A Passage to India

by E. M. Forster

Start Free Trial

Part II, Chapters XV – XVII: Summary and Analysis

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 859

New Characters:
An Indian guide

Writing an essay?
Get a custom outline

Our Essay Lab can help you tackle any essay assignment within seconds, whether you’re studying Macbeth or the American Revolution. Try it today!

Start an Essay

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.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

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.

Homework Help

Latest answer posted January 7, 2009, 9:34 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

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.

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 exploration of the unconscious was “not so much in Freud as in the air.” In A Passage to India, Forster himself creates characters that are driven by forces beyond rationality, particularly the sexual drives that Freud considered paramount.

Though it is difficult to assess their actual behavior, most middle-class Englishwomen before the First World War largely repressed any verbal acknowledgment of sex. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested are no exceptions. We are told that Miss Quested’s senses have been stirred by Heaslop’s “animal magnetism.” Given the society of the time and their value structure, it would have been impossible for them to engage in sex before marriage. In this situation, Miss Quested’s aroused but still unsatisfied sexual desires could easily have been stimulated by her proximity to Aziz, who has been described as an attractive and sensual man.

In contrast, Forster has repeatedly stressed Miss Quested’s unattractiveness. One possibility is that she was attracted to Aziz, but that to her he was so foreign that sexual attraction seemed unthinkable. Her repressed desires, then, projected themselves onto Aziz, so that she imagined what she in fact wanted to happen. Aziz has been depicted as uninterested in her. We know also that he has no inhibitions about talking, or acting consciously and rationally about his sexual needs and desires. Therefore, his character, as depicted in the novel, would be unlikely to attempt a sexual assault on Miss Quested.

At the end of the chapter, there are two foreshadowings. The first is Mr. Turton’s sense that Fielding has betrayed his group, foreshadowing his rejection by the Anglo-Indians. The second, is Mr. Turton’s sense of justice, which narrowly prevails over his primitive rage.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Part II, Chapters XII – XIV: Summary and Analysis


Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Summary and Analysis