:: CHAPTER-BY-CHAPTER COMMENTARY ::
A Passage to India is divided into three long sections, which correspond, according to Forster, to the three seasons of the Indian year-Mosque (the cool weather), Caves (the hot weather), and Temple (the rains).
This first chapter of the Mosque section is a description of Chandrapore, an undistinguished, medium-sized, Indian city located on the river Ganges. Just outside the city proper, on a slight elevation above it, is the British colony, consisting of a brick clubhouse and a group of bungalows where members of the Indian civil service live, as far as possible from the natives. Though Chandrapore has many gardens and a few fine houses, Forster tells us, it is essentially "meagre" and "monotonous." Its only unusual geographical feature is the Marabar Hills, which contain "the extraordinary caves." And only the sky can rain "glory" onto the insignificant little town, because over this endless, prostrate Indian plain only the sky is "so strong and so enormous."
Forster introduces some of the book's central imagery in this first brief chapter-the mysteriously changing, all-controlling sky of India; the endless, seemingly meaningless Indian plain; the "meagre," impoverished city, so shapeless and "muddled" to western eyes; and the "sensibly planned" British colony, cut off from the rest of the town in location and design; as well as, most important, the "extraordinary" Marabar caves, which will summarize many of Forster's main themes in one especially dramatic symbol.
Dr. Aziz, a young Indian physician, a Moslem, arrives at a dinner party given by his friend Hamidullah, one of the more educated and wealthier Moslems in Chandrapore and the town's leading attorney. Another guest is Mahmoud Ali, also a lawyer. As the three await dinner, they relax on the verandah, smoking hookahs (water pipes) and discussing the failings of their supercilious British rulers. Their special targets are Mr. and Mrs. Turton, the top-ranking Chandrapore official and his wife, and someone they call "Red-Nose," a young English Magistrate who had once been kind to Mahmoud Ali in court but whose liberal ideas were soon lost after a few more months in India. Just before dinner, Hamidullah takes Aziz around to the women's quarter to see his wife, who happens to be a distant relative of the young doctor's. Aziz was left a widower a few years earlier, when his wife died giving birth to their third child, and Hamidullah Begum seizes every opportunity to try to persuade the lonely widower to remarry. Aziz lives by himself in a small, shabby bungalow, sending all his salary to his children who live with their maternal grandmother in another town. Hamidullah Begum believes that her young relative would be happier if the remarried; furthermore, she thinks it is his duty to make some young woman happy too.
After some minutes of this, Aziz and Hamidullah go in to dinner. But their meal is barely on the table when a curt note arrives for Aziz, summoning him to the home of Major Callendar, his superior at the hospital. Furious at the Englishman's rudeness-he doesn't even bother to explain what he needs Aziz for-Aziz rushes off on his bicycle, gets a flat, and finally takes a tonga (a horse-drawn Indian taxi). When he arrives at the house he finds that the Civil Surgeon (Major Callendar) has gone out without leaving a message for him. Worse, Mrs. Callendar and a British friend, Mrs. Lesley, on their way to the Club, cut him and take his tonga without thanks. Angry and depressed, he leaves on foot, planning to walk home.
On his way, however, he passes one of his favorite mosques and stops in for a moment's meditation. Suddenly he sees an Englishwoman moving about among the pillars. Shocked, and still smarting from his encounter with Mrs. Callendar, he reprimands her for not having taken off her shoes, and is even more astonished when she calmly informs him that she already has. "I was right, was I not?" the strange lady asks. "If it removed my shoes, I am allowed?" "Of course," Aziz replies, "but so few ladies take the trouble, especially if thinking no one is there to see." "That makes no difference," she answers, adding, "God is here."
Aziz realizes the woman is extraordinary, though he sees that she is old and whitehaired, not young and beautiful as he would have wished. They introduce themselves; she is Mrs. Moore, the elderly mother of Ronny Heaslop, the British City Magistrate who was Mr. "Red-Nose" in Mahmoud Ali's narrative earlier. Here on a visit, she has left a boring performance of Cousin Kate at the British Club to see India by night. Chattering excitedly-he is now as warm and affectionate as he was angry before-Aziz walks her back to the Club and explains that Indians are not allowed in, when she says that she wishes he could be her guest. "He did not expatiate on his wrongs now, being happy. As he strolled downhill . . . he seemed to own the land as much as anyone owned it. What did it matter if a few flabby Hindus had preceded him there, and a few chilly English succeeded?"
In this chapter we are introduced to Aziz and Mrs. Moore, two of the four or five main characters in the book. The gulf between Indians and English, which the description of the British colony in chapter one emphasized, is a gulf which both Aziz and Mrs. Moore want to bridge right now, though Aziz, knowing more about the situation, is angrier and less hopeful than the elderly Englishwoman. Their present attitudes will change before the book is over, however, and the chain of events which their first meeting in the darkened mosque sets in motion will change them. Already, furthermore, in the last few lines of the chapter (quoted above) India as a symbol-Hindu, Moslem and British India-is expanding to include, more than national or religious identity, the whole inexplicable universe which man cannot control or comprehend.
Mrs. Moore returns to the club, where, unable to stand the performance of Cousin Kate, a third-rate British comedy, she sits in another room with Adela Quested, her traveling companion and her son's prospective fiancee. (The main reason for Mrs. Moore's trip to India was to chaperone Miss Quested, who can't make up her mind whether or not to marry Ronny and wants to see him "on the job" in India before deciding.) Both women are anxious to see "the real India" and are bored by the dull, parochial round of British tea parties which is all they've seen so far. When Major Turton, Ronny's superior, hears that they want to meet some Indians, he obligingly offers to arrange a "Bridge Party" for them, to which both nationalities will be invited. The other British ladies are amused and faintly shocked that anyone should want to meet Indians, but Mrs. Moore and Adela gratefully accept Mr. Turton's offer.
On the way home, Mrs. Moore mentions her meeting with Aziz at the mosque to her son. He is upset and annoyed at the idea of her talking to a native and reprimands her rather sharply for allowing such "impudence." Later, at home, he pursues the subject; discovering Aziz's identity, he says that the young doctor is all right, but seems ready to report one of his anti-Callendar remarks to the Civil Surgeon himself. Mrs. Moore is annoyed and shocked at this in her turn; her son would never have so rudely betrayed a confidence at home. But "India isn't home" is Ronny's reply, though he finally agrees to keep his knowledge of Aziz to himself for the time being at least.
Later still, when she is about to hang up her cloak, Mrs. Moore notices a wasp sleeping on the peg. The strange image of the insect, impersonally "nesting" in the house as though he is outdoors, seems to symbolize the strangeness of India, where a house becomes almost a part "of the eternal jungle, which alternately produces houses trees, houses trees."
The grating intolerance of the British toward the Indians is again depicted throughout this chapter; the hostile gulf between the two will, after all, be one of this book's major themes. But the more difficult, less easily explained theme of India as "the eternal jungle," eternally mysterious and muddled, at least to the human reason, is also present here, in the incident of the wasp. Slowly Mrs. Moore, who is the most visionary character in the book, especially in comparison to the English and the Moslems, is coming to sense that there is another level on which life exists-a blind yet profound level of life-which must be confronted more often in India than anywhere in the west.
Next day the Collector-Mr. Turton-issues invitations to the "Bridge Party." The Indians who receive them are much excited. Some, like Mahmoud Ali, speculate that Mr. Turton has been forced to give the party by "higher ups." Others, like the Nawab Bahadur, a powerful local landowner, are less suspicious of the Englishman's motives. Most, however, no matter what their reaction, decide to attend the gathering.
Although they are often savagely critical of their British rulers, the Indians-like many subject peoples - are also pathetically grateful for the slightest sign of attention or kindness from them.
The "Bridge Party" is definitely not a success. The British, for the most part contemptuous of the Indians, and a little nervous with them too ("It's enough to make the old type of Burra Sahib turn in his grave"), remain aloof, in a little, superior group on one side of the Club lawn; the Indians, most of whom have arrived early, stand "massed at the farther side of the tennis lawn, doing nothing." The gulf between the two groups is a physical as well as a social one.
Finally Mr. Turton arrives and forces his wife to accompany him across the lawn to the Indian side of the party. But their greetings are cold and perfunctory. Even Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested, with all the good will in the world, cannot get much response from the Indians after this pattern of British frigidity has been established. They ask to call on one of the Indian ladies-Mrs. Bhattacharya - and are met with a bewildering combination of friendliness and ignorance. Only Mr. Fielding, the Principal of the little Local Government College, who is not what the British ladies call a "pukka sahib" "romps" among the Indian guests, "athletic and cheerful . . . making numerous mistakes which the parents of his pupils tried to cover up, for he was popular among them."
Fielding learns that the two new ladies, Adela and Mrs. Moore, are much liked by the Indians, and when he hears of their interest in meeting "real" Indians, he resolves to make a better attempt at introducing them to natives than the dismal "Bridge Party" has been. He, of all the Europeans in Chandrapore, knows enough Indians to do this, so Adela and Mrs. Moore are delighted to accept his invitation to tea. He plans to ask Aziz and a Hindu Professor of music from his College also, for he's heard of Mrs. Moore's meeting with Aziz.
Despite the prospect of Fielding's tea, however, Adela is depressed by the spirit of British India in general-its dull Englishness, conventionality, and smugness. Later that night, Mrs. Moore tries to explain to Ronny what is bothering Adela. He thinks the Indian weather, especially the heat, is the worst there is to bear in British India. But Mrs. Moore says "it's much more the Anglo-Indians themselves who are likely to get on Adela's nerves. She doesn't think they behave pleasantly to Indians, you see." Ronny, surprised, exclaims "how like a woman to worry over a side-issue!" and when his mother objects, he adds "We're not here for the purpose of behaving pleasantly . . . We're out here to do justice and keep peace." Mrs. Moore, however, replies that "the English are out here to be pleasant... because India is part of the earth. And God has put us on earth in order to be pleasant to each other. God... is... love." His mother's argument makes Ronny "gloomy," however. He knows this "religious strain in her" and regards it as a "symptom of bad health."
This chapter continues to depict the gulf between the British and the Indians, but also, in Mrs. Moore's final conversation with her son, it presents the first of many explorations of the British purpose - and the British practice - in India. Need a ruler, who must get things done amid the chaos of the strange Indian world, treat his subjects "pleasantly?" Or, after all, need a ruler "get things done" at all? What is his ultimate purpose in India anyway? To teach the Indians British ways, or to be instructed by India itself? Mrs. Moore's "religious strain," which her son thinks a symptom of bad health, may actually be a sign of good health - of good spiritual health, which she, of all the characters, possesses in greatest measure. Her dictum that "God... is... love" reminds us of Margaret Schlegel's motto of "Only connect" in Howards End, and Mrs. Moore's vague yet loving personality will increasingly recall Ruth Wilcox in the same book.
Aziz does not go to the "Bridge Party," though he has been invited and has in fact promised to accompany his colleague, Dr. Panna Lal, in his new tum-tum (a horse-drawn carriage). Aziz has had a row with Major Callendar about his superior's rudeness the night of Hamidullah's dinner-party, and furthermore the party happens to be set for the anniversary of his wife's death.
Though his marriage was an arranged one and he did not at first love his wife (she was not beautiful, apparently), Aziz fell in love with her after the birth of their first child. "He was won by her love for him, by a loyalty that implied something more than submission, and by her efforts to educate herself against that lifting of the purdah that would come in the next generation if not in theirs. She was intelligent, yet had old-fashioned grace."
