A Passage to India Additional Summary

E. M. Forster


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A Passage to India has a tripartite structure labeled mosque, caves, and temple. Each section serves as a symbolic signpost and corresponds to the seasons of the Indian year.

After being summoned to the house of Major Callendar, Dr. Aziz, a Moslem doctor at the government hospital, discovers that the major has gone and that he must walk back to his house because two English women departed in his hired tonga (two-wheeled vehicle). While stopping at a mosque on his way back to Chandrapore, Aziz meets Mrs. Moore, the mother of Ronald Heaslop, the city magistrate. Aziz and Mrs. Moore seem to “connect” with each other and share a common understanding of life. Under the racially fragmented system of British colonialism, however, neither the British nor the Indians can speak publicly of this kind of communication. The elderly Mrs. Moore invites Aziz to walk back to the club with her and introduces him to Adela Quested, newly arrived from England and the fiancé of her son. Although A Passage to India clearly addresses social and political issues, the major theme is the plight of the human race. The fact that the characters struggle unsuccessfully to “connect” in the novel indicates Forster’s pessimism, yet he portrays a desire on the part of Aziz, Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Adela to understand and to establish meaningful relationships with each other.

Mrs. Moore and Adela want to see the real India and complain about the colonialized India that they have seen. Turton, a member of the British club, holds a bridge party for them and invites a few native Indian guests. The party is a failure, in that the Indians separate into groups apart from the British and the situation is uncomfortable. Fielding, the government college principal who associates freely with the Indians, invites the ladies to tea at his home. Adela persuades him to include Aziz and Professor Godbole, a Hindu teacher and associate of Fielding. At the tea, Adela and Mrs. Moore have a refreshing conversation with Aziz and Godbole. Aziz is overjoyed by the interaction of the group members and invites all of them to visit the Marabar Caves. Mrs. Moore and Adela accept the invitation, and Aziz plans an elaborate outing.

Heaslop arrives to escort his mother and his fiancé to a game of polo and is very rude to Aziz. The incident causes Adela and Heaslop to quarrel, and she breaks off their engagement. The couple then goes for a ride, and after striking an unidentified animal on the road, Adela changes her mind, and they are reconciled.

Unfortunately, Godbole and Fielding miss their train and Aziz must escort the British ladies to the Marabar Caves alone. Mrs. Moore is frightened by a loud booming echo in the first cave and stops to rest. Considering the gulf between the British and Indians, Mrs. Moore sees the futility of her Christian and...

(The entire section is 1174 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Dr. Aziz is doubly snubbed this evening. He had been summoned to the civil surgeon’s house while he was at supper, but when he arrived, he found that his superior had departed for his club without bothering to leave any message. In addition, two Englishwomen emerged from the house and took their departure in his hired tonga, or horse-drawn vehicle, without even thanking him.

The doctor starts back toward the city of Chandrapore afoot. Tired, he stops at a mosque to rest and is furiously angry when he sees an Englishwoman emerge from behind its pillars with, as he thinks, her shoes on. Mrs. Moore, however, had gone barefoot to the mosque, and in a surge of friendly feelings, Dr. Aziz engages her in conversation.

Mrs. Moore had recently arrived from England to visit her son, Ronald Heaslop, the city magistrate. Dr. Aziz finds they have common ground when he learns that she does not care for the civil surgeon’s wife. Her disclosure prompts him to tell of the usurpation of his carriage. The doctor walks back to the club with her, although as an Indian, he himself cannot be admitted.

At the club, Adela Quested, Heaslop’s prospective fiancé, declares she wants to see the real India, not the India seen through the rarified atmosphere of the British colony. To please the ladies, one of the members offers to hold what he whimsically terms a “bridge party” and invite some native guests. The bridge party is a miserable affair. The Indians retreat to one side of the lawn, and although the conspicuously reluctant group of Anglo-Indian ladies go over to visit them, an awkward tension prevails.

There is, however, one promising result of the party. The principal of the Government College, Mr. Fielding, a man who apparently feels neither rancor nor arrogance toward the Indians, invites Mrs. Moore and Adela to a tea at his house. Upon Adela’s request, Mr. Fielding also invites Professor Godbole, a teacher at his school, and Dr. Aziz. At the tea, Dr. Aziz charms Fielding and the guests with the elegance and fine intensity of his manner. The gathering, however, breaks up on a discordant note when the priggish and suspicious Heaslop arrives to claim the ladies. Fielding has taken Mrs. Moore on a tour of his school, and Heaslop is furious at him for having left Dr. Aziz alone with his prospective fiancé.

Adela is irritated by Heaslop’s callous priggishness during her visit and informs him that she does not wish to become his wife. Later that evening, during a drive into the countryside, a mysterious figure, perhaps an animal, looms out of the darkness and nearly upsets the car in which they are riding. Their mutual loneliness and a sense of the unknown draws them together, and Adela asks Heaslop to disregard her earlier rejection.

One extraordinary aspect of the city of...

(The entire section is 1162 words.)