellow-assistant but not friend of Aziz, something of a caricature.
A Subaltern—Anglo-Indian army officer of lower rank.
Professor Narayan Godbole—Hindu, a Deccani Brahmin of the highest caste, elderly, scholarly; his name suggests “God man of God,” a philosopher and devotee of Shri Krishna, acquaintance of Aziz and his Muslim friends, and of Fielding.
Mr. Harris—The Eurasian chauffer.
Krishna—An attendant in Heaslop’s office.
Nureddin—The Nawab Bahadur’s grandson, at first beautiful, later mutilated in an accident.
Syed Mohammed—An engineer.
Mr. Haq—Indian police inspector, at first friendly with Aziz, later arrests him.
Rafi—Student of Fielding’s, called the “Sherlock Holmes of Chandrapore” because of his love of gossip and rumor.
Antony—Servant of Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested, considers himself of a higher class than other servants.
A Young Mother—Blonde Englishwoman; symbolizes British womanhood.
Mr. Amritrao—Oxford-educated Calcutta barrister, notoriously anti-British; Aziz’s lawyer at the trial.
Lady Mellanby—Wife of the lieutenant-governor of the providence.
Sir Gilbert Mellanby—Lieutenant governor of the providence.
The punkah-wallah—A fan attendant, divinely beautiful, does not speak, a force of nature.
Mr. Das—Hindu judge nominally in charge of Aziz’s trial; Heaslop’s assistant.
Shri Krishna—Hindu deity, incarnate god of love and wisdom; center of Gokul Ashtami festival in celebration of his August birthday.
Major Roberts—The new civil surgeon.
Young Milner—The new city magistrate.
Rajah of Mau—Hindu ruler of an independent Native State where Dr. Aziz and Professor Godbole are living at the end of the novel.
Colonel Maggs—British political agent in Mau who attempts to harass Aziz.
Ralph Moore—Mrs. Moore’s son, Stella’s brother, Fielding’s brother-in-law, intimidated and then embraced by Aziz.
Stella (Moore) Fielding—Mrs. Moore’s daughter, then Fielding’s wife, she is spiritually in tune with India and inwardly tranquil.
Jemila, Ahmed, and Karim—Aziz’s children.
Estimated Reading Time
The average reader may wish to dedicate at least six hours to A Passage to India, in order to become accustomed to the exotic setting, the large cast of characters with their ethnic backgrounds, and the intricacies of both British and Indian social systems. (A glossary of Anglo-Indian terms is provided in the appendix of this study guide.) It is essential to pay close attention to the three-part division of the novel, and to consider the title of each section and how it relates to individual chapters.
The first section concentrates on identifying and distinguishing individual characters, their contrasting backgrounds, and the differences and similarities between them. Themes of sex and marriage, and of ghosts and secrets make their appearance, and the great theme of kindness between cultures and between individuals is emphasized at the end.
The next section is introduced by a description of the mystical and symbolic Marabar Caves. This section constitutes the heart of the novel and presents its principal dramatic and thematic content. The climax of the novel occurs when Aziz’s trial takes place. This scene should be read carefully, both for its theatrical quality and its resolution. The end of the Caves section presents the aftermath of the trial and emphasizes the themes of death and departure.
A final, short section begins two years later. Its chapters can easily be read as a single unit, with particular attention to the scene of Professor Godbole dancing at the Krishna festival and the confrontation between Fielding and Aziz in the book’s final scene.
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
A Passage to India has a tripartite structure labeled mosque, caves, and temple. Each section serves as a symbolic signpost and corresponds to the seasons of the Indian year.
