A Passage to India

by E. M. Forster

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Characters Discussed

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Dr. Aziz

Dr. Aziz (ah-ZEEZ), an amiable, sensitive, and intelligent young Moslem doctor in Chandrapore, India. Ignored and snubbed by the English colony, he nevertheless becomes friendly with three English newcomers to India—Mr. Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Miss Quested. When he takes them on a tour of the sinister Marabar Caves, Miss Quested becomes separated from the party, and later she accuses him of attempted rape. Jailed and humiliated, he becomes markedly anti-British. After Miss Quested withdraws her charge at his trial, he wants to collect damages, but Fielding dissuades him. Suspicious of Fielding’s motives, he breaks off the friendship. Two years later, the two men meet again, and each realizes that any true communion between them is impossible because of their racial allegiances.

Cecil Fielding

Cecil Fielding, the principal of the Government College, a middle-aged, maverick intellectual who resists the herd instinct of his fellow Englishmen. He has Indian friends; he defends Aziz against the English bigots, and when Miss Quested is ostracized after the trial, he offers her the protection of his home. Tired of the whole situation, he takes a trip to England, marries, and then returns to India, where he finds Aziz less cordial than before.

Adela Quested

Adela Quested, a priggish young woman who goes to India to marry Ronald Heaslop; she announces that she is eager to see the real India. Her trip to the Marabar Caves proves disastrous. Thinking that she has been the victim of an attempted attack, she accuses Aziz; however, she shows courage by retracting the charge at his trial. The scandal ruins her prospective marriage and causes her to be avoided by almost everyone. She returns to England alone.

Mrs. Moore

Mrs. Moore, Ronald Heaslop’s mother, a lovely, sensitive old woman who accompanies Miss Quested to India. She has great regard for Dr. Aziz, but at the Marabar Caves, she has a strange psychic experience, an unhappy intuition that life is worthless. When she irritably defends Dr. Aziz to her son, he sends her home, and she dies on the way.

Ronald Heaslop

Ronald Heaslop, the self-righteous city magistrate, a man coarsened by life in India. Wishing his mother and fiancée to have nothing to do with the natives, he finds himself in a position where he must reject both to preserve his own standards and vanity.

Professor Godbole

Professor Godbole, a gentle old teacher at the college, a friend of Dr. Aziz and Fielding. He represents the Hindu mystical aspects of India as opposed to the narrower nationalisms of the Moslems and British.

The Nawab Bahadur

The Nawab Bahadur, a wealthy Moslem who, acting as an unofficial diplomat between the Moslems and English, does favors for the whites. When Dr. Aziz is tried, he rejects the British.


Hamidullah, Dr. Aziz’s well-to-do, Anglophobic uncle, a Cambridge barrister who conducts his nephew’s defense.

Mahmoud Ali

Mahmoud Ali, a family friend of Hamidullah and Dr. Aziz. Cynical and embittered toward the English, he makes an emotional, histrionic defense of Dr. Aziz at the trial.

Mohammed Latif

Mohammed Latif, a poor, sneaky relative of Hamidullah and Aziz.

Major Callendar

Major Callendar, the civil surgeon, Dr. Aziz’s brutal superior, who believes that “white is right.”

Mr. Turton

Mr. Turton, a white official who is willing to extend courtesy to the natives and nothing more; a man who has succumbed to power and race snobbery.

Mrs. Turton

Mrs. Turton, his haughty wife, who comforts Adela Quested after the incident at the Marabar Caves.

Mr. McBryde

Mr. McBryde, the chief of police, an intelligent man who treats Dr. Aziz decently but at...

(This entire section contains 707 words.)

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the same time supervises the prosecution. He is provincial in his attitudes.

Miss Derek

Miss Derek, a selfish young woman who takes advantage of her Indian employers.


Amritrao, Dr. Aziz’s defense lawyer, imported from Calcutta, who gets Miss Quested to withdraw her charges.

Mr. Das

Mr. Das, Heaslop’s subordinate, the judge at the trial, a Hindu who later becomes friendly with Dr. Aziz.

