A Passage to India Part I, Chapters I – III: Summary and Analysis
by E. M. Forster

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Part I, Chapters I – III: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Dr. Aziz: Muslim surgeon working under Major Callendar

Hamidullah: Muslim, prominent Chandrapore barrister

Mahmoud Ali: Muslim lawyer, a troublemaker

Mohammed Latif: Hamidullah’s relative and hanger-on

Major Callendar: English, the civil surgeon

Mrs. Moore: older Englishwoman visiting India, mother of Ronny

Ronny Heaslop: English, the city magistrate

Miss Adela Quested: young Englishwoman visiting India

Mr. Turton: English civil servant, the collector

Mrs. Turton: his wife

Cyril Fielding: Principal of Government College at Chandrapore

There is a description of the town of Chandrapore and its tri-partite division into Indian, Eurasian, and English sections. The larger setting dominates: the river Ganges, vegetation, the sky and the sun, and, 20 miles to the south, the Marabar Hills and their fabled caves.

In Chapter II, Aziz and Mahmoud Ali gather at Hamidullah’s house and discuss the topic of friendship between Indians and the English. Hamidullah takes Aziz into the purdah quarters to see his wife, who raises the question of whether Aziz will marry again. When they finally sit down to dinner, they are interrupted by a servant who bears a note summoning Aziz to the bungalow of Major Callendar. Aziz reluctantly sets out. When he reaches the bungalow, the Major is not at home and Aziz’s tonga is commandeered by the Major’s wife and her friend Mrs. Lesley. Aziz begins to walk back, stopping off in a mosque at the edge of the civil station, where he thinks of Persian poetry and encounters Mrs. Moore. After his initial anger, they begin a pleasant conversation, interrupted by an angry outburst in which Aziz complains about the way Major Callendar and his wife treat him. He escorts Mrs. Moore back to the Club, and explains to her that Indians are not allowed inside.

Chapter III is set in the Club, where Mrs. Moore is greeted by Adela Quested. The performance of Cousin Kate is ending. The Anglo-Indians begin to talk about the “real India.” Someone passing by (Fielding), suggests: “Try seeing Indians.” Most of the women find this idea outlandish, and begin to talk of the need to maintain a distance from the natives. Mr. Turton offers to arrange a social meeting with Indians for Mrs. Moore. Mr. and Mrs. Turton depart; so do Ronny Heaslop, Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore, who tells her son about her encounter in the mosque. Heaslop is disturbed, and lectures his mother about mingling with the natives. They pause by the luminous Ganges. At home, Mrs. Moore and her son discuss Aziz’s motives. Heaslop agrees not to mention Aziz’s conversation in the mosque to Major Callendar. In return, he asks Mrs. Moore not to speak of it to Miss Quested, who is in India to decide whether or not to marry him.

The first chapter of the novel creates a large canvas that emphasizes the overwhelming power of nature—the river Ganges, the creeping vegetation, the sky and distance beyond stars, and the far hills with their suggestion of mysterious caves. By concentrating entirely on the natural background without depicting a single human figure, it is suggested that human life is relatively puny and ephemeral.

The next subject is human social arrangements and the mutual distrust and misunderstandings that arise within relatively closed societies. The focus shifts to a particular human social arrangement—the social life of Muslims in Chandrapore. Among themselves, they seem affectionate and convivial, yet when they discuss the English, the gulf that divides the two groups becomes evident. Instead of complaining about the discrimination in rank and pay scale, as we might expect, they are troubled by the denial of friendship and social intercourse. It is clear from the Muslims’ conversation that when the English come to live in India, they quickly learn that they have the right, or the duty, to snub even a Cambridge-educated Indian lawyer like Hamidullah.

Women occupy a particular place in each group. Hamidullah invites Aziz into the

(The entire section is 1,191 words.)