After being summoned to the house of Major Callendar, Dr. Aziz, a Moslem doctor at the government hospital, discovers that the major has gone and that he must walk back to his house because two English women departed in his hired tonga (two-wheeled vehicle). While stopping at a mosque on his way back to Chandrapore, Aziz meets Mrs. Moore, the mother of Ronald Heaslop, the city magistrate. Aziz and Mrs. Moore seem to “connect” with each other and share a common understanding of life. Under the racially fragmented system of British colonialism, however, neither the British nor the Indians can speak publicly of this kind of communication. The elderly Mrs. Moore invites Aziz to walk back to the club with her and introduces him to Adela Quested, newly arrived from England and the fiancé of her son. Although A Passage to India clearly addresses social and political issues, the major theme is the plight of the human race. The fact that the characters struggle unsuccessfully to “connect” in the novel indicates Forster’s pessimism, yet he portrays a desire on the part of Aziz, Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Adela to understand and to establish meaningful relationships with each other.
Mrs. Moore and Adela want to see the real India and complain about the...
(The entire section is 1174 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Dr. Aziz is doubly snubbed this evening. He had been summoned to the civil surgeon’s house while he was at supper, but when he arrived, he found that his superior had departed for his club without bothering to leave any message. In addition, two Englishwomen emerged from the house and took their departure in his hired tonga, or horse-drawn vehicle, without even thanking him.
The doctor starts back toward the city of Chandrapore afoot. Tired, he stops at a mosque to rest and is furiously angry when he sees an Englishwoman emerge from behind its pillars with, as he thinks, her shoes on. Mrs. Moore, however, had gone barefoot to the mosque, and in a surge of friendly feelings, Dr. Aziz engages her in conversation.
Mrs. Moore had recently arrived from England to visit her son, Ronald Heaslop, the city magistrate. Dr. Aziz finds they have common ground when he learns that she does not care for the civil surgeon’s wife. Her disclosure prompts him to tell of the usurpation of his carriage. The doctor walks back to the club with her, although as an Indian, he himself cannot be admitted.
At the club, Adela Quested, Heaslop’s prospective fiancé, declares she wants to see the real India, not the India seen through the rarified atmosphere of the British colony. To please the ladies, one of the members offers to hold what he whimsically terms a “bridge party” and invite some native guests. The bridge party is a miserable affair. The...
(The entire section is 1162 words.)
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Part I, Chapters I – III: Summary and Analysis
Dr. Aziz: Muslim surgeon working under Major Callendar
Hamidullah: Muslim, prominent Chandrapore barrister
Mahmoud Ali: Muslim lawyer, a troublemaker
Mohammed Latif: Hamidullah’s relative and hanger-on
Major Callendar: English, the civil surgeon
Mrs. Moore: older Englishwoman visiting India, mother of Ronny
Ronny Heaslop: English, the city magistrate
Miss Adela Quested: young Englishwoman visiting India
Mr. Turton: English civil servant, the collector
Mrs. Turton: his wife
Cyril Fielding: Principal of Government College at Chandrapore
There is a description of the town of Chandrapore and its tri-partite division into Indian, Eurasian, and English sections. The larger setting dominates: the river Ganges, vegetation, the sky and the sun, and, 20 miles to the south, the Marabar Hills and their fabled caves.
In Chapter II, Aziz and Mahmoud Ali gather at Hamidullah’s house and discuss the topic of friendship between Indians and the English. Hamidullah takes Aziz into the purdah quarters to see his wife, who raises the question of whether Aziz will marry again. When they finally sit down to dinner, they are interrupted by a servant who bears a note summoning Aziz to the bungalow of Major Callendar. Aziz reluctantly sets out. When he reaches the bungalow, the Major is not...
(The entire section is 1191 words.)
Part I, Chapters IV – VI: Summary and Analysis
Nawab Bahadur: wealthy Muslim landowner
Mr. Ram Chand: Hindu associate of Dr. Panna Lal
Mr. Graysford and Mr. Sorley: Anglo-Indian missionaries
Miss Nancy Derek: Anglo-Indian companion to a Maharani
The McBrydes: Anglo-Indian District Superintendent of Police and his wife
Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharya: Hindus of some wealth and status
Mrs. Das: a relation
Dr. Panna Lal: Hindu doctor, Aziz’s fellow assistant
A subaltern: Anglo-Indian army officer of lower rank
Some of the Muslims discuss whether or not they should accept Turton’s invitation to the gardens of the Club. The Nawab Bahadur believes that they should go, and his influence prevails. The narrator refers to all of those Indians who are so poor and considered so insignificant that they have not been invited, and to the missionaries Mr. Graysford and Mr. Sorley, who minister to this stratum of society and never come to the Club.