A combination of laziness and grief keeps Aziz from telling Dr. Panna Lal in time that he isn't going to the party. After brooding for some time that afternoon, however, the young doctor cheers up and goes off to play polo on a field just outside town. A good rider though a bad player, he knocks a ball about for a bit with a British subaltern who happens to be there. The exercise promotes good fellowship and Aziz is annoyed when Dr. Panna Lal happens to pass by on his way back from the party. He has had trouble with his horse and blames Aziz for not telling him he couldn't come, as he'd counted on him to help control the animal. They end up quarreling, and Aziz later regrets that he impulsively galloped past his timid friend's horse, causing it to bolt once again.
At home, he finds a note waiting for him. He fears that it may be a letter of dismissal from his job because of his failure to attend the "Bridge Party," but it turns out to be only Mr. Fielding's invitation to tea on the coming Thursday.
Aziz's behavior, alternately hostile toward Englishmen of the Major Callendar type and desperately grateful for the kindness of such a man as Fielding, is inevitable given the situation in India and Aziz's own essential warmth and impulsiveness of character. His selfish behavior to Dr. Panna Lal, like his quickly-forgotten grief for his wife, is only another manifestation of that same impulsiveness.
Mr. Fielding became an Anglo-Indian late-after forty - and perhaps that is one reason for his tolerance, compared to the other members of the British colony. As a rather worldly man near middleage, he wasn't as likely as the callower young men of the Indian civil service to become alarmed by, and consequently prejudiced against, the strangeness and "otherness" of Indian civilization. Now, Forster tells us, Fielding is a "hard-bitten, good-tempered, intelligent fellow... with a belief in education... The world, he believed, is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can but do so by the help of good will plus culture and intelligence-a creed ill-suited to Chandrapore, but he had come out too late to lose it." Fielding did most harm to his reputation among the British by saying one day at the Club that "the so-called white races are really pinko-grey." His male listeners were "subtly scandalized" and their wives decided that Mr. Fielding was "not a sahib really."
Aziz arrives for the party in good spirits, and the two men, who have never met before, become friends immediately. When Fielding accidentally breaks a collar stud Aziz even impulsively lends the Englishman his own. The tea party, moreover, turns out to be "unconventional" but successful, unlike the ill-fated "Bridge Party." Aziz thinks Adela plain, but finds her and Mrs. Moore easy to talk to. And indeed he is a great success-chattering away with a verve that is typical of him when he is well-received by others. The group decide that "India's a muddle . . ." at least Mr. Fielding thinks so, and that it is also a mystery.
In the course of the conversation, Aziz extravagantly invites all the guests to visit him one day (though he doesn't really want anyone to see his shabby bungalow), for it turns out that their promised visit to the Bhattacharyas never materialized. (The Hindu couple seem to have inexplicably forgotten their invitation.)
After Professor Godbole, a quiet, rather enigmatic, very religious and polite Hindu arrives, Aziz calms down somewhat, but the afternoon remains a triumph for him. Only, when Adela seems to be taking up his invitation, he hastily changes it: "I invite you all to see me in the Marabar caves," he says, grateful for a way of keeping the British ladies from his bungalow. Adela asks him to describe the caves, but oddly enough Aziz has never been there himself and cannot do so. The group then encourages the mysterious Professor Godbole to speak about them, but he seems strangely unwilling to. Suddenly Ronny Heaslop arrives to pick up Adela and Mrs. Moore. With typical Anglo-Indian snobbishness he icily cuts Aziz and the Professor, thereby thoroughly puncturing the warm mood of the party. Now everyone is "cross and wretched." Somehow there seems to be "no reserve of tranquillity to draw upon in India. Either none, or else tranquillity swallowed up everything, as it appeared to do for Professor Godbole."
Just before the British group leaves, the enigmatic, calm Professor is persuaded to sing for them. His song is unintelligible to western ears, but the Indian servants seem to appreciate it. Afterwards, he explains it in a key passage: "It was a religious song. I placed myself in the position of a milkmaiden. I say to Shri Krishna, 'Come! come to me only.' The god refuses to come. I grow humble and say: 'Do not come to me only. Multiply yourself into a hundred Krishnas, and let one go to each of my hundred companions, but one, O Lord of the Universe, come to me.' He refuses to come. This is repeated several times... 'But he comes in some other song, I hope?' said Mrs. Moore gently. 'Oh no, he refuses to come,' repeated Godbole, perhaps not understanding her question. 'I say to Him, Come, come, come, come, come, come. He neglects to come.'"
The Marabar caves, a central symbol in the book, are at last introduced into the story's action in this chapter-strangely enough, by Aziz, who knows nothing about them. Professor Godbole, who does know about them, seems to be in possession of other secrets as well-a kind of cosmic tranquility pervades his acceptance of both social inequities (Ronny Heaslop's intolerably rude snub) and universal emptiness (the god Krishna's failure, in life as in song, to come).
As they leave the party, Adela and Ronny begin to quarrel about Aziz's invitation to the Marabar caves, which the young Englishman thinks thoroughly unsuitable, coming from a native. Adela is quite disappointed in Ronny; India has changed his character for the worse. "His self-complacency, his censoriousness, his lack of subtlety, all grew vivid beneath a tropic sky." Fatigued by their bickering, Mrs. Moore asks to be dropped at the bungalow before the two go on to a polo match.
At the polo match Adela tells Ronny that she cannot marry him. He is naturally disappointed but masks his feelings with typical British reserve. Adela sympathetically remarks that "I know we shall keep friends," and a wave of tenderness sweeps over both, so that when the Nawab Bahadur-also present at the match-invites them for a spin in his new car, they are glad to go off together. They even end up holding hands on the back seat.
As the large, expensive motor car rushes along, however, it suddenly strikes something - an animal, perhaps a hyena, Adela and Ronny speculate. The Nawab Bahadur, though doesn't respond to the situation with such British restraint and practicality. Instead, he becomes intensely - unaccountably - upset. When Miss Derek, a Maharani's British "companion," drives up with her employer's motorcar (which she has taken, without leave, on her vacation) he hastily jumps in, along with Adela and Ronny, abandoning his Eurasian chauffeur, for whom there is no room in the auto, without a second thought.
On their way home, Adela is so moved by her experience in the car with Ronny that she reverses her earlier decision and agrees to marry him. Back at their bungalow, they tell Mrs. Moore the news - and they also tell her about the "accident" in the Nawab Bahadur's car. Her response is strange. She shivers inexplicably and exclaims "A ghost!" But the young people hardly notice.
Meanwhile, at his town house in Chandrapore, the Nawab Bahadur explains the reason for his distress at the incident to some Indian friends, including Dr. Aziz. "Nine years previously, when first he had a car, he had driven it over a drunken man and killed him, and the man had been waiting for him ever since. The Nawab Bahadur was innocent... but it was no use, the man continued to wait in an unspeakable form, close to the scene of his death. None of the English people knew of this... it was a racial secret communicable more by blood than speech." The impressionable audience shudders and only Aziz-the most enlightened of that company-thinks the old man's belief is no more than "superstition."
The British restraint of Ronny and Adela contrasts sharply with the impulsiveness and outgoingness of Dr. Aziz. The fact that the lovers (if they can be called that) quarrel about an invitation to the Marabar caves foreshadows the increasingly troublesome role these strange caves will play in the story.
The incident in the Nawab Bahadur's car, and Mrs. Moore's striking, almost clairvoyant interpretation of it, shows that she - and not the skeptical Indian Aziz-is approaching that mystical accord with the universe, that intuitive understanding of its events and implications, which would ordinarily, in Forster's view, seem to be characteristic of the Indians rather than the English. Perhaps, Forster now suggests, one must have a kind of spiritual talent to see to the heart of things, a talent which the wise and religious Mrs. Moore, like Mrs. Wilcox before her, has got, and which the callow Aziz, like Ronny and Adela, lacks as yet. Forster frequently employs these touches of the supernatural - more often in A Passage to India than in Howards End (where, however, the "mind" of Mrs. Wilcox seems to live in the house and garden long after her death). For him, the supernatural seems to be a dramatic way of representing spiritual strength, strength, like Mrs. Moore's, which reaches beyond the materialistic concerns of men like Ronny-and even Aziz-to the cosmic questions that society all too often ignores.
Shortly after the tea party at Fielding's, Aziz comes down with a slight fever and decides to treat himself to a day in bed. He lies in his cluttered little bungalow, in the swelling heat, disgusted by the clumps of flies on the ceiling and thinking of beautiful women. After a while a group of his friends arrive to see him, including Hamidullah and a few other educated Indians. There is a rumor abroad that Professor Godbole is also ill-following the tea party - and with cholera. When Aziz's colleague, Dr. Panna Lal, comes in to examine him, the other Indians question him about Godbole, his patient and a fellow Hindu. But it develops that the tranquil professor is not suffering from cholera at all; he merely has hemorrhoids!
Now Mr. Fielding arrives, and since it is most unusual for an Englishman to visit a native in this way, he is greeted very deferentially by Aziz's friends. Aziz himself, however, is ashamed of his shabby bungalow and wishes his new British friend had not come. He remains rather cool and distant, but the rest of the group discuss politics and religion with animation, and then the Indians prepare to go. Fielding, too, takes his leave, but for some reason Aziz's servant fails to bring his horse. As he waits on the porch, disappointed with his call (because Aziz's remoteness), "the Club comment, 'making himself cheap as usual,' passed through his mind."
The obstacles to British-Indian friendship are numerous, and they include, as we see in this chapter, the Indians' own sense of inferiority and shame at their Indianness. Fielding is trying to bridge the gulf between himself and Aziz, but though Aziz would like to bridge it too, neither can quite rid himself of the embarrassment and resentment which inevitably widen rather than close such a rift.
Outside of Aziz's bungalow the heat is growing, swelling and "leaping forward" through the street as though it were a living creature. It is April now, "herald of horrors," and as the sun returns to his kingdom "with power but without beauty" the Indian hot weather begins.
The weather is inextricably involved with the mood of A Passage to India, and Forster himself disclosed, in his notes to the Everyman edition of the book (1942), that he meant the three sections of the novel, Mosque, Caves and Temple, to correspond to the three seasons of the Indian year-the cool, the hot and the rainy. Cool weather, as in Mosque, this first section, is associated with a time of relative sanity and restraint; the heat is connected with irrationality, nightmare, hallucinations and a vision of cosmic disorder; finally, the rains accompany revival and refreshment, a renewal of the earth and of life itself.
After the other Indians have left, Aziz calls Fielding back into his room, and after some bitter, anti-British talk, surprises the Englishman by showing him a picture of his dead wife. Fielding is extraordinarily complimented by this action, because Aziz is a Moslem whose family observes the Purdah, or seclusion of women from all men except relatives. The two seal their friendship with some talk about Aziz's marriage, and Fielding regrets that he has no comparable way of honoring his Indian friend - no secrets to tell, no confidences to give in exchange. They discuss Englishwomen in general and Miss Quested in particular. Aziz thinks her unattractive and flatchested, but Fielding finds his friend's criticism a bit vulgar. Aziz then reprimands Fielding for his frankness about his religious beliefs - or lack of them-in the conversation earlier. Though the young doctor no longer stands in such awe of the school principal, they are "friends, brothers." Fielding leaves in good spirits and Aziz drops happily off to sleep.
Fielding and Aziz seem to be well on the way toward cementing a real Anglo-Indian friendship. It remains to be seen, however, how well the relationship can stand up to the extraordinary strain of Indian life-especially of the hot weather.
The discussion of Adela Quested's charms, or lack of them, as well as Aziz's attitude toward his wife and his earlier fantasies about "beautiful women," will begin to seem increasingly significant in the chapters soon to come.
