A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

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Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
An Indian guide

Miss Derek’s chauffeur

A Brahmin cook: hired by Aziz for Godbole

Summary
Miss Quested, Aziz, and a guide continue the expedition, which is described as slightly tedious. Aziz is preoccupied with thoughts of the breakfast menu, and Adela with her coming marriage. She is suddenly struck by the thought that she and her fiancé do not love each other, and is appalled. As they climb in the heat, she begins to question Aziz about his marriage. Aziz claims that his wife is alive. Then Adela naively asks him if he has more than one wife. Aziz is insulted by the question and plunges away into another cave to regain his composure. Adela goes off into a different one.

When Aziz returns to look for her, he scolds the guide for not keeping her in sight. He attempts to search the other caves, but becomes completely confused. He realizes that the noise of the car he had previously heard indicates that friends of Miss Quested’s are there, and he catches a glimpse of her far down the gully. He finds her field glasses lying in an entrance tunnel, the strap broken. He scrambles down to find Mrs. Moore and is delighted to discover that Fielding has arrived.

Aziz remarks airily that Miss Quested has gone down to visit Miss Derek. As they go down to escort Miss Derek to the picnic, her chauffeur stops them to announce that Miss Derek is driving Miss Quested back to Chandrapore herself. Fielding is startled, as this indicates a sudden change of plans. He, Mrs. Moore, and Aziz offer various explanations of why the two women have departed so hastily. In response to Fielding’s questions, Aziz begins to falsify his account of what happened in the caves.

They return to the train. When they pull into Chandrapore station Mr. Haq, the Inspector of Police, flings open the carriage door and announces that he is arresting Aziz. Fielding’s efforts to intervene are futile. Aziz attempts to get away, but Fielding pulls him back. He promises to “see him through.” Aziz is led off to prison.

Fielding goes to see the collector, who tells him that Aziz has “insulted” Miss Quested in the caves. Fielding protests and defends Aziz. Back on the platform, one of Ronny Heaslop’s chuprassies is beginning to loot the train carriages. Although half-insane with rage, the collector stops the looting. On the way home, he promises himself to take revenge on all the Indians.

Analysis
In three relatively short chapters, the turning point of the novel is achieved and the events that follow it are set in motion. Mystery continues to surround the central event. What really happened in the caves? We have the narrator’s account; we hear Aziz’s various confusing and contradictory stories; and Mr. Turton informs Fielding of Miss Quested’s accusation. These versions are contradictory and incompatible. Fielding, and eventually, Miss Quested, will repeatedly consider and reconsider the question of what really happened.

Again, muddle, misinterpretation, and miscommunication are heightened, this time to the point of madness. A general breakdown of rationality begins. Herd behavior takes possession of the Anglo-Indians. Fielding observes this, and it is he who calls Miss Quested mad.

One way to unravel the mystery surrounding Miss Quested’s accusation is to consider the role of unconscious motives and desires. Forster appreciated Freudian theory, although he stated that the...

(The entire section is 859 words.)