Chapter V takes us to the bridge-party. Heaslop and Mrs. Turton are condescending to the Indian women, who are uneasy and uncertain about how to behave. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested try to open a conversation with them. Mrs. Moore asks if they may visit Mrs. Battacharya and Mrs. Das in return. Mr. Turton is perfunctory in his greetings. Only Mr. Fielding comes in and talks to everyone. Speaking to Miss Quested afterwards,...
(The entire section is 1092 words.)
Part I, Chapter VII: Summary and Analysis
Professor Narayan Godbole: an elderly Hindu of the Brahmin caste
Aziz is the first to arrive at Fielding’s tea party. When Fielding can’t find his collar stud, Aziz removes his and loans it to him. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested arrive. Professor Godbole arrives and has his tea apart from the others. Aziz asks Miss Quested why she doesn’t settle in India. Miss Quested replies that she couldn’t do that, and is then surprised and taken aback at her reply. Aziz invites the party to visit the Marabar Caves with him. He has never been there; Professor Godbole describes them vaguely.
Ronny Heaslop arrives and wants to take Adela to see a polo game. He ignores Aziz and Professor Godbole, criticizes Fielding for leaving Miss Quested alone with Aziz and Professor Godbole, and makes disparaging remarks about Aziz. Aziz mentions that Miss Quested will not stay in India. They all say good-bye, feeling uneasy. As Heaslop, Miss Quested, and Mrs. Moore start to leave, Professor Godbole begins to sing a religious song to Shri Krishna. The chapter ends in silence.
This chapter depends on rapid alterations of tone and mood, like a piece of music. It ends with a musical composition, a song that is unfamiliar to European ears. Although some outward forms of civility are maintained, the mood shifts rapidly throughout the chapter.
It begins with a growing intimacy...
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Part I, Chapter VIII: Summary and Analysis
Mr. Harris: the Eurasian chauffeur
Krishna: an attendant in Heaslop’s office
Nureddin: the Nawab’s grandson
After leaving the party, Ronny Heaslop picks out Aziz’s missing collar stud as a clue to the forgetful character of all Indians. Mrs. Moore does not want to go to the polo game, and Adela also declines, so Heaslop decides to drop the polo. Losing his temper, he orders his mother and Adela to have nothing to do with Indians in the future. He and Adela leave Mrs. Moore at the bungalow and go to the polo game after all. While they are at the polo grounds, Adela requests a “thorough talk,” and she says she will not marry him. They see a bird that no one seems able to describe.
The Nawab Bahadur arrives at the maidan and offers them a ride in his car. The Nawab gets into the front seat next to his chauffeur and falls asleep. Heaslop tells the chauffeur to take a different road. Suddenly, there is an accident and the car runs into a tree on the embankment. Miss Quested says that they hit an animal, which caused the car to go off the road, but no one seems to be able to determine what kind of animal it was.
Miss Derek drives by in “her” Maharani’s car and picks up everyone but the chauffeur. Nawab Bahadur praises the orderliness of British India, contrasting it to the superstition of the Indians. Heaslop and Adela, who have grown closer...
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Part I, Chapters IX – XI: Summary and Analysis
Hassan: Aziz’s servant
Syed Mohammed: a Muslim engineer
Mr. Haq: the Muslim police inspector
Rafi: Syed Mohammed’s nephew
Aziz is ill in bed. He fantasizes about dancing girls and sex. Hamidullah, Syed Mohammed, Mr. Haq, and Rafi come to visit and sympathize. Rafi first suggests that Aziz and Professor Godbole must have become ill after having tea with Fielding, then maintains that Professor Godbole has cholera. Syed Mohammed and the others speak scornfully of Hindus as a source of infection. Dr. Panna Lal arrives, accompanied by Ram Chand. He examines Aziz perfunctorily. The others inquire about Professor Godbole’s illness. The Hindus and Muslims begin to quarrel.
