E. M. Forster's A Passage to India: A Summary and Analysis
A Passage to India is the best novel of E.M. Forster. It was written in 1924. It is author’s most successful work. It earned fantastic popularity for him.
E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India is matchless in English fiction in its presentation. The relationship between East and West has been taken as its major subject. In this novel the author has presented the live picture of Indian society under the British rule of second decade of twentieth century. The plot of this novel is very interesting. Here the novelist has created live characters. In this novel Forster appears as an advocate of culture, tolerance, and civilization.
The short story of this novel is as follows:
Mrs. Moore is a mature English lady. She visits Chandrapore with Adela Quested, A young lady. Chandrapore is situated in India. The purpose of her visit is to see her son named Ronny Heaslop. Ronny is the British city magistrate of Chandrapore which is situated on the banks of the Ganga. Adela Quested is his fiancée.
Dr. Aziz lives in Chandrapore. He works as an Assistant Surgeon in the Civil Hospital of Chandrapore. He is impressed by the behaviour of Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested. He comes to know that Adela Quested is eager to see real India. That is why he humbly invites them on excursion to the Marabar caves. The famous Marabar caves are located about twenty miles away from Chandrapore. They accept the invitation of Dr Aziz. Thus Dr. Aziz schedules an extravagant trip for Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested. He has also included Fielding and Godbole in this trip. But unluckily Fielding and Godbole fail to catch the train and Aziz is left in full charge of the journey.
In the first cave Mrs. Moore is frightened by a resound and the pressure of the crowd. She refuses to go ahead. Aziz, Adela, and a guide go on to the higher caves while Mrs. Moore waits below. Adela suddenly asks Aziz if he has more than one wife. Aziz feels disturbed by her inquiries. To make himself normal he rushes into another cave. Adela enters another cave. But when he returns, Adela is gone. Aziz and the guide shout her name, but no reply comes. At this Aziz scolds the guide for losing Adela and the guide runs away. Aziz finds Adela’s broken field glasses and heads down the hill. Aziz comes to the camp where he has left Mrs. Moore and the other servants. There he gets Fielding and Godbole. Having gotten a lift from Miss Derek both of them reach there. But Miss Quested is absent. Shortly after, Miss Derek’s chauffeur arrives to tell the group that the two ladies are on their way back to Chandrapore. Knowing nothing of what has happened to Adela, Dr. Aziz returns with Fielding by train.
When Aziz and Fielding arrive back in Chandrapore, Aziz is unexpectedly arrested by police inspector Mr. Haq. Aziz comes to know that Miss Quested has accused him of sexually assaulting her in the cave. The news of the incident spreads like wildfire.
Fielding and Mrs. Moore believe Aziz to be innocent. Ronny arranges for Mrs. Moore to return England. On the way she dies.
Before the trial, the racial tensions between the Indians and the English flare up considerably. When the trial of the case begins, the counsel of Aziz asks as to why Mrs. Moore, an important eyewitness of the case, was allowed to proceed to England. At the hearing Adela is questioned about what happened in the caves. She withdraws the charge of molestation against Dr. Aziz. She declares that she has made a mistake. Aziz is not the person who attacked her in the cave. Aziz is set free. Riots start in Chandrapore.
The British community boycotts Miss Quested. It is felt by the community that she has betrayed it. She seeks refuge in Fielding’s college. There she spends the next several weeks. Fielding begins to appreciate her for her honesty and bold decision. He tries to persuade Aziz to forgive Miss Quested. He coaxes Aziz to drop a damage suit against her. Aziz feels deceived. He is very angry with Mr. Fielding. It was impossible for him to favour Adela because she has nearly ruined Aziz's life. So the friendship between Aziz and Fielding suffers. Aziz starts to believe rumors that Fielding and Miss Quested are having an affair. Ronny breaks off his engagement to Adela and she returns to England. After some time, Fielding also sets off to England. At this Aziz feels that Fielding has followed Miss Quested to England to marry her.
After that two years Pass. Aziz goes to Mau. Mau is a Hindu region. It is several hundred miles away from Chandrapore. Aziz becomes personal physician to the Maharajah of Mau. In this context Godbole, Minister of Education in Mau, helps Aziz. Aziz has heard that Fielding married Adela shortly after returning to England. Aziz now virulently hates all English people. That is why when Fielding arrives one day in Mau, Aziz remains aloof and distant. But one day Aziz is surprised to learn that Fielding has married Mrs. Moore’s daughter Stella. Slowly they repair their friendship. Now Aziz’s political attitude has changed. He now dreams of independence for India.
One day Fielding and Aziz take a last horseback ride together. They argue about the Anglo- Indian problem. Aziz enthusiastically proclaims that India must be united and the English driven out. He adds that once the English are out of India, the two will be able to be friends. Without it their friendship is not possible.
A Passage to India is divided into three parts - Mosque, Caves and Temple. These three divisions are symbolic in character. In the first part of the novel all the major characters have been introduced. Mosque symbolises the fragile relationships between the Hindus, the Muslims and the British. The Hindus and the Muslims try to live in union. But their traditions and cultures make them apart. Caves symbolise the rupture of relationships. In this part India confronts the westerner with illusion and disillusion. Temple tries to re-establish friendship and goodwill.
The three divisions of the novel are symbolic of three attitudes to life. The character of Dr. Aziz is the symbol of the path of activity. Fielding and Adela Quested are symbols of the path of knowledge and Professor Godbole is the symbol of devotion and love. Mrs. Moore is the representative of all these three aspects of life.
In short, A Passage to India is an interesting novel. In this novel Forster has tried to establish true personal relationship between the East and the West. But he fails to do so.