Here begins the "hot-weather" section of the book, called Caves. Appropriately enough, this chapter is devoted to a description of the Marabar caves-a series of undecorated, twenty-foot chambers with polished walls, each of which is approached by an eight-foot long tunnel with rough walls. They are all exactly alike. "Having seen one such cave," Forster explains, "having seen two... the visitor returns to Chandrapore uncertain whether he has had an interesting experience or a dull one or any experience at all. He finds it difficult to discuss the caves, or to keep them apart in his mind, for the pattern never varies, and no carving, not even a bees'-nest or a bat distinguishes one from another... One of them is rumoured within the boulder that swings on the summit of the highest of the hills; a bubble-shaped cave that has neither ceiling nor floor, and mirrors its own darkness in every direction infinitely."
The caves in A Passage to India seem to stand for what Helen Schlegel in Howards End called the "panic and emptiness" of the universe. Indeed, as Forster uses them, they show a remarkable similarity to many of the images of cosmic insignificance and "absurdity" which are employed by such contemporary existentialists as Samuel Beckett, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Bewilderingly blank, meaningless and empty, the Marabar caves represent a universe which man must confront but cannot comprehend, a universe from which God-the orderly principle, the principle of love and life-has withdrawn, or to which, like Krishna in Professor Godbole's song, he "neglects to come." Infinitely multiplied and yet cut off from each other, they are like the souls of men-or perhaps, better, like the lifeless hulks of men-isolated and empty, amid cosmic insignificance.
For some time Aziz has forgotten his invitation of Mrs. Moore and Adela to the Marabar caves, but one day a servant overhears Adela wondering aloud about his neglect of them, and this information is relayed to him via the Indian "grapevine." Of course, he strenuously renews the invitations, and despite all kinds of difficulties (everyone eats a different diet, for instance) it is finally settled that Adela and Mrs. Moore will visit the caves with him and Professor Godbole, provided that Mr. Fielding comes along too-as a trustworthy Englishman, to satisfy Ronny that everything is all right.
Finally the great day arrives; the party are to meet at the train, and Aziz is so nervous about lateness that he spends the night at the station in order to be punctual. In the morning Mrs. Moore and Adela arrive in plenty of time for the train, and Aziz helps them into the Purdah car where they are to ride. Suddenly he sees that the gates have been closed unusually early; the train is about to start and Fielding and Godbole have not arrived. Aziz and his friend Muhammad Latif leap aboard, and as the train pulls out of the station they catch sight of Fielding and the professor, who have missed it because Godbole took too long with his prayers.
Aziz is in despair, but Mrs. Moore, always kind and thoughtful, consoles him. Adela too is kind, and finally he cheers up, feeling increasingly "important and competent" on his own. "'Indians are incapable of responsibility,' said the officials... He would show those pessimists that they were wrong." But he still doesn't know what is in the Marabar caves, or why they are going to see them.
Aziz's ignorance about the caves is part of his general ignorance of the universe and the way it works. He is a warmhearted and well-intentioned person, but still rather callow and superficial; as yet he has not penetrated to the "panic and emptiness" which are at the heart of things, and consequently he is not yet mature enough to come to terms with life.
On the train, where they are regally pampered by the servants Aziz has hired for the occasion, Adela and Mrs. Moore discuss Adela's forthcoming marriage to Ronny. The couple are to be married in Simla, in the hills, to escape the heat, and because the wedding won't take place until May, Mrs. Moore, who now wants to return to Ralph and Stella, her children by another marriage, won't be able to leave India till after the hot weather.
The scenery around them is rather dull during most of the journey, but as they approach the Marabar hills, it becomes more spectacular, and a dramatic sunrise raises their hopes. "But at the supreme moment, when night should have died and day lived, nothing occurred.... The hues in the east decayed, the hills seemed dimmer though in fact better lit, and a profound disappointment entered with the morning breeze." India-like Professor Godbole's song-leaves everyone and everything strangely unfulfilled.
When they alight at the Marabar station, Adela and Mrs. Moore find that Aziz has hired an elephant to transport the whole party to the caves. After some bustling about by the servants, they get underway, and are served poached eggs and tea as soon as they arrive in the shadow of the hills. (Aziz is under the impression that the English must be fed every two hours!) Buoyed up by the sense that he is succeeding as a host - and proving in the process that a native can be a good host - Aziz feels overwhelmingly fond of Adela and Mrs. Moore. He and Mrs. Moore reminisce about their first meeting in the mosque, and then the tactful woman draws him out on the subject of the earliest Mogul rulers of India, a subject - unlike the caves - about which he knows something.
Adela, too, asks Aziz about India: how shall she behave after her marriage to Ronny? "I am told we all get rude after a year," she says. "Then you are told a lie," Aziz replies quickly, "for she had spoken the truth and it touched him on the raw."
After this brief rest the three visit their first cave, where Mrs. Moore has a terrifying experience. "Crammed with villagers and servants, the circular chamber began to smell. She lost Aziz and Adela in the dark, didn't know who touched her, couldn't breathe, and some vile naked thing struck her face and settled on her mouth like a pad... not only did the crush and stench alarm her; there was also a terrifying echo."
When she leaves the cave, Mrs. Moore discovers that "the naked pad was a poor little baby, astride its mother's hip." Nevertheless, she decides not to visit another. She explains that she is feeling unwell, and while Aziz and Adela go on ahead she settles down to write a letter to Ralph and Stella. Her experience in the cave has shaken her considerably, however. It seems as though a voice has told her that "Pathos, piety, courage-they exist, but are identical, and so is filth. Everything exists, nothing has value." The echo in the cave has reduced everything to a meaningless boum. "Motionless with horror" and sick at heart, Mrs. Moore loses in a moment all her joy in life, and all interest, even in Aziz; "the affectionate and sincere words that she had spoken to him seemed no longer hers but the air's."
In this central chapter, Mrs. Moore has a nihilistic vision of the universe in the Marabar caves which obliterates-or seems to obliterate-her earlier belief that "God... is... love." Suddenly it seems as though there is no God, and the consequent emptiness and meaninglessness of life become insupportable to her. The "Marabar... (had) robbed infinity and eternity of their vastness, the only quality that accommodates them to mankind." And in the process of doing so, it also robs mankind of all dignity; evil seems to be let loose upon the world, and even an innocent child is reduced to a vile and helpless thing, no more than a "naked pad" in the polished darkness of the cave.
Adela and Aziz continue on with the guide to the next cave. They have never particularly liked each other, and Adela, especially, is rather bored by the whole expedition and preoccupied with her wedding plans. Nevertheless, she politely admires several caves, and as they walk along, to make conversation, she questions Aziz about his marriage. ". . . do come and see my wife," he tells her, feeling it is "more artistic to have his wife alive for a moment." And Adela blunderingly asks "Have you one wife or more than one?" Aziz-who is an enlightened, modern man and would never think of having more than one wife-is shocked. ". . . To ask an educated Indian Moslem how many wives he has-appalling, hideous!" He plunges into a cave "to recover his balance," while Adela, quite ignorant of her mistake, casually enters another.
Adela's blunder is typically British and patronizing; it illuminates once more the cause of the gulf of prejudice which separates the English and the Indians: ignorance, no more and no less. Furthermore, the conversation which Adela and Aziz have as they climb toward the highest cave focuses Adela's mind on love and marriage and helps to precipitate the coming crisis.
After a minute in the cave to restore his calm, Aziz goes out to look for Adela. When he can't find her, he becomes panicky, thinking she is lost. The guide is no help, and he strikes the man in the face for a punishment. Then suddenly he catches sight of Miss Quested on the road below. She seems to have come across a friend, for there is another lady, in a motor car, with her, and after a minute the two drive off together. Reassured, Aziz returns to the rock where he had left Mrs. Moore and is overjoyed to find Fielding there also. The Englishman explains that Miss Derek had run him up in her Maharani's auto after he missed the train. Then he inquires about Adela, and is shocked at the rude way in which the girl has run off. A servant comes to inform them that she has returned to Chandrapore with Miss Derek, and Fielding can hardly believe it. But to Aziz, of course, such impulsiveness seems the most natural thing in the world.
After Fielding has been taken to see one cave (it doesn't impress him), the three prepare to leave for Chandrapore themselves. But first Aziz must reassure Fielding that Adela is all right, for the Englishman senses that something is wrong and fears that she may have been ill or-he doesn't know what. Aziz doesn't share his fears, however, and after some jovial talk about the high cost of the picnic, they catch their train and sleep all the way home. When they arrive, however, the door of their carriage is rudely flung open by Mr. Haq, the Inspector of Police, who shocks them by saying in "shrill tones: 'Dr. Aziz, it is my highly painful duty to arrest you.'" Fielding thinks there must be some mistake, and Aziz, sobbing at the disgrace, tries to escape, but Fielding promises that whatever happens, he will see him through. They emerge into a chaotic scene at the station, with police and porters milling about everywhere, and before they can pass through it Fielding is called away by Mr. Turton. Aziz goes to prison alone.
The charge against Aziz is still a mystery, but we sense at once that his "crime" must somehow be related to the caves, and to Adela's mysterious departure with Miss Derek. Perhaps Mrs. Moore's uncanny second sight had operated again when she irrationally felt there was something evil in the cave she visited.
When Fielding reaches Turton's side at the railway station, the Collector explains, almost speechless with rage, that "The worst thing in my whole career has happened... Miss Quested has been insulted in one of the Marabar caves." Fielding, sick, cannot believe it. Aziz is being accused of having assaulted Adela Quested! "She's mad," he exclaims, without thinking, and Turton, in a fury, insists that he "withdraw" that remark instantly. Fielding withdraws it "unconditionally... for the man half was mad himself."
Turton, trembling, goes on to say that all this trouble comes of consorting with the natives. It is obvious that he at least partially blames Fielding and his "modern ideas" for the tragedy, but he also feels that he himself is responsible. Fielding sees that the man's words are "dignified and pathetic" but thinks that they have nothing to do with Aziz. Whereas Turton has "decided to avenge the girl, he hope(s) to save the man."
Turton invites Fielding to an informal meeting at the Club that night, and Fielding agrees to come. Miss Quested is ill and cannot be seen, but Fielding is anxious to get more information. He senses that all the British in Chandrapore are abandoning reason and rallying to "the banner of race," but he hopes that he himself may preserve the logic of facts "though the herd has decided on emotion."
On his way out of the station, Turton stops some looting of Aziz's things which is going on among the natives, but he also glares with pure hostility at the Indians, thinking "I know what you're like at last; you shall pay for this, you shall squeal."
At last the hatred between the Indians and the English is really out in the open. The two seem to be facing each other across an unbridgeable gulf as they totter on the brink of a race war, and only the cosmopolitan and rational Fielding doesn't feel the need to align himself with his own people. It is ironic that Adela Quested, with her naive desire to get to know the natives, should have started all this - and it is probably inevitable that the critical event should have taken place in one of the terrifying Marabar caves.
In this chapter Fielding goes to see McBryde, the Superintendent of Police and the "most reflective and best educated of Chandrapore officials." Despite his intelligence and air of courtesy, however, the Superintendent is hopelessly prejudiced against natives, believing that they are all "criminals at heart" because of the hot climate. He politely tells Fielding all he knows about the case - "That he (Aziz) followed her into the cave and made insulting advances. She hit him with her fieldglasses; he pulled at them and the strap broke, and that is how she got away." When Fielding expresses doubt about Aziz's guilt, however, McBryde becomes more hostile. He produces letters from Aziz's pocket, to show that the young man was arranging to "see women at Calcutta" and refuses to allow his fellow Englishman to see the prisoner at all. "Why mix yourself up with pitch?" he inquires. "Innocence or guilt, why mix yourself up?" Fielding is furious at this, and at the suggestion that "We shall all have to hang together, old man... you don't happen to know this poisonous country as well as I do, and you must take it from me that the general situation is going to be nasty at Chandrapore during the next few weeks.... " Fielding knows things will be "nasty," but he believes that a miscarriage of justice would be the nastiest thing of all. He winces when Aziz's treasured picture of his dead wife is brought in as further evidence of the young man's interest in women. But "wife indeed," thinks Mr. McBryde, whose face has become "inquisitive and slightly bestial, " "I know these wives!"