Fielding enters and there is friendly joking. The conversation turns to God; he says that he doesn’t believe in God. He is asked: “How is England justified in holding India?” and has no real answer, saying that he, personally, is in India because he needed a job. The Indians are unable to understand what he means. There is a discussion about whether or not India is spiritual.
The focus is on the larger picture, in which human beings play only a minor role. The heat and the approach of bad weather are emphasized. The sun is depicted as powerful but sinister, finally, only a creature.
Although the rest of Aziz’s visitors have left, no one has brought Fielding his...
(The entire section is 841 words.)
Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Summary and Analysis
Antony: Mrs. Moore’s and Miss Quested’s servant
The Marabar Hills, one of the oldest geographical phenomena in the world, stand at a border where newer lands are advancing to cover the old. The repetitive layout of the caves is easily described, but there is something extraordinary and inhuman, or extra-human, about them that escapes description. They are dark inside, yet if a visitor strikes a match an answering flame is mirrored on the exquisitely polished walls of the circular chamber.
From the upper verandah of the Club, the hills look distant and romantic. Here Miss Quested is overheard remarking that she would like to have visited the caves. This report, magnified by rumor, travels to Aziz and forces him to begin planning an expedition. He asks Fielding and Godbole, and requests Fielding to invite the women. Everyone accepts, although no one is enthusiastic about this picnic.
Aziz makes elaborate arrangements, including borrowing servants from his friends. Miss Quested, Mrs. Moore, and their servant arrive early in the morning, but Aziz persuades them to leave their servant behind. Fielding and Godbole have been delayed by Godbole’s pujah, and when the train starts up, they are still on the other side of the level crossing. Aziz jumps onto the footboard, and in response to his howls, Fielding attempts to jump on, but misses his friend’s outstretched hand and...
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Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Summary and Analysis
An Indian guide
Miss Derek’s chauffeur
A Brahmin cook: hired by Aziz for Godbole
Miss Quested, Aziz, and a guide continue the expedition, which is described as slightly tedious. Aziz is preoccupied with thoughts of the breakfast menu, and Adela with her coming marriage. She is suddenly struck by the thought that she and her fiancé do not love each other, and is appalled. As they climb in the heat, she begins to question Aziz about his marriage. Aziz claims that his wife is alive. Then Adela naively asks him if he has more than one wife. Aziz is insulted by the question and plunges away into another cave to regain his composure. Adela goes off into a different one.
When Aziz returns to look for her, he scolds the guide for not keeping her in sight. He attempts to search the other caves, but becomes completely confused. He realizes that the noise of the car he had previously heard indicates that friends of Miss Quested’s are there, and he catches a glimpse of her far down the gully. He finds her field glasses lying in an entrance tunnel, the strap broken. He scrambles down to find Mrs. Moore and is delighted to discover that Fielding has arrived.
Aziz remarks airily that Miss Quested has gone down to visit Miss Derek. As they go down to escort Miss Derek to the picnic, her chauffeur stops them to announce that Miss Derek is driving Miss Quested back to...
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Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Summary and Analysis
A young mother: blonde Englishwoman, symbolizes British womanhood
A subaltern: British army officer of lower rank, supports Major Callendar
Mr. Amritrao: an Oxford educated, Hindu Calcutta barrister, notoriously anti-British
Mr. McBryde detains Aziz, explaining that he may be released on bail. When Fielding arrives, McBryde explains the charge to him. Fielding asks to see Miss Quested, but his request is denied. He declares that he believes Aziz is innocent. His request to see Aziz is also denied. The contents of Aziz’s table-drawer are brought in; Mr. McBryde says triumphantly, “Photographs of women.” Fielding explains that the photograph is of Aziz’s wife.
Hamidullah is waiting outside the superintendent’s office. He prattles to Fielding about policy and evidence. Concentrating wholly on Aziz’s innocence, he is aware of how his reactions differ from those of the Indians with whom he has decided to side. Hamidullah wants to hire Amritrao, a noted Calcutta barrister, to defend Aziz. He believes having a Hindu in charge of the defense will widen its appeal.