Ralph Moore

Ralph Moore, Mrs. Moore’s odd son, a boy who finally gets Cecil Fielding and Dr. Aziz together again.

Stella Moore

Stella Moore, Mrs. Moore’s daughter, a sensitive girl who marries Cecil Fielding.

List of Characters

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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.

Hassan—Aziz’s servant.

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.


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A small, athletic, mustachioed, amiable, sensitive, and intelligent young Muslim doctor at Chandrapore, Aziz comes forth as a highly competent professional, but possessed of a naive, romantic streak that manifests itself in his love for poetry, his excitability, and his general passion for life. Aziz, a vivacious and charming widower with three children, respects courtesy and protocol. He tries terribly hard to convey a good impression upon, and establish a relationship with, the English community, but the English simply ignore and snub him. However, he manages some degree of rapport with Cyril Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Adela Quested. Aziz arranges a tour for the English to the mysterious Marabar Caves; Adela becomes separated from the rest of the party and later accuses Aziz of rape. Jailed and thoroughly humiliated, Aziz develops an intense hatred for the British, and following the dismissal of the charges against him, he thinks only of collecting damages. Fielding persuades him against doing so, which arouses distrust in Aziz and leads to a break in their relationship. Two years later, Fielding and Aziz meet again, and each realizes that because of their deep racial and cultural divisions, any honest communion between them cannot be achieved.

Cyril Fielding, who functions as the popular principal of the Government College at Chadrapore, comes forth as a middle-aged intellectual maverick with "sprawling limbs and blue eyes" who, seemingly rejects the herd mentality of his fellow English. They, in turn, look upon Fielding as a totally disruptive force. He associates with Indians, defends Dr. Aziz against the English bigots, and offers Adela Quested the hospitality of his home following the trial and her having been ostracized by the rest of the English community. Tired and frustrated with it all, Fielding seeks respite in England, marries Stella Moore, and returns to India. Finding Aziz far less cordial than before he left, Fielding eventually achieves a reconciliation with his Muslim friend, and they part on fairly intimate terms.

As a complement to Fielding and Aziz stands Professor Narayan Godbole, a gentle, old Brahman teacher at the Government College, with a grey moustache and a complexion "as fair as a European's." A philosopher and poet, Godbole maintains friendships with both Fielding and Aziz. He supplies, for Forster, the Hindu mystical aspects of India, as opposed to the narrower nationalistic notions of the Muslims and the British. Polite, attentive, and courteous, he devotes considerable time consuming food and smiling benevolently at the world. He works very hard to avoid offending anyone, and thus refuses to engage in debate or discuss matters of political or social concern. Liked and respected by everyone, Godbole represents the Hindu's ability to endure and even ignore, outwardly, the problems within colonial India.

The mother of Ronald Heaslop and eventually the mother-in-law of Cyril Fielding, Mrs. Moore proves a lovely and sensitive elderly woman, with white hair and a ruddy complexion, who accompanies Adela Quested to India. A fair and basically decent woman, Mrs. Moore possesses a Christian tenderness that gives way to weariness and cynicism as she experiences both the delights and the dangers of India. She holds Dr. Aziz in high regard, but on her visit to the Marabar Caves, she undergoes a strange psychic experience—an unhappy intuition about life being worthless. She becomes increasingly irritated at the world and its inhabitants. When Mrs. Moore irritably defends Dr. Aziz before her son, he sends her back to England. Having not been in the best of health when she arrived in India, she dies on the return voyage, having never regained her sense of harmony with the life and the world.

As Mrs. Moore's traveling companion, the smug, conforming, and not too attractive—yet sensible, sincere, and well meaning—Adela Quested arrives in India to marry Ronald Heaslop. Almost immediately, she announces her eagerness to see the "real India," essentially for the purpose of disrupting the interminable civility and tedium of the society at Chandrapore. Her sojourn to the Marabar Caves proves a disaster, but remains essential to the plot of Forster's novel. Thinking that she has been the victim of an attempted attack, Adela accuses Dr. Aziz. During the crucial point in the trial, she perhaps realizes her error and has the honesty and courage to withdraw the charges against Aziz. The ensuing scandal ends her prospect of marriage to Ronald and causes almost everyone in both the English and Indian communities to avoid her. She returns to England alone, having regarded the derision she has suffered as due and proper punishment for her own stupidity.