Not only have the British hysterically rallied into a "herd," drawn by the banner of racial pride, but they are also, ironically, abandoning the very principles of honor and justice which made them feel so superior to the Indians in the first place. Earlier, we must remember, Ronny Heaslop had told his mother that he was not out here to behave "pleasantly" to the natives, but rather to "do justice and keep the peace." Now however, the British are abandoning the ideal of justice as easily as they dismissed the idea of "pleasantness." Only Fielding, who is, ironically, to be ostracized by his colleagues as a kind of traitor to the British cause and not a "sahib," stands firmly for the "British" ideals of justice and integrity.
Going wholeheartedly over to the "Indian side," Fielding confers with Aziz's friend Hamidullah about a lawyer for the young man. Hamidullah, "the leading barrister of Chandrapore, with the dignified manner and Cambridge degree, [has] been rattled." He keeps worrying about the most politic way of approaching the English, and "at the moment when he was throwing in his lot with the Indians, [Fielding] realized the profundity of the gulf that divided him from them. They always do something disappointing... Aziz had tried to run away from the police... and now Hamidullah-instead of raging and denouncing,he temporized."
Hamidullah finally insists on calling in an Hindu lawyer so that the defense will "make a wider appeal." The man he chooses is "Amritrao, a Calcutta barrister, who [has] a high reputation professionally and personally, but who [is] notoriously anti-British."
After he returns to the school, Fielding has a curious conversation with Professor Godbole, who is on the verge of leaving for a new position in central India. He annoys Fielding by talking of trivial matters, but when the Englishman forces him to discuss the Aziz affair, he enigmatically replies that whatever happened in the cave was done by everyone. "When evil occurs, it expresses the whole of the universe," he says, and he goes on to explain that good and evil "are both of them aspects of my Lord. He is present in the one, absent in the other... yet absence implies presence, absence is non-existence, and we are therefore entitled to repeat 'Come, come, come, come.'"
Later that afternoon, Fielding goes to see Aziz, who is, however, "unapproachable through misery."
Indians, like Hamidullah, are "disappointing" in an emergency for the very reason that they are a subject people whose lives and careers depend solely on British whim. Naturally Aziz tried to escape and Hamidullah worries about policy; they know their British masters better than those masters know themselves, and they realize that the ideal of justice is only skin-deep.
Fielding's conversation with Professor Godhole reminds us that the incident in the Marabar caves has metaphysical as well as social overtones. Mrs. Moore, of course, had seen the caves at once in a kind of cosmic context, but with all the political flurry there has been since the arrest of Aziz, we need Professor Godbole's religious speculations to show us again that morality exists in a larger framework.
The British gather at their club that evening in a kind of exaltation, to defend Miss Quested's honor. Though Adela had not been especially popular with them, she is now the heroine of the hour. Mrs. Turton, who had pronounced her "not pukka," now calls her "my own darling girl."
Outside the club the Indians are beating drums as part of the Moslem festival of Mohurram, which is rapidly approaching, but naturally the noise adds to the feeling of apprehension, of "the natives are restless tonight," which grips the whole company. The men send their wives out of the room in order to discuss matters; panicky, they plan to send the women and children to the hills at once. Major Callendar arrives to report on Miss Quested's condition - she is better - and begins slyly to insult Fielding, who has been sitting quietly by. He knows the educator sympathizes with Aziz and blames the whole incident on him anyway, because he'd missed the train to the caves. Fielding controls himself with a great effort; he doesn't want to make a scene.
A few moments later, however, Ronny Heaslop-the fiance of the "victim" -enters the room, and all the British, as a gesture of sympathy and solidarity, stand in his honor. All, that is, except Fielding. When Turton, annoyed, asks Fielding why he has remained seated, the schoolmaster replies that it is because "I believe Aziz to be innocent," and after a few more angry words from the Collector, he resigns from the Club. If Aziz is guilty, furthermore, he promises to resign from his service and leave India entirely.
In resigning from the Club,Fielding has taken the final step and severed all his significant social connections with the British colony. Some members actually respect him for his frankness, but to most he has simply proven once and for all that he is "not a sahib."
"Dismissing his regrets," Fielding leaves the Club, glad that he won't have the opportunity to pick up scraps of gossip there which he might report to his Indian friends later. He spends the evening with the Nawab Bahadur, Hamidullah, Mahmoud Ali and Aziz's other friends, planning the defense.
Fielding's integrity is thoroughly consistent and all-pervasive. Just as he declines to accept a double-standard of justice for Indians and English, he also refuses to use the kind of tactics against the British which they themselves are willing to use against the Indians.
In the meantime, Adela has been staying for several days with the McBrydes. "She had been touched by the sun, also hundreds of cactus spines had to be picked out of her flesh." In an important passage, Forster describes how Miss Derek and Mrs. McBryde examine her through a magnifying glass, picking out the tiny spines, which process develops "the shock that had begun in the cave... People seemed very much alike, except that some would come close while others kept away." Like that of Mrs. Moore, Adela's experience in the Marabar caves leaves her revolted by her fellow man. All through her illness, she wants nothing more than to see Mrs. Moore, however. Not realizing that her companion has been as deeply affected as she has, she hopes that Mrs. Moore can drive away the "evil" that has been let "loose."
When Adela's temperature has dropped, Ronny comes to take her home. He tells her about the "Mohurram troubles" (rioting in the city) and about Aziz's forthcoming trial, in which she will have to appear and be cross-examined. When she asks about Mrs. Moore, he is strangely circumspect, explaining that Adela is likely to find his mother rather changed and "irritable."
Back at the bungalow, Adela finds that this is indeed so. She keeps wanting reassurance from Mrs. Moore - that she is doing the right thing, that the older woman sympathizes, etc. - yet she seems unable to get any response. "Mrs. Moore showed no inclination to be helpful. A sort of resentment emanated from her. She seemed to say: 'Am I to be bothered for ever?' Her Christian tenderness had gone, or had developed into a hardness, a just irritation against the human race; she had taken no interest at the arrest, asked scarcely any question..." Talking about the caves, Adela mentions the echo. "I can't get rid of it," she explains. "I don't suppose you ever will," Mrs. Moore replies rather unkindly - but then Mrs. Moore is suffering herself, though her son Ronny does not understand this. He is simply annoyed with her and reflects that she is "by no means the dear old lady outsiders supposed. India had brought her out into the open." Now she wants only to return to England, and Ronny is inclined to let her go, despite the heat.
Later that night, Adela tells Ronny - strangely - that Aziz is "innocent, I made an awful mistake." Immediately on saying this, she exclaims that her echo is better and adds that "Aziz is good. You heard your mother say so." Ronny tells her that his mother said nothing, but Adela seems to be suffering from the extraordinary hallucination that Mrs. Moore said "Dr. Aziz never did it." Worse yet, when Ronny, "to clear the confusion up," asks his mother about it, she denies having said anything, but then adds that "of course, he is innocent." Adela is terribly upset by this, and when Ronny tells her that now "the case has to come before a magistrate" because "the machinery has started," she is in tears. Ronny, furious with his mother, decides that she ought to leave India at once.
Both Adela and Mrs. Moore have had the same devastating experience in the caves, an experience of cosmic "panic and emptiness" which has led them-each in her own way-to abandon all faith in human values. Mrs. Moore, the same Mrs. Moore who told Ronny that "God is love," now rejects "all this rubbish about love," and though she knows Aziz is innocent, refuses to be bothered about his defense. Her state of revulsion with the world seems to be a stage in the mystical experience, which might eventually develop beyond negation to something else, though Forster has not suggested what.
When Adela, however, thinks she hears Mrs. Moore saying that Aziz is innocent, her "echo" seems to go away for a moment-as though the goblins of nihilism could be dispelled by human faith and trust. The question now is, can they be dispelled by anything, for any length of time?
This brilliant chapter describes Mrs. Moore's departure from India. No passage can be obtained so late in the year, so Mrs. Turton is prevailed upon to appeal to Lady Mellanby, the Lieutenant-Governor's wife, and this kind lady generously provides space for Mrs. Moore in her own cabin, since no other is available. Journeying across India, Mrs. Moore speculates about the cave and her experience in it. She had come to India wanting "to be one with the universe," a noble cosmos as she then envisioned it, a great backdrop for love and heroism. But "what had spoken to her in that scouredout cavity of granite?... Something very old and very small. Before time, it was before space also. Something snub-nosed, incapable of generosity-the undying worm itself," which mocks human existence and human values. From the train, Mrs. Moore can see a fortress called Asirgarh, which has "huge and noble bastions." As she passes it, she recognizes at last that there is something more than the Marabar worm in this world. And as her boat sails out of the harbor, she can see thousands of coconut palms rising above Bombay. "'So you thought an echo was India, you took the Marabar caves as final?" they laughed. 'What have we in common with them, or they with Asirgarh?'"
As she leaves India, Mrs. Moore, who had sunk to the nadir of despair in the days following her vision in the caves, seems to be coming out of her depression a little. If we take India as a kind of generalized symbol of the ultimate reality that underlies all civilizations-a placed closer to the paradoxical truths of the earth than any western land-Mrs. Moore seems to be recognizing at this point that reality is elusive, inexplicable, indescribable-that things are neither all-good nor all-bad, but only there, to be seen, passed, and remembered, like the caves, Bombay, and Asirgarh.
The terrible Indian heat "accelerated its advance after Mrs. Moore's departure until existence had to be endured and crime punished with the thermometer at one hundred and twelve." In preparation for the trial, Adela has returned to Christianity, kneeling in prayer every morning. On the fateful day, she tries to pray, drinks a little brandy and leaves for court with the solicitous Turtons. "My echo has come back again, badly," she tells them-which is significant in view of what she is about to do.
At court, the British - most of the important members of the colony have turned up to offer Adela moral support - are placed in Ronny's private office, where they abuse the turncoat Fielding "vigorously" and rally round Adela with enthusiasm. The trial, from which Ronny is disqualified as magistrate by his relationship with Adela, is to be handled by his chief assistant, Mr. Das. Ronny thinks this is good: "Conviction was inevitable, so better let an Indian pronounce it, there would be less fuss in the long run." But many of the other British are outraged that an Indian should pronounce a verdict on a case involving an Englishwoman.
It is very hot in the courtroom and a beautiful, half-naked outcaste keeps the punkah (fan) going constantly. The trial begins with Mr. McBryde testifying that "the darker races are physically attracted by the fairer, but not vice versa," to which an unidentified Indian voice replies, "Even when the lady is so uglier than the gentleman?" Adela feels faint at the insult, and a seat is provided for her and her party on the platform. The Indians quickly object to all the British sitting above them, however, and so the whole group (including Adela) eventually climbs down. Adela feels better, though, now that she has seen all the people in the room, and thinks she will come through "all right."
The prosecution begins calling its witnesses and tries to prove that the crime was premeditated, that, for instance, Aziz tried to "get rid" of Mrs. Moore by "crushing her into a cave among his servants." The mention of Mrs. Moore provokes a great outcry from the Indians, however, who have heard that Mrs. Moore thought Aziz was innocent, and in the hullaballoo which ensues the old woman's name is Indianized into "Esmiss Esmoor, a Hindu goddess" - that is, she is, as it were, canonized in the native religion, which Ronny naturally finds "revolting." The crowd outside takes up the chant of "Esmiss Esmoor" with enthusiasm, then suddenly it stops, "as if the prayer had been heard."