Fielding next has a vague talk with Godbole. The professor talks of other matters and seems unconcerned about Aziz. He says he is to start a high school in Central India, in the state of Mau.
Fielding begs him for a personal opinion on Aziz’s innocence or guilt. Godbole dissolves the...
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Part II, Chapters XXII – XXIII: Summary and Analysis
Lady Mellanby: wife of the lieutenant-governor of the province
Adela is recuperating in the McBryde’s bungalow, with Miss Derek and Mrs. McBryde hovering over her, picking cactus spines from her flesh. Whenever she tells the story of the Marabar Caves, she begins to cry. Adela is plagued by a recurring echo that makes her feel that Evil has gotten loose and is entering other people’s lives.
When Adela’s temperature has fallen to normal, Heaslop takes her away. He tells her that there had nearly been a riot on the last day of Mohurram; the procession had tried to enter the civil station. When she learns that she will have to appear in court to identify Aziz and be cross-examined by an Indian lawyer, she asks to have Mrs. Moore with her.
Like other Anglo-Indians, McBryde and Heaslop are indignant that an Indian judge, even Ronny Heaslop’s assistant, will preside over a case involving an Englishwoman. McBryde gives Adela a letter from Fielding. The superintendent tells her of Fielding’s behavior at the Club and that he is now a mainstay of the defense. According to the superintendent, he is also responsible for the Mohurram troubles. Miss Quested reads the words, “Aziz is innocent.” Her only response is to worry about Fielding’s treatment of Heaslop.
As they near Mrs. Moore’s bungalow, Ronny warns her not to expect too much; his mother is old and irritable,...
(The entire section is 1051 words.)
Part II, Chapter XXIV: Summary and Analysis
The punkah-wallah: a beautiful Untouchable who works the courthouse fan
Mr. Das: Hindu judge presiding over the trial, Heaslop’s assistant
Adela is now staying with the Turtons. Ronny continues to support her faithfully, yet she asks herself if she is capable of loving anyone. Fearing that she will break down under cross-examination, she tells the Turtons that her echo has come back.
There are signs of unrest on the way to the court, and they hear further reports about it. The Anglo-Indians tend to blame Fielding. Major Callendar issues another brutal tirade against these “buck niggers,” during which he refers mockingly to the disfigured face of Nureddin, now in the hospital after the accident. Mrs. Turton chimes in, calling the men weak and saying that the Indians should be made to crawl.
The case is called. The first person Adela notices is the humblest, a strong and beautiful Untouchable who pulls the cord of the hanging fan. She is impressed by the punkah-wallah’s aloofness.
McBryde opens the case for the prosecution. His manner implies that Aziz is guilty and the trial only a formality. Describing the prisoner as a man of loose life, he deploringly remarks that darker races are physically attracted by lighter races, but not the other way around. An Indian spectator asks, “Even when the lady is so uglier than the gentleman?” He is...
(The entire section is 1230 words.)
Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Summary and Analysis
Miss Quested is carried out of the courtroom by a mass of Indians. A riot is beginning. She is rescued by Fielding, who takes her to his victoria, ignoring Aziz’s call to him. Students, placing garlands around Fielding’s neck, pick up the shafts and carry them through the main bazaar. Despite the ill-feeling against Miss Quested, more garlands are flung around her neck and Fielding’s.
As the procession continues, Mahmoud Ali tries to incite attacks on the English; Nawab Bahadur attempts to calm the crowd; Hamidullah says there must be an orderly procession. Aziz again accuses Fielding of desertion. Mahmoud Ali starts a rumor that Nureddin has been tortured. Howling, the mob heads for the hospital.
Dr. Panna Lal averts disaster, first by clowning to appease the mob, then by producing Nureddin. The Nawab Bahadur gives a speech during which he announces he will give up his British title and be known as Mr. Zulfiqar. The crisis over, he asks Hamidullah to bring Fielding and Amritrao to his residence.