Ronald Heaslop, the young but selfrighteous city magistrate of Chandrapore, had once been known as unconventional and humanitarian, but he has become hardened by the social and political realities of colonial India. Although pleasant enough, Heaslop has embraced with enthusiasm the prejudice, snobbery, and complacency of the English community in India. Content to dispense British justice and keep the peace, Heaslop consorts only with his own kind. Driven by duty and commitment to hard work, he follows those very instincts of the herd that Cyril Fielding despises. Ronald wants Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested, his mother and fiancee, to have nothing to do with the native Indians, and to preserve his own vanity, status, and standards, he rejects both of those women.

Amritrao, Dr. Aziz's distinguished defense lawyer, has been imported from Calcutta for that purpose. Described as "a fine looking man, large and bony with gray closely cropped hair," he has acquired skill as a courtroom tactician, and he possesses a cool head and a logical mind. Amritrao has also gained the personal and professional respect of both British and Indian legal practitioners; however, his notoriously anti-British views have not endeared him to those who frequent the English Chandrapore Club. To Amritrao goes the credit for convincing Adela Quested to withdraw her charges against his client.

Mr. Turton, a white official, has spent twenty-five years in India, the last six as the collector of the Chandrapore district. Regarded as the leader of the local British community, he represents those British in India dutifully willing to commit to the British notion of fair play and extend courtesy to the Indian natives. However, an outward show of courtesy becomes the extent of his so-called fairness. Turton stereotypes those who have succumbed to power and race snobbery, and he has committed himself firmly to maintaining the status quo and discouraging any form of fraternization that might bridge the gap between British rulers and Indian subjects. Mrs. Turton, his wife, carries her haughtiness to extreme. She comforts Adela Quested after the incident at the Marabar Caves.

The Nawab Bahadur, a wealthy Muslim, acts as the unofficial diplomat between the Muslims and the English, and dutifully performs favors for the latter. When Dr. Aziz comes to trial, the Nawab rejects the British. Other minor native characters include Hamidullah, Dr. Aziz's Aglophobic uncle and a Cambridge barrister. He assists Amritrao in defending his nephew against Adela Quested's charges. Mahmoud Ali, a family friend of Hamidullah and Dr. Aziz, assumes a cynical and bitter dislike of the English. His emotional and histrionic argument on behalf of Aziz serves as one of the highlights of the trial. A Hindu, Mr. Das, Ronald Heaslop's subordinate, presides over Dr. Aziz's trial, and he later becomes a friend of Aziz. Another relative of Dr. Aziz, Mohammed Latif, has no money, and sneaks in and out of the novel without significant purpose. The same may be said for Dr. Panna La, an Indian member of the hospital medical staff and Mr. Harris, Nawab Bahadur's chauffeur—except that the last named has been thrust into the piece as Forster's only Eurasian character.

As secondary English characters, one might wish to consider several purely stereotypical but nonetheless functional individuals. Major Callendar, the civil surgeon, serves as Dr. Aziz's not very understanding supervisor and holds firm to the motto that "white is right," as does Miss Derek, a selfish young woman who takes advantage of her Indian employers. Mr. McBryde, the chief of police at Chandrapore, appears to be an intelligent person—"the most reflective and best educated of the Chandrapore officials," Forster terms him—and he treats Dr. Aziz decently enough at the same time as he supervises the prosecution of the trial. To Ralph Moore, Mrs. Moore's "odd" son, Forster assigns the task of reuniting Dr. Aziz with Cyril Fielding, while Fielding marries Mrs. Moore's sensitive daughter, Stella, who needs some time to become comfortable with Fielding as a husband. Finally, Mr. Sorley, a young Christian missionary makes a single appearance in the novel to discuss the divine hospitality, and "he saw no reason why monkeys should not have their collateral share of bliss."




Critical Essays