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A Passage to India is one of E.

M. Forster’s most famous novels. It took him ten years to complete between 1913 and 1924. In this lesson, we’ll cover a plot summary and briefly discuss a few of the book’s major themes and characters. We’ll finish with a quiz to test your knowledge.

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A Passage To India: Plot Summary

Have you ever visited a foreign place and experienced the feeling of being intrigued by the people and customs you encountered while also missing the familiarity and comfort of home? Have you ever struggled to communicate with someone from a different cultural, racial, or religious background? Each of us can probably identify with an experience of this kind, and it is this struggle to overcome human differences and explore the foundations of political and social tension between people and nations that influenced the writing of E.

M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India. Forster completed the novel in 1924 after two trips to India, and it explores English-Indian relations during a period when India was still under British rule.The story unfolds in the fictional town of Chandrapore, India, where a young English schoolteacher, Adella Quested, and her friend Mrs. Moore have traveled to visit Mrs. Moore’s son, Ronny Heaslop, the city magistrate. Adella is supposed to marry Ronny and has made the trip to see him and decide whether or not she truly wants to.

While visiting a mosque, Mrs. Moore meets the young Dr. Aziz, a Muslim, who at first shouts at her not to defile the sanctity of the mosque but realizes that she, in fact, has respect for native customs; she has even removed her shoes and acknowledges God to be present there.Adella and Mrs. Moore are both curious about the natives, and one of the English tax collectors arranges a tea party for them to meet some of the Indian gentlemen in town. There, they also meet Cyril Fielding, the headmaster of a British government-run college for Indians. Fielding invites Adella and Mrs.

Moore to another tea party, and Adella requests that he invite Dr. Aziz. Fielding and Aziz become fast friends.

At the party, Aziz offers to take the women on a tour of the Marabar Caves.Dr. Aziz arranges an expedition to explore the caves with Mrs. Moore and Adella as promised.

Mrs. Moore, however, becomes overwhelmed by claustrophobia and the echoes in the first cave and declines to continue. With a local guide, Dr. Aziz and Adella continue their exploration of the caves, but when Adella’s curiosity about Indian customs prompts her to ask him if he has more than one wife, he leaves her abruptly and ducks into a cave to compose himself. When he returns, Adella has gone off by herself into another cave, and he finds her binoculars lying broken on the ground.

As he looks down the hill he notices that Fielding has arrived to join the party with another young English woman, Miss Derek. Dr. Aziz runs down the hill to greet them, but Adella departs with Miss Derek without any explanation.When Dr. Aziz, Mrs.

Moore, and Fielding return to Chandrapore later that day, they are met by the police, and Aziz is charged with sexually assaulting Adella. Adella has reported that he followed her into a cave and attempted to touch her, and she got away by swinging her binoculars at him. The only piece of evidence is the pair of broken binoculars Dr. Aziz found, but despite this, English prejudice makes nearly everyone assume that he is guilty. Mrs. Moore and Fielding both insist on his innocence, but because Ronny, in his position as magistrate, is determined to find Aziz guilty, he decides to send his mother back to England to prevent her from testifying on Aziz’s behalf.Adella suffers a nervous breakdown before the trial and becomes confused.

At the trial, she is directly asked if Dr. Aziz assaulted her, and she has a flashback to the moment in the cave. As it turns out, she had experienced a similar attack of claustrophobia to Mrs. Moore, ran around the cave confused, smashed her binoculars, and escaped. She mistook the experience and the echoes for an attack by Dr.

Aziz. With this information given, the case is dismissed.Though proven innocent, Dr.

Aziz is embittered by the experience and vows never to be friends with an English man or woman ever again. He feels especially betrayed by Fielding, who befriended Adella after the trial and allowed her to stay in his home until she could return to England.At the novel’s end, Fielding, having gone back to England and married one of Mrs.

Moore’s daughters, returns to India and seeks out Dr. Aziz. At first, Dr. Aziz does not wish to forgive him, and while he eventually forgives Fielding, he tells him sadly that the men cannot be friends until India is free from British rule.The novel explores colonial tension between England and India, which was still under British rule at the time Forster wrote it. Although Aziz is proven innocent, the supposed attack on a white, English woman’s body by an Indian man represents the colonized subject’s frustration with his oppression under British rule and the British fear of supposed native savagery.

Major Characters

The struggle between the colonizer and colonized is enacted in the relationships between the English and Indian characters in the novel.

Dr. Aziz perhaps most clearly illustrates the struggle of the Indian under British rule. Stereotyped by Adella as a native savage, he becomes embittered toward the English and longs desperately for India’s freedom. In telling Fielding at the novel’s end that they cannot be friends while India remains under British rule, he expresses the belief that the colonizer/colonized relationship prevents them from seeing one another as individuals independent of racial and cultural differences.Cyril