That evening, Miss Quested requests an interview with the reluctant Fielding. She tells him she had not been feeling well before the expedition to the caves. Fielding posits three or four possibilities to explain her behavior: that Aziz did attempt to assault her; that she accused him out of malice; or that she had a hallucination.
Miss Quested traces her “illness” back to Professor...
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Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Summary and Analysis
Sir Gilbert Mellanby: lieutenant-governor of the province
Fielding and Aziz lie on the roof of Mr. Zulfiqar’s mansion, speculating about the future. Aziz says he will be rich from his compensation money and invites Fielding to travel with him. He brushes aside the objections he anticipates from Fielding, saying that he has become anti-British.
They discuss how much Miss Quested should pay. Fielding insists on costs only. Aziz requires an apology, suggesting half-humorously that Miss Quested admit she would have liked him to follow her into the cave. Fielding is offended on her behalf. Aziz says that he will consult Mrs. Moore. Fielding tells him she is dead.
The lieutenant-governor of the province visits and commends the outcome of the trial and Fielding’s actions. He orders him to rejoin the Club. Miss Quested and Fielding write a letter of apology to Aziz. Indians want friendship rather than justice, Fielding declares.
Appealing to Mrs. Moore’s memory, Fielding continues to try to talk Aziz into withdrawing his claim for excess compensation. Suddenly, he agrees to claim only costs.
Ronny Heaslop comes to tell Fielding that Miss Quested is leaving for England. Fielding goes to see her and discovers Heaslop has broken their engagement. Fielding asks her if someone had followed her into the cave or if no one had. She says it will...
(The entire section is 906 words.)
Part II, Chapters XXX – XXXII: Summary and Analysis
Major Roberts: the new civil surgeon
Young Milner: the new city magistrate
Mr. Das visits Aziz at the hospital to ask for a poem for Mr. Battacharya’s new magazine. Mr. Das says he knows Aziz has a grudge against him. They finish in a half-embrace.
Aziz begins to write a poem about the decay of Islam and love. He resolves to transcend the Islamic past and attempt to love India as a whole. He will get away from British India and try for a post in a Hindu state. Hamidullah advises against it. Hamidullah winks and relays a rumor that Miss Quested was having an affair with Fielding. He wants to take Aziz behind the purdah curtain.
Fielding returns from a conference and Aziz picks him up from the station and tells him of the scandal: Mr. McBryde and Miss Derek were caught having an affair. Aziz then tells him the gossip about Miss Quested. Fielding dismisses it as unimportant. Aziz scolds him about the prevalence of spies. Sensing Aziz’s hostility, Fielding challenges him directly to say what is on his mind.
Aziz archly accuses him of dallying with “Madamsell Adela.” Fielding is startled and so annoyed that he calls Aziz a “little rotter.” Aziz is deeply hurt, but denies being offended. Fielding apologizes and tries to explain. Aziz suddenly discovers that he has a previous engagement and cannot dine with Fielding. Mr. Turton icily insists that...
(The entire section is 954 words.)
Part III, Chapter XXXIII: Summary and Analysis
The Rajah of Mau: an old Hindu ruler
When Part III opens, two years have passed since Fielding left India. The setting is now the Hindu state of Mau, where Professor Godbole and Dr. Aziz live. Professor Godbole and his choir are performing at the Hindu festival celebrating Shri Krishna’s birthday. The courtyard at Mau is filled with Hindu worshippers. There is music from many sources. In this setting, a small Europeanized band is almost unnoticeable.
Professor Godbole calls his musicians to a new rhythm. While he and his musicians melt into universal love, the professor remembers an old woman he had met in Chandrapore. When this memory comes to him, he transports her to a place of completion through his spiritual force. In that place, there is room even for a wasp. Professor Godbole is dancing on a strip of red carpet, lost in ecstasy.
At this juncture, a litter bearing the Rajah appears. His attendants seat him against a pillar. The Brahmin brings out a model of the village where Krishna was born, along with the figures who play a part in the birth legend. When the clock strikes midnight, the conch is blown, elephants trumpet, packets of colored powder are thrown at the altar, and shouts are heard. Sorrow vanishes; nothing remains but an all-embracing joy. The experience is beyond thought or memory.
