A Passage to India

by E. M. Forster

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Part II, Chapters XXV – XXVI: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1201

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.

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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 Godbole’s song at the tea party. She agrees she could have had a hallucination in the caves. Fielding tells her that he believes McBryde exorcised her by asking a straightforward question. This leads to talk of ghosts, Mrs. Moore, and the supernatural; they both affirm rationalism. She asks about Aziz’s opinion of her; Fielding softens it.

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Fielding goes on to suggest the fourth possibility: it might have been someone else. Miss Quested offers, “the guide,” but seems to lose interest. Hamidullah arrives and, pointedly ignoring Adela, asks Fielding to come over for the victory celebration. Fielding tells Hamidullah that Miss Quested has been explaining her conduct. She admits her mistake, but Hamidullah is still furious. He has overheard their talk about the guide and says sardonically, “Of course some Indian is the culprit, we must never doubt that.”

Hamidullah again invites Fielding to the Nawab Bahadur’s residence; Miss Quested announces she will go to the Dak Bungalow. They argue about the plan until Hamidullah sees Heaslop arriving. Adela goes out on the verandah to see him. Inside, Fielding tells Hamidullah that Mrs. Moore is dead.

Miss Quested returns, having learned of Mrs. Moore’s death from Heaslop. She asks Fielding if she can stay at the college during his absence. Heaslop comes in uncertain of where Miss Quested should go, and Fielding invites her to stay at the college. Hamidullah brutally reminds Heaslop of Mrs. Moore’s death and the son’s false claim in court that she had reached Aden.

Later, driving out to the Nawab’s residence, Fielding is horrified to hear Amritrao tell Hamidullah that Miss Quested should pay 20,000 rupees as compensation.

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The plot is now past the point of dramatic climax and is winding down. Rumor continues to create its intended dissension, yet despite Mahmoud Ali’s rumors, the riotous mob is calmed without bloodshed.

In terms of character development, there are two definite shifts in this section. One concerns Fielding and Miss Quested, who have been only acquaintances, then estranged by the trial, and now begin to know each other better. The other is the sudden prominence of Hamidullah, who has previously been a dignified presence in the background.

The question that runs through the novel now, is: What really happened? Fielding offers various possibilities, but Miss Quested loses interest in determining which might be true. Hamidullah’s entrance, just as she agrees it might have been the guide or one of a gang of Pathans, confirms the Muslim’s underlying suspicion of the English. Fielding is the one who advanced these Indians as suspects. Even though he has defended Aziz, he is still demonstrating his unconscious racism.

The changes that the trial has made in the feelings among Indians are emphasized by Hamidullah’s attitude. In place of his earlier desire for friendship with the British, Hamidullah now feels a bitter resentment that leads him to speak sarcastically to Miss Quested. When she confesses her mistake to Hamidullah, he is unmoved. Unlike Fielding, who has begun to be impressed by Miss Quested’s plain-spoken honesty, Hamidullah notes her absence of passionate feeling and true remorse. To him, the English and Anglo-Indians have become the enemy and his friendly tolerance has vanished. He now loses no opportunity to attack.

The theme of truth and deception, the sifting out of evidence about rumor and fantasy, is developed through conversations between Fielding and Hamidullah. In another attack, Hamidullah accuses Heaslop, who has brought the first news of Mrs. Moore’s death, of lying about her in court. The readers now learns that she died soon after leaving Bombay and never reached Aden, as Heaslop had claimed. She had died even before the crowd began to chant her name outside the courtroom. However, there was a small bit of truth in the Indian rumor that Mrs. Moore had been sent away so that she would not testify. A short conversation between Fielding and Hamidullah emphasizes Heaslop’s heedlessness in allowing her to travel in the heat, which suggests that some other motive impelled him. Fielding says that Heaslop acknowledges his imprudence, and we can assume that the son carries his share of guilt.

Mrs. Moore is the first of the characters to vanish from Chandrapore. The reasons why Mrs. Moore departed and died are a subject of controversy between the Indians and Anglo-Indians. Not every character is deeply affected by the death. Fielding and Hamidullah are relatively unmoved. Only Miss Quested, in her silence, seems “to stiffen into a monument.” She will remember Mrs. Moore, and Mrs. Moore’s presence will continue to exert a haunting effect on the novel.

Professor Godbole’s song is another theme that continues to resonate beyond the chapter in which it is sung. In Chapter IX we learned that Aziz and Professor Godbole had both been ill after Fielding’s tea party. Now, Miss Quested, too, says that she began to feel vaguely unwell after Professor Godbole’s song. At first she defines the illness as sadness. Clearly, this malaise is not a physical illness. She has been touched by spiritual realities so incomprehensible to her that she is disoriented by them.

Professor Godbole sang a song of longing, a call to the god Krishna. Professor Godbole has told her that the god never comes in response to the call. For the purposes of the novel it suggests that this yearning for Divine Love and Wisdom can never be fully satisfied on earth. This form of spirituality is profoundly different from anything that Adela has ever experienced. She represents the higher ethical values of her culture, while Professor Godbole’s song, distilling the essence of the spirit of India, is incompatible with the reason and order that constitute the spirit of England.

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Part II, Chapter XXIV: Summary and Analysis


Part II, Chapters XXVII – XXIX: Summary and Analysis