Soon Adela is called to testify, and as she stands in the witness box "a new and unknown sensation protected her, like magnificent armor." "Across a sort of darkness," she tells her memories of the expedition, which now suddenly seems splendid and significant, to Mr. McBryde. When they get to the crucial moment, however, the moment of the assault in the cave, she stops short, asking for a chance to think. Then, astonishingly, as if out of nowhere, she denies that Aziz followed her into the cave. Fielding, in the audience, sees that she is "about to have a nervous breakdown and that his friend [has been] saved." And indeed, Adela confesses that "I'm afraid I have made a mistake," which of course leads Mr. Das to stop the trial at once, declaring that "the prisoner is released without one stain on his honor." The English, furious, leave in a white-faced group, while the Indians, for their part, immediately begin a wild celebration.
Adela's sensational confession is the climax of the long, dramatic Marabar caves story which is the central incident of the book, the heart of the plot. And perhaps it was the Hindu prayer to "Esmiss Esmoor" which suddenly helped the girl to grope her way out of the delusive Marabar darkness that had closed around her, into the simpler light of truth and faith. For the British, however, as we shall see, Adela's confession constitutes a social betrayal as grave as Fielding's defense of Aziz; many of them will always believe the Indian guilty, no matter what facts or logic are assembled in his behalf.
By exonerating Aziz, Adela has "renounced her own people," and she finds herself being borne off by a mass of Indians. She hardly knows what she is doing and where she is going, so that when she collides with Fielding it is only natural that the gentlemanly Englishman should offer her his carriage. He promises Aziz that he will return to join in his celebration, but meanwhile he and Adela are carried away by his students, who heap the pair with garlands and pull their carriage through the bazaar. Finally they take refuge in Fielding's school, which is deserted for the moment, but Fielding wishes he could join in Aziz's victory party.
At the same time, Aziz and his friends are being borne in procession through the town, and the celebration shows signs of turning into a riot. There are rumours that the Nawab Bahadur's grandson, Nureddin, is being tortured at the hospital, so the mob rushes there, only to find that he is all right. Finally the Nawab Bahadur invites everyone to special "rejoicings" at his country home in Dilkusha, and the tension subsides, "for the heat was claiming its own. Unable to madden, it stupefied, and before long most of the Chandrapore combatants were asleep."
Fielding's ambiguous "bridge" - like position is emphasized by his sense of responsibility to Miss Quested, one of "his own" people, whom he feels he must rescue before he can join in Aziz's victory celebration. As we shall see, he will soon be increasingly torn by his loyalty to both combatants.
Adela stays at Fielding's College for a time, during which they have a number of "curious conversations." At first, he is rather "curt" with her, wondering "Why make such a charge if you were going to withdraw it?" but he is soon convinced of the girl's sincerity, and finally comes to agree with her belief that she must have been ill, "hallucinated" by her experience in the cave. His sympathy for her is increased by his memory of Aziz's description of her as a "hag"; he doesn't feel that her looks should have anything to do with the case at issue.
Hamidullah comes by in the course of their first conversation after the trial, and Adela tries to explain her conduct to him, but he is bitter and resentful. He obviously wants Fielding to get rid of Adela as soon as possible, and to come out with him to the Nawab Bahadur's at once. But Fielding cannot cast off what he now believes to be a responsibility so easily. There is some question about where the girl is to stay, and he offers her his College as a temporary refuge, since he is about to leave with Hamidullah. She is on the verge of refusing when Ronny Heaslop comes to tell her that of course she can no longer stay with the Turtons, and that his own "bachelor" quarters would be unsuitable, so it is finally decided that Adela will stay on at Fielding's.
Ronny also brings the news that his mother, Mrs. Moore, has died on board the ship to England. Fielding and Adela are shocked and upset. "She was dead when they called her name this morning," Adela exclaims. But Hamidullah and Fielding agree that Ronny is entirely to blame. "An Indian May is no month to allow an old lady to travel in."
Later, when Fielding and the Indians are on their way to the Nawab Bahadur's, Hamidullah asks Amritrao "What sum Miss Quested ought to pay as compensation?" The answer, "Twenty thousand rupees," horrifies Fielding. "He couldn't bear to think of the queer honest girl losing her money and possibly her young man too. She advanced into his consciousness suddenly."
It almost seems as though Fielding has come to play the role which Mrs. Moore abandoned after her experience in the cave-the role of a living bridge between isolated men-for only he, now, is capable of sympathizing with both Adela and Aziz. He lacks Mrs. Moore's visionary, almost supernatural insight into events, however, and therefore runs no risk of becoming a saint (like "Esmiss Esmoor") in either the western or the Hindu firmament.
After the Victory Banquet, Aziz and Fielding lie on the roof of the Nawab Bahadur's house talking things over in the relatively cool night air. Aziz has been convinced by his Indian friends that he ought to seek a large sum in compensation from Miss Quested, and Fielding is trying to dissuade him. "You think that by letting Miss Quested off easily I shall make a better reputation for myself and Indians generally," Aziz says. "No, no. It will be put down to weakness and the attempt to gain promotion officially." In fact, he adds, he is determined to leave British India and get a job in a native state.
Fielding tries to explain to Aziz what a brave gesture Adela had made in the courtroom - "All her friends around her, the entire British Raj pushing her forward, she stops, sends the whole thing to smithereens" - but Aziz is unreceptive. Finally he tells Fielding he will "consult Mrs. Moore," for the news of the old English-woman's death has not yet been generally revealed. After he has talked about Mrs. Moore and her children a little more, Fielding cannot bear it and blurts out "I'm sorry to say Mrs. Moore's dead." But Hamidullah, who doesn't want the festive evening spoilt, tells Aziz that "he is trying to pull your leg," and Aziz believes him. Fielding, knowing that everyone will hear the truth in the morning, says no more. Indeed, as he lies in the dark, thinking of death, it occurs to him that "he had tried to kill Mrs. Moore this evening ... but she still eluded him and the atmosphere remained tranquil."
Mrs. Moore has become, like Mrs. Wilcox in Howards End, a spirit which broods over the story, giving to later events-as we shall see-a meaning and a structure they would not otherwise have.
Further details of Mrs. Moore's death and of the reaction to it are given in this chapter. The old lady was taken ill almost as soon as she came aboard ship, which Lady Mellanby found "needlessly distressing." In Chandrapore "a legend sprang up that an Englishman had killed his mother for trying to save an Indian's life - and there was just enough truth in this to cause annoyance to the authorities." Too, there are "signs of the beginning of a cult - earthenware saucers and so on," but "after a week or so, the rash died down."
Ronny tries to clear his conscience of guilt by telling himself "that his mother had left India at her own wish" and that in any case she had been "tiresome with her patronage of Aziz" and "a bad influence on Adela." His religion is "of the sterilized Public School brand, which never goes bad, even in the tropics," and he dutifully plans to put up a tablet to her in Northamptonshire.
As for Adela, Ronny feels that she is "unsuitable and humiliating," and he cannot possibly marry her - "it would mean the end of his career."
This is a final devastating picture of Ronny, the essence of the "pukka sahib" - smug, self-righteous and priggish. Unlike Fielding, he takes no responsibility for anything - especially not his mother's death or Adela's welfare, and unlike his mother, he is totally insensitive to any ideas but the socially acceptable, "sterilized" ones which he has made his own. More than anything else, he reminds us of Henry Wilcox in Howards End-indeed, of all the Wilcoxes except Ruth Wilcox - the practical men, the empire-builders, at the heart of whose "outer life of telegrams and anger" there is nothing but hypocrisy and a core of "panic and emptiness."
The "decomposition," as Forster calls it, of the Marabar affair goes on briskly. The Lieutenant-Governor visits Chandrapore and criticizes the intolerant behavior of the British. "Exempted by a long career in the secretariat from personal contact with the peoples of India," he is "able to deplore racial prejudice." In the meantime, Fielding is staying with Hamidullah, and Miss Quested remains at Fielding's college, since the school is closed for the moment. The Englishman finds himself increasingly sympathetic to the girl, who is universally ostracized by both Indians and English. Her "humility" is "touching," he thinks. "She never repined at getting the worst of both worlds; she regarded it as due punishment of her stupidity." He suggests that she write a letter of apology to Aziz, and she immediately does so, admitting, however, that she doesn't really like Indians after all.
Fielding's Indian friends are "a bit above themselves." Fielding continues to pressure Aziz to forego a large compensation from Adela. When he finally appeals to the memory of Mrs. Moore, the young doctor, who had been deeply stricken by her death, yields suddenly to his demands. As he had predicted, though, his fine gesture wins him "no credit with the English, who will go on believing him guilty to the end of their careers."
At last Ronny, who has been half-heartedly seeing her, breaks off his engagement to Adela, which the girl agrees is "far wiser of him." She plans to return to England, where she has "heaps of friends" of her own type, but of course, she tells Fielding, she regrets "the trouble I've brought on everyone here ... I can never get over it." She and Fielding, in their last talk, decide that "love" is impossible - and as for the experience in the cave, they conclude "indifferently" that the culprit must have been the guide. Neither, however, can quite forget Mrs. Moore's strange knowledge of Aziz's innocence. Was it "telepathy?" they wonder. "A friendliness, as of dwarfs shaking hands, was in the air. Both man and woman were at the height of their powers-sensible, honest, even subtle... yet they were dissatisfied."
Adela returns to England. She is in a daze until she reaches Egypt, where "the atmosphere altered. The clean sands heaped on each side of the canal seemed to wipe off everything that was difficult and equivocal . . ." Suddenly she realizes that "her first duty" in England will be to look up Mrs. Moore's other two children, Ralph and Stella.
Honest and sensitive as Adela and Fielding are, they cannot make real contact with each other. Beneath the vast mysterious sky of India, they are "dwarfs shaking hands." Both see that the visionary insight of a Mrs. Moore is even more necessary to meaningful relationships than the liberal good-will of people like themselves. Perhaps this is why Adela suddenly feels so strongly that she must find Mrs. Moore's other children-for though things seem to resolve themselves into a more comprehensible western order and clarity in Egypt, she knows that the "muddle" and "mystery" of India is the underlying truth of the universe.
Another result of the trial is a temporary peace between the Hindus and Moslems of Chandrapore, who are usually feuding. Mr. Das, the presiding Magistrate and a Hindu, even asks Aziz, who fancies himself a poet, to contribute some verses to a new magazine, edited by his brother-in-law. Trying to write something which will appeal to all, Aziz begins to feel the stirrings of a kind of patriotism, a love for the "vague and bulky figure of a mother-land." He decides definitely to leave British India and to take service in a native state, though his friend Hamidullah reminds him that he can hardly afford to lose his British salary, which is higher than anything "those savage Rajahs" will pay. Hamidullah reproaches him for having allowed Miss Quested to get off without paying a large compensation; if she had, Aziz would be independent now. Then Hamidullah adds news of a "naughty rumour" that has been going about lately. "When Miss Quested stopped in the College, Fielding used to visit her... rather too late in the evening, the servants say." Aziz tries to laugh at this, but he is obviously upset by it.
The seeds of suspicion have been sown between Aziz and Fielding, and they will slowly ripen into the hostility on Aziz's part which motivates the final action of the book.
Aziz, who lacks a "sense of evidence," soon persuades himself that the rumours about Fielding and Miss Quested are true. When he confronts Fielding with the story, however, his friend becomes annoyed. "You little rotter!" he exclaims, disgusted with Aziz for taking such obviously foolish gossip seriously. The Indian is "cut to the heart," both by Fielding's phrase and by the mistake that he himself has made. Over dinner the two try to make it up, but there is a good deal of constraint between them now, and their friendship seems more difficult to maintain than ever-especially because Fielding, under orders from the Lieutenant-Governor, has resumed his membership in the British Club. He tells Aziz that he expects to go to England for a short vacation quite soon, as his service is "anxious to get me away from Chandrapore for a bit. It is obliged to value me highly, but does not care for me."
Aziz, of course, assumes that Fielding will resume his relationship with Miss Quested in England, and, indeed, by the time Fielding leaves, their friendship has deteriorated to a point where the suspicious and impulsive Indian, quick to jump to conclusions, is convinced that Fielding has gone to England to marry Adela and get hold of the money which he, Aziz, had so generously relinquished. "'Where are my twenty thousand rupees?' he thought. He was absolutely indifferent to money... yet these rupees haunted his mind, because he had been tricked about them, and allowed them to escape overseas, like so much of the wealth of India."
At last India-the heat, the confusion, the suspicion, the horrible, panicky boum of the Marabar caves-has succeeded in coming between the only two in the book, Aziz and Fielding, who seemed to be effectively building a bridge between East and West. Of course, Aziz's own personality is at the root of the trouble, for if he weren't so ready to believe the worst of his friend, things would be all right. But Aziz's original naive and warm-hearted trust and friendliness were corrupted into this suspicious coldness by the treatment which he received from the British, so that ultimately both sides, East and West, are responsible for the situation.
As he journeys westward, away from India, Fielding finds himself increasingly relieved and refreshed by the orderly western landscape, and by the western sense of form, so different from the intricate muddle of India. Venice, especially, seems to him to embody "the harmony between the works of man and the earth that upholds them, the civilization that has escaped muddle, the spirit in a reasonable form, with flesh and blood subsisting." And as for the Mediterranean, "the Mediterranean is the human norm," home of the rational spirit rationally perceiving a coherently organized universe.
The difference between India and the West, as Forster outlines it in this chapter, seems to be the difference between a humanistic (man-centered) world-view (in the West) and a more mystical cosmic view of things (in India), in which man and his works count for as little (or as much) as any other phenomena. Forster has said that he took the title of A Passage to India from Walt Whitman's poem, "Passage to India," a poem in which the soul's passage to India is a mystical experience, a journey into contact with the cosmos. But if, then, the passage to India is such a mystical journey, Fielding's passage away from India is a voyage home to "the human norm," the everyday rational spirit which confronts and controls ordinary facts and does not seek for any meaning beyond the normal order.
Chapter thirty-three begins the third section of A Passage to India, the section called Temple, which Forster himself described as a "coda" to the main action of the novel. Two years have passed and Professor Godbole, now an important official in a native state, is participating in a major Hindu festival, a ceremony (rather like the western Christmas) which commemorates the birth of the god Krishna as a man in the world of men. As he intones a hymn in the midst of the typically Indian muddle around the altar (on which God is love [sic] has been inscribed in English by an uneducated Indian draftsman), Professor Godbole finds himself remembering "an old woman he had met in Chandrapore days." In his religious trance he feels he loves her - and equally he loves, or tries to love, a wasp he had seen somewhere, perhaps on a stone.
After some more singing, the "Birth" of the god takes place. The Rajah-ruler of the native state-is carried in on a litter to participate in the ceremony. He is a gravely ill man, and we learn that his Moslem physician, Dr. Aziz, is waiting for him in another part of the palace.
After the central rituals of the "Birth" are performed by the Rajah, Professor Godbole and the other priests, the people celebrate with games and dances. Throughout, Professor Godbole finds that he cannot shake off the thought of the old Englishwoman - Mrs. Moore - and the wasp. It pleases him, finally, that he has at least this small capacity for the impersonal religious love Hinduism preaches. "One old Englishwoman and one little, little wasp," he thinks. "It does not seem much, still it is more than I am myself."
In his valuable little book on Forster, Lionel Trilling asks, perhaps rhetorically: "Why so many Moslems and so few Hindus? Why so much Hindu religion and so little Moslem?" - an important and perceptive question. Probably the answer is that, in Forster's view, the Moslems are almost as alien in India as the British are, conveying as much of a sense of the strangeness of the land as the British do. The "real" India, if there is such a place, is for Forster, as it was for Walt Whitman, Hindu-for only the deliberately amorphous and mystical Hindu religion, with its innumerable lesser deities and its one all-pervading, indefinable, "philosophical" god, Brahm, seems to take into account all the mystery and muddle of the inexplicable cosmos that India symbolizes.
The wasp on which Professor Godbole meditates in this chapter, incidentally, appeared earlier in Mrs. Moore's thoughts - in chapter three - and its reappearance here, inexplicably associated with the Hindu's memories of the old woman, seems like another touch of the semi-supernatural, another indication of Mrs. Moore's spiritual power, persisting beyond the grave.
As Dr. Aziz leaves the palace, he encounters "his old patron" Godbole (who helped him obtain his job with the Rajah), and Godbole abstractedly informs him that another old acquaintance, Fielding, is likely to have arrived at the European guest house on an official visit today. But Aziz, who is still convinced that his former friend treacherously married Adela Quested on reaching England, doesn't want to think about the Englishman.
Aziz has been content working with Godbole and his Rajah in the Hindu state of Mau, even though there are no other Moslems here to speak of. The trial left him permanently disillusioned with the English - even, because of his suspicions, with Fielding - and he has refused to open any of his friend's letters from England. Life passes "pleasantly" in Mau, however. He has his children with him and writes a good deal of poetry. The first real crisis in this comfortable new life has been arrival of Fielding. He finds a note at his house, containing routine inquiries about the place - "When would they pay their respects to His Highness? Was it correct that a torchlight procession would take place? If so, might they view it?" etc. - which he angrily tears up.
Earlier in this chapter, Forster comments on how things have changed in India, with the British no longer wielding the kind of absolute power that they had had a few years ago. Of course Aziz's trial and vindication did not primarily bring about this change, but Aziz himself, with his changed attitude, represents a country which will no longer stand for the kind of overbearing smugness and intolerance which had characterized the British Raj for so long. And the young doctor's court victory was no doubt a kind of minor herald of the larger Indian victory that Forster thinks may be soon to come.
The morning after the "Birth" celebration, Aziz takes his children for a walk to a local shrine. Up at the hilltop holy place, they meet some prisoners, one of whom will be chosen by lot for release that night, in honor of the continuing Hindu festival. The prisoners inquire about the Raja's health, and Aziz tells them he is well, though he knows that the man is actually dead. "His death was being concealed lest the glory of the festival were dimmed."
As the children run about, they catch sight of two Englishmen climbing toward the shrine-Fielding and his brother-in-law! Suddenly the Englishmen are attacked by a swarm of bees, and the brother-in-law is stung. Aziz helps beat off the bees, and Fielding greets him coolly. But they've exchanged very few words when Aziz addresses Fielding's brother-in-law as "Mr. Quested," at which Fielding exclaims "Who on earth do you suppose I've married?" I'm only Ralph Moore," says the boy, blushing, and Fielding adds "Quested? Quested? Don't you know that my wife was Mrs. Moore's daughter?" Aziz is furious at himself and terribly upset. After some explanations from Fielding he leaves, crying "Please do not follow us, whomever you marry. I wish no Englishman or Englishwoman to be my friend." But "he returned to the house excited and happy. It had been an uneasy, uncanny moment when Mrs. Moore's name was mentioned, stirring memories. 'Esmiss Esmoor'... - as though she was coming to help him."
Mrs. Moore's spirit, like Mrs. Wilcox's, is powerful even after her death. Just as Mrs. Wilcox had influenced the course of events through her relationship with Margaret, so Mrs. Moore-in the union of Fielding and her daughter Stella-lives on, at least partly to reconcile Aziz, the Indian who loved her, with Fielding, the Englishman he once had loved.
Despite the death of the Rajah, and though there are two claimants to the throne in the palace, the Hindu festival "flowed on, wild and sincere, and all men loved each other, and avoided by instinct whatever could cause inconvenience or pain." But Aziz, Forster tells us, "could not understand this, any more than an average Christian could. He was puzzled that Mau should suddenly be purged from suspicion and self-seeking."
Towards sunset he remembers that he had promised to bring a tin of ointment to the European Guest House for Ralph Moore's bee sting. On his way, he passes the Hindu religious procession, which is just starting out for the Mau tank (reservoir) where the final ceremony of the festival will take place. When he arrives at the Guest House, he finds no one there. Going from room to room, "inquisitive, malicious," he comes upon some letters, one from Heaslop to Fielding and one from Adela Quested to Stella Moore Fielding. He reads them with interest; they are "all so friendly and sensible, written in a spirit he could not command." Suddenly he is interrupted by the entrance of Ralph Moore, who has been resting in the next room.
Aziz rather coldly asks about the bee stings, and Ralph answers that "they throb, rather." After Dr. Aziz has examined him with scarcely concealed hostility, he openly challenges the Indian: "You should not treat us like this... Dr. Aziz, we have done you no harm." "No, of course, your great friend Miss Quested did me no harm at the Marabar," Aziz replies bitterly. Outside they can hear the voices of the festival of love. "Mixed and confused in their passage, the rumours of salvation entered the Guest House." Aziz and Ralph move out onto the porch, where they talk more amicably. Aziz's heart is softened towards the strange young Englishman, and when he asks "Can you always tell whether a stranger is your friend?" and the other answers "Yes," he replies: "Then you are an Oriental," - the very words he had spoken to Mrs. Moore at that fateful first meeting in the mosque.
Aziz and Ralph decide to row out on the lake, where they can get a good view of the Hindu ceremony. Fielding and Stella are already there, watching from a boat. Crossing the water, Ralph Moore points out the tomb of the Rajah's father to Aziz. It contains an image of the king, "made to imitate life at enormous expense," which the Indian had never seen before, though he frequently rowed on the lake. He begins to feel that his companion is "not so much a visitor as a guide."
Near the other shore of the lake, Aziz and Ralph get a good view of the wild Hindu ceremony. The singers are "praising God without attributes," and preparing "to throw God away, God himself, (not that God can be thrown) into the storm. Thus was He thrown year after year... scapegoats, husks, emblems of passage; a passage not easy, not now, not here, not to be apprehended except when it is unattainable: the God to be thrown was an emblem of that." As they watch, the strangers lose track of where they are, and suddenly the two boats-Aziz's and Fielding's-collide, and all four are thrown into the water. At that very moment, the ceremony reaches its climax-guns are fired, drums beaten, and drowning all, there is an "immense peal of thunder... like a mallet on the dome." A moment later the rain pours down, settling in "steadily to its job of wetting everybody and everything through."
Even more than his sister Stella, Ralph Moore is the spiritual heir of Mrs. Moore. He speaks in the same gentle, nervously perceptive tones, has the same uncanny intuitions, and even evokes the same response from Aziz ("Then you are an Oriental"). Through him and his sister, a final if temporary reconciliation is brought about between Aziz and Fielding.
The scene on the lake is, in fact, a fitting symbol of that reconciliation. The Hindu festival is a feast of love, and of the god's incarnation as Man, rather like the Christian Christmas, in which the Birth of God as man brings about, at least temporarily, universal peace and good-will. When the two European boats collide, and their occupants are dumped into the water, the wetting they get is like a kind of baptism-total though temporary immersion in the waters of love, and the rain which immediately follows is like a kind of blessing from the heavens, for in hot climates such as India's the rains are always a sign of refreshment and renewal.
How can this triumphant renewal, this festival of love, be reconciled with Mrs. Moore's nihilistic vision at the caves, with Professor Godbole's passive acceptance of Krishna's absence, and with the horrible "panic and emptiness" of the caves themselves? K. W. Gransden, in his useful study of Forster, points out that in Hinduism-which, we have noted, is the religious expression of India, for Forster-Shiva, the destroyer, and Brahm or Krishna, the creator, are both aspects of the same divinity, co-existent forces in the same universe. What is destroyed, in Hinduism, must always be renewed, and thus, for Forster, the cosmos expresses itself, a cosmos in which life and death are equally inexplicable facts. ". . . Fragmentation, collapse, may destroy the one, but the fragments of that one can in some mystical way be reassembled," Gransden comments. "Mrs. Moore's collapse at the caves, her vision of the hollowness of things, was something she personally could not survive; yet her influence survives the collapse, her perception of the collapse does not exclude renewal: in Hinduism the creator and the destroyer are two aspects of the divine."
"Friends again, yet aware that they [can] meet no more, Aziz and Fielding [go] for their last ride in the Mau jungles." Though the Hindu festival and the death of the Rajah have conspired to keep Fielding from doing much business, thus making his visit officially a failure, on a personal level it has been a success: he and Aziz are thoroughly reconciled, and Aziz even produces a letter for Fielding to deliver to Adela Quested, thanking her for her courageous honesty two years before. "I want to do kind actions all round and wipe out the wretched business of the Marabar for ever," he explains to Fielding.
As they ride along, they discuss Fielding's marriage, which is apparently "not quite happy" because his wife Stella, with whom he is passionately in love, has inherited some of her mother's mystical propensities. The two friends know that they will never meet again, because "socially they had no meeting-place" anymore, now that Fielding has "thrown in his lot with Anglo-India by marrying a countrywoman." But they are still fond of each other and want to settle things between them. Aziz finally proposes that when "the Turtons and the Burtons... clear out" and India is an independent nation, he and Fielding can be friends again. In the meantime, he and his children must drive the British away. "Why can't we be friends now?" asks Fielding, holding him affectionately. "It's what I want. It's what you want."
"But the horses didn't want it-they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath; they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, `No, not yet,' and the sky said, `No, not there.'"
The skillfully compressed and lyrical last paragraph of A Passage to India, quoted above, summarizes one of the chief themes of the novel-the isolation of man from man, which the book's central relationship, between an Indian and an Englishman, also symbolizes. When men can meet in perfect equality and freedom, Forster seems to be saying, then the "rainbow bridge" of friendship can be built. In other words, only when India is as independent as England will the representatives of the two nations, Fielding and Aziz, be able to relate fully and warmly to each other, all strangeness forgotten or ignored. Thus, to the motto of Howards End - "Only connect" - A Passage to India adds the knowledge that life's profoundest and most meaningful connections can only be made, if the heavens will them, between equals. And in the end it is significant that it is the will of things, not people, of the intractable Indian landscape, not the riders, that the friends be divided. As the book began, so it concludes, with the enormous, all-controlling Indian sky mysteriously influencing the destinies of men.
:: CHARACTER ANALYSES ::
A young Moslem doctor, warm-hearted, inconsistent, impulsive, outgoing. He is a widower and the father of three children, writes poetry and is generally popular among Indians. His attempts to ingratiate himself with the few English whom he admires and who have been kind to him-namely, Fielding and Mrs. Moore-lead to nothing but the Marabar disaster, however, and he ends up being suspicious, patriotic and intensely anti-British, much of his warmly extroverted spirit killed by the trauma of his arrest and trial in Chandrapore.
An interesting question that might be raised in connection with Aziz is whether or not he could have even been capable of making any advances to Adela Quested in the Marabar Caves. Most readers and critics would assume, with Fielding, that Aziz was absolutely innocent-in thought as well as in deed. On the other hand, it could be pointed out that he had been thinking about women beforehand, as Mr. McBryde discovered, though, of course, his thoughts were entirely of "beautiful women" and he considers Adela emphatically plain. Still, might the Marabar have had as upsetting an effect on him as it did on Mrs. Moore and Adela? Could it have reversed all his usual values, causing only the "old and "snub-nosed" forces of the libido-uncontrollable passions without discrimination or discipline-to come to the surface? Despite the interesting speculations of certain critics, we must definitely dismiss this possibility, since we remain in Aziz's consciousness throughout the time of the cave episode. Nonetheless, the idea is relevant if only insofar as it sheds light both on Aziz's personality and on the mysteriously destructive influence of the caves.
Aziz, after all, though he is innocent in the incident with Adela Quested, is not wholly the simple and childishly friendly spirit he may at first seem to be. He has a very real streak of cruelty in him, as we can see in his treatment of Ralph Moore at the end of the book. And though this cruelty and vindictiveness may have been developed and intensified by his terrible experience with the British at Chandrapore, his earlier unpleasantness to Dr. Panna Lal shows that the seeds of it were always there. Like many impulsive, inconsistent people, Aziz is warm-hearted - but selfish; outgoing - but temperamental; quick to make friends - but equally adept at enmity.
The elderly, "red-faced" and "white-haired" mother of Ronny Heaslop, the British City Magistrate in Chandrapore. At first gentle and loving - much like Mrs. Wilcox in Howards End - she, like Aziz, has suffered a radical personality change by the end of the book as a result of her experience in the Marabar. She becomes withdrawn and irritable, no longer caring at all for that "rubbish" about love in which she had believed at the beginning. Nevertheless, the Indians, who had been moved by her earlier friendliness, continue to sense her extraordinary spirit and her underlying faith in Aziz's innocence, and some of them even worship her as a kind of Hindu saint - "Esmiss Esmoor."
The crisis in Mrs. Moore's consciousness-her frightening experience in the caves-is in a sense the central metaphysical crisis of A Passage to India, and Mrs. Moore's mind is the vehicle for Forster's ideas. She had come to India ready to be "one with the universe." Contemplating a wasp (like Professor Godbole later), she murmured "Pretty dear," loving all things because of her underlying belief that "God... is... love," the tenderly "religious strain" in her which her son Ronny so vehemently distrusted. In the cave, however, she discovered that the universe, which she was so anxious to love and which she had hopefully thought so loving, also included "something very old and very small. Before time, it was before space also. Something snub nosed, incapable of generosity-the undying worm itself." And it is this discovery which so utterly dislocates Mrs. Moore's personality that, all tenderness gone, even for Aziz whom she had loved, she becomes overnight an irritable old woman, abstracted from reality, abandoning all thoughts of love and relationship.
Despite the change in her attitudes, however, Mrs. Moore retains her almost supernatural qualities: her perception, her aura of grace, her mystical understanding of events and people. As Adela lies in agony at the McBryde's bungalow, totally demolished by her experience in the caves, she longs only for Mrs. Moore, for she senses that Mrs. Moore, and Mrs. Moore only, somehow knows the truth. And, in the end, though she refuses to testify, Mrs. Moore does speak the truth, telling Adela - and, indirectly, all of India - that Aziz is innocent, and thereby dispelling the horrifying echo which has so haunted the sickened girl.
Finally, too, Mrs. Moore herself begins a slow wing back to a more balanced view of the universe, an upswing which, again, parallels the philosophical upswing of the book itself. As she travels past the magnificent fortress of Asirgarh, Mrs. Moore realizes that there is more to India - to the cosmos-than "the undying worm." Despite the worm, there is nobility, there is love. Perhaps God, then, is both love and death. This is what the novel, after all, with its final festival of love replacing the nihilism of the caves, seems to be saying. God, in Hinduism, the central philosophical pattern of A Passage to India, is both the destroyer and the creator of innumerable worlds.
A "queer, honest girl," plain-flatchested, freckled - but intelligent. Her doubts about her forthcoming marriage, plus the frightening emptiness of the Marabar caves, lead her to make a feverish accusation against Aziz - indeed, it is the "snub-nosed" forces of her own libido, rather than of his, which are unleashed against her - but when she realizes she has probably suffered an hallucination, she bravely withdraws her charge in open court, despite the shock and disapproval of the entire British colony. Thus, in the end, she is in the unenviable position of being ostracized by everyone in Chandrapore - the Indians because of her charge against Aziz, and the British because of her failure to maintain their anti-Indian posture.
In a way, Adela, a kind of Bloomsbury intellectual who "means well," brings about the central trouble of A Passage to India by her bungling, "liberal" desire to "see India," just as the meddling, "liberal" interference of the Schlegels in Leonard Bast's life causes the central crisis of Howards End. Bloomsbury ethics, if not thoroughly out, are not the last word in morality, Forster seems to be saying. At home, we are told, Adela has "heaps of friends" like herself - and no doubt the author would include Margaret and Helen Schlegel among them.
An unpleasant young man, Adela's fiance, Mrs. Moore's son by an earlier marriage, and the British City Magistrate in Chandrapore. The Indians, to whom he had once been friendly, have come to dislike him; they call him "Red-Nose" in angry mockery. Arrogant, self-righteous, priggish and smug, he thinks he is doing the right thing in India ("doing justice and keeping the peace") but he has betrayed many of the ideals of thought and friendship to which he had at least lip service when a boy in England.
In many ways Ronny parallels the Wilcoxes of Howards End and perhaps indicates a clarifying of Forster's attitude toward such "business minds." In Howards End Forster had Margaret Schlegel say that "More and more do I refuse to draw my income and sneer at those who guarantee it." Though he depicted the Wilcoxes as arrogant, thick-skinned, smug, like Ronny and most of the other English in A Passage to India (except Fielding), he ended up by seeming at least qualifiedly to approve of them: they were the practical men who must unite with the intellectuals ("the prose with the passion") to build a better England. But in A Passage to India he seems to have withdrawn whatever approval he may ever have given. In the end, the English, like Ronny Heaslop, don't even adhere to their own proudly-expressed ideals of justice and integrity.
A middle-aged, gentlemanly, intelligent Englishman, the Principal of the Local Government College in Chandrapore, "with a belief in education." Like Margaret in Howards End, Fielding tries to be a bridge between the divided social groups in the book-in this case, the English and the Indians. His friendship with Aziz is deep and warm, as is his loyalty to the Indian at the time of his trial. But their relationship cannot withstand the burden of suspicion and hostility which the British mistreatment of Aziz has laid upon it. In the end, too, though Fielding is as honorable, intelligent and affectionate as ever, his marriage to a countrywoman (Stella Moore) puts him irrevocably on the British side of things, and cuts him off forever from Indians like Aziz.
At least, however, Fielding has reached beyond the prison of his race and nationality to make a tentative connection with those who are different from himself, and for this he is certainly to be respected. Indeed, if there are any future "connections" to be made, Forster thinks, they will be made by thoughtful men like Fielding. Perhaps the only lack in him, finally, is that supernatural" quality (for want of a better word) which Mrs. Moore has, and which her children Ralph and Stella inherit from her, that quality of almost saintly perception which transcends normal intelligence and education like Fielding's. Thus Mrs. Moore can see at once the cosmic implications of the Marabar caves, while Fielding finds them merely ordinary. Thus Ralph Moore can guide Aziz across a lake on which Fielding would only flounder, without oars. Thus Stella's mystical leanings, so like her mother's "religious strain," are unintelligible to Fielding and threaten to drive a wedge between husband and wife. But still, despite this lack-or perhaps even because of it-Fielding is an example of what the ordinary, the natural man, as opposed to the extraordinary, supernormal seer, can accomplish in the way of "connection" and relationship" in daily life, without the aid of any religion but the humanistic religion of kindliness and tolerance.
Hamidullah And Mahmoud Ali:
Aziz's friends, Moslems, British-educated, intelligent, witty Indians, both lawyers, who suffer as Aziz does from the British prejudice against Indians. Like Aziz, they are embittered by the Chandrapore trial and become, as result, even more nationalistic and anti-British than they were before.
A teacher of music at Fielding's college, a Hindu, whose absorption in philosophical speculations doesn't keep him from seeing through the texture of daily life to the cosmic and human realities beneath. In fact, his mystical acceptance of the universe becomes, at the end, a pattern which Forster seems to think all men would do well to follow.
Despite Forster's evident affection for him, however, Godbole is a mysterious figure throughout the book, and we are never quite sure how to take him. His song to Krishna expresses the nihilism of the universe, and his refusal to discuss the caves indicates also a Mrs. Moore-like perception of their secret. Unlike Mrs. Moore, though, he is apparently able to temper this perception with acceptance of things, an acceptance which is the theme of the last section of the book, Temple. Thus he is very like Mrs. Moore in providing a vehicle through which Forster can express his "Indian" metaphysic-the negation of the Krishna song and the positive acceptance of Temple, God the Destroyer and God the Creator. It is significant, after all, that Godbole is the only real Hindu in a book so full of Hindu philosophy. And what about the implications of his name, which in English means "trunk" or "stem" or swelling out" of God?
Ralph And Stella Moore:
Mrs. Moore's children by a later marriage. Ralph, in particular, seems to be Mrs. Moore's "spiritual heir," a kind of reincarnation of his mother, with all her nervousness, gentleness, and uncanny insight into people and events. Aziz, at first bitterly hostile to him (in Temple) is soon won over by this startling resemblance of his to the beloved "Esmiss-Esmoor," and in the wild scene on the lake in the next-to-the-last chapter of A Passage to India Aziz is astonished by the strange, almost supernatural way in which Ralph guides him across the lake, straight to the legendary image of a Hindu king which he, Aziz, has never seen before, despite many trips in its vicinity.
Though we never actually meet her, we are told that Stella Moore, too-a beautiful girl who marries Cyril Fielding-has inherited many of her mother's mystical propensities, a fact which we learn has tended to cut her off from her husband, who does not share either her interests or her abilities. Nevertheless, we feel that in the end all will be well between Cyril and Stella; he, with his developed humanity, educated heart, and she, with her mystical, supernormal perceptiveness and love, will make it so.
Mr. And Mrs. Turton:
The highest ranking British official in Chandrapore and his wife. Well-intentioned but smug, self-righteous and intolerant people, along the lines of Ronny Heaslop in this book and the Wilcoxes in Howards End.
The British Superintendent of Police in Chandrapore-better educated and more thoughtful than most Englishmen in the town but with the same blind prejudice against "natives," who, he declares, are all made criminals at heart by the hot climate in which they live. (He never explains how he, who was born and raised in the same hot Indian climate, escaped the same criminal fate.)
The Civil Surgeon, Aziz's superior at the hospital. An exceptionally intolerant and bad-tempered man who is forever making snide remarks against the Indians and against those Englishmen, like Fielding, who side with the Indians. Throughout the book he takes advantage of Aziz, exploiting his professional talents without making any effort to treat him decently in return.
The Nawab Bahadur:
A rich local Moslem landowner, who owes his title to the British but who nevertheless maintains his spiritual independence and "Indianness." His strange supertitions and belief in the supernatural contrast vividly with the modern motorcar he keeps, his rational attitude toward the British and his general political sophistication and enlightenment.
Ronny's conscientious Indian assistant and the presiding Magistrate at Aziz's trial. With a superhuman effort he manages to control the strife-torn courtroom, thereby proving that an Indian can administer justice as fairly and efficiently as an Englishman.
A visiting Englishwoman who represents all that is most irresponsible and reprehensible about the British Raj in India. A companion to a Maharani in a Native State, she coolly takes her employer's car on her vacation without asking permission, because she cannot imagine that "natives" could have as good a use for the vehicle as she does.
:: ANALYSIS OF SELECTED THEMES IN A PASSAGE TO INDIA ::
1) Forster's use of British Imperialism in A Passage to India
By the end of the nineteenth century, and throughout the early twentieth century when British imperialism was in full flood, the presence of Englishmen in numerous colonies throughout the world gave many writers rich literary opportunities. Joseph Conrad, for instance, used the East in works like Youth and Victory to represent all the strangeness and glamour of the world. Rudyard Kipling, of course, used India in much the same way, and often, as in some of his short stories, he used it as Forster did, to represent the "muddle" and obstinacy of things. In Heart of Darkness Conrad used Africa, and the interaction of European colonists (in this case, Belgians) and Africans to make an especially profound statement about the nature of man.
Similarly, the situation of the British Raj in India gave Forster an excellent opportunity to make certain points about the difficult relations of man with his fellows, and about the incomprehensible universe in which we live. The fact that the British and the Indians are of different races, as well as more important, the fact that one nation has rather arbitrarily assumed control over the other, enabled Forster easily and realistically to outline his central ideas about human isolation and lack of connection. Furthermore, the strangeness of India-its heat, its vastness and its mysterious differentness from all that the British are used to in western civilization-made it a perfect symbol, as it often is in Kipling, for the strange and mysteriously inexplicable cosmos in which we find ourselves, a cosmos which can never be controlled or comprehended but must only be accepted with a kind of passive praise, as the Hindus in A Passage to India seem to be accepting it.
2) The theme of "separateness" in A Passage to India (also makes reference ot another Forster masterpiece, Howards End)
In A Passage to India, Lionel Trilling remarks, "the theme of separateness, of fences and barriers [is] everywhere dominant. The separation of race from race, sex from sex, culture from culture, even of man from himself, is what underlies every relationship." And, indeed, while Howards End is in some ways an easier book, A Passage to India is in many respects more striking. The gulfs between men are mercilessly revealed throughout, and what seems to be an enormous though temporary pessimism descends at the end; the universe, at this point, assents to separation, to the division of Fielding and Aziz and perhaps to the division of all men.
As in Howards End the most obvious gulfs in A Passage to India are social and, because of the book's setting, racial. All Englishmen separate themselves from all Indians. Dr. Panna Lal, among others, tries to ingratiate himself with his white rulers, but his courtesy becomes servility. More importantly, Fielding remarks that the "white" men are not really white but "pinko-grey" and aligns himself with the Indians at the trial of Aziz-yet even he, when on leave from India he first catches sight of Venice, is refreshed by western order and western style. The Indians themselves are separated from each other. Moslems do not quite respect Hindus; Hindus do not quite respect Moslems; Jains, Sikhs, others sects, all are isolated, unable to communicate.
Within the English group, too, there are important gulfs. Fielding is something of an outcast, a traitor to British imperialism. Mrs. Moore, who becomes a Hindu saint, must be bundled out of the country by her dull, worried son. Adela Quested is pronounced "not pukka" because, in her own ineffectual blue-stocking way, she is seeking for "the real India." At the "Bridge-Party" these social and racial gulfs are given their "objective correlative": on one side of the lawn stand the English ladies and their menfolk, querulous, distressed at the presence of so many Indians; on the other side of the lawn stand the Indians, embarrassed, some servile, some faintly contemptuous, regarding the disgruntled English with a kind of nervous curiosity. Mrs. Moore and Adela flicker between the two groups-Adela, who is to "betray" both, Mrs. Moore who will not formally affiliate with either but who will become the saint of one - and Fielding "romps" among the Indians, still very British somehow, but trying, trying, to become the "Bridge" that the "Party" lacks.
On a more personal and perhaps more profound level, everyone in A Passage to India is isolated throughout. "Our loneliness... our isolation, our need for the Friend who never comes . . ." is omnipresent, yet there is not a single character in the book who seems capable of acting on this need. Adela and Ronny, though they plan to marry, are not really in love and have never really understood each other. Mrs. Moore, reflecting on this, thinks that "the human race would have become a single person centuries ago if marriage was any use." When connection is attempted, as between Adela and Fielding after the trial, "a friendliness, as of dwarfs shaking hands" is "in the air." Later, when Fielding is passionately in love with his wife, Stella, he fears that she does not return his feelings.
Even the callous English women seek, at times, the "tender core of the heart that is so seldom used . . ." and yet they cannot, of course really find it or use it. Helen, in Howards End, had believed that "personal relations are the important thing for ever and ever . . ." And Adela, like Fielding and Aziz and several others in A Passage to India, echoes this belief, but asks pessimistically "What is the use of personal relationships when everyone brings less and less to them?" Ronny and the other efficient white rulers of India are men with "business minds," just as Charles and Henry Wilcox were; they are practical and insensitive, and "where there is officialism every human relationship suffers." Still, these relationships are of paramount importance. Fielding, at one point, recognizes their significance and "fatigued by the merciless and enormous day," loses "his usual sane view of human intercourse" and feels "that we exist not in ourselves but in terms of each other's minds."
Even - and perhaps especially - Mrs. Moore, who dominates the book, just as, to a lesser extent, Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret dominate Howards End, even she fails absolutely to communicate. Though, like Mrs. Wilcox, she is loved, even worshipped, she cannot escape herself and her own despairing vision, in the Marabar caves, of infinite, universal nothingness, coupled with the sort of human "panic and emptiness" that haunted Helen Schlegel throughout Howards End. In the caves she realizes that she doesn't "want to write to anyone," and doesn't "want to communicate with anyone, not even with God." Any attempt at a relationship of any kind is futile - and "I'll retire into a cave of my own," she says, renouncing the world of God, the world of man, and affirming that the only reality in the universe is the world of the self, forever single and obscure.
Despite Mrs. Moore's decision, the world of the self is shown throughout Howards End and A Passage to India as, like the world of all men, often fragmented, separated from within, chopped into a number of clamorous, discordant bits and pieces. And insensitivity is rooted precisely in such divisions of personality. Without inner wholeness, without inner coherence, there can be no outer wholeness or coherence; "connection," the external bridge, is built upon an internal bridge, the emotional unity that comes from self-knowledge, from such years of devotion to "the inner life" as Margaret and Helen Schlegel have spent. Margaret, who, of all the characters in both books, comes closest to successfully maintaining inner and outer "connections," hopes that "she might be able to help (Henry) to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it, love is born, and alights on the highest curve . . ." For Henry is a new type of man, a type of whom Forster says that "perhaps the little thing that says 'I' is missing out of the middle of their heads." And lacking that instrument, lacking the supreme and sane ego which is capable of "connection" and of love, man is, as Mrs. Moore reflects at one point, "no nearer to understanding man" than he has ever been.
The opposition between coherence and "separateness," then, involving oppositions between social, personal and religious wholeness and fragmentation, is a major problem that concerns Forster throughout both Howards End and A Passage to India. He seems to feel, however, that man's isolation from man, from God, and from himself, though tragic and perhaps inevitable, can, nonetheless, be transcended at the proper times. The parting of Aziz and Fielding, though apparently sanctioned by all of nature, may not be final. In a universe where "panic and emptiness" are so possible, in a civilization where the vistas of "panic and emptiness" are constantly being enlarged, Forster admonishes men not only to "connect" the "prose and the passion" in themselves, but, on the basis of such fusion, to "connect" with each other. The personal, even where, as in India, it is not always possible, is supremely valuable. Mrs. Moore's retreat from society and vision of the universe is not the final salvation accessible to man. Forster seems to believe that the fusion of man with man, class with class, in marriage and parenthood, which is hinted at in the conclusion of Howards End and in the festival of love at the close of A Passage to India, may be the product of a greater struggle, the reflection of a greater glory.
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