Next, a paper-maché cobra and a wooden cradle appear. Professor...
(The entire section is 921 words.)
Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Summary and Analysis
Colonel Maggs: Anglo-Indian political agent, an opponent of Aziz
Jemila, Ahmed, and Karim: Aziz’s children
Ralph Moore: Fielding’s brother-in-law, Mrs. Moore’s son
Dr. Aziz leaves the palace the next morning to return to his house. He sees Godbole, but the devotee indicates he does not want to be disturbed. Absent-mindedly, Godbole tells Aziz that “he” has arrived at the European Guest House. Knowing that Fielding is coming on an official visit, and that he has married, Aziz understands that this refers to Fielding. Holding to his old mistake, Aziz assumes his wife is Miss Quested.
We learn that while he was still in Chandrapore, he had received a letter from Fielding telling of his approaching marriage. Aziz had tossed the letter to Mahmoud Ali, telling him to answer it, and had destroyed subsequent letters.
Aziz lives in Mau, with a woman, and has his children with him. He is tolerated in this Hindu state, but does have one enemy in Colonel Maggs, the British Political Agent from the Criminal Investigation Department. However, the Viceroy’s policy has changed, and British influence now has less weight; the Rajah refuses to dismiss Aziz.
Aziz tears up the note in which Fielding tells him he is coming with his wife and her brother and requests help in supplying things for the State Guest House and in complying with court etiquette. He...
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Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Summary and Analysis
A young woman singer
Stella Moore: Fielding’s wife, Mrs. Moore’s daughter
The palace continues to hum. Although the customary dramatic performance depicting the legend of Krishna will not take place, the festival has still created an atmosphere of love and peace. Since Mau is usually a site of suspicion and selfishness, Aziz finds the change difficult to comprehend.
Around evening, he remembers the ointment he had promised to send to the Guest House and decides to ride over to deliver it. On the way, he sees the procession forming and almost bumps into Professor Godbole. It turns out that Godbole has known for over a year that Fielding married Heaslop’s sister.
Godbole smiles and asks Aziz not to be angry with him for not informing him. The Sweeper’s band is arriving and when the doors are thrown open, the whole court can be seen inside; the Ark of the Lord stands in the fairway. Slightly bored, Aziz rides on out of town and stops by the Mau tank. In the center of it, looking like a small black blot, he can see the Guest House boat. Continuing on his way, he reaches the European Guest House, 200 feet above the water.
Aziz goes through the rooms and reads two letters lying on the piano. One is from Heaslop to Fielding, apologizing for having been unreasonable and referring to a “son and heir.” The second is from Miss Quested to Mrs. Fielding;...
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Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Summary and Analysis
Fielding and Aziz go for their last ride together in the Mau jungles. The Rajah’s death has been announced. From the official point of view, the visit is a failure. Every day Godbole has promised to show Fielding the high school, but has always made some excuse. Now Aziz tells him that the school has been converted into a granary. The school only exists on paper.
Fielding feels that the visit has been a success in terms of friendship. He and Aziz have resumed their old relationship. They look around at the bright scenery and see a cobra. When they stop to let it pass, Aziz shows Fielding a charming letter he wants to send Miss Quested, expressing his gratitude. Fielding is pleased. Aziz apologizes for his old suspicions. Fielding suggests that Aziz talk to Stella, who also believes the incident at the caves and all its repercussions have been expunged.
They both know that this is good-bye, since there seems to be no place left for their friendship. Fielding has now become a part of Anglo-India. He is not sure he would be able to defy his own people again as he did before.
Fielding speaks again of the calm that Mau has brought his wife. He asks Aziz about the Krishna festival. Aziz knows little of it besides its name. Fielding explains that he wants to discover its spiritual side. Aziz still professes ignorance and indifference to Hindu reactions. Fielding tells Aziz that he wants to understand why Ralph and...
(The entire section is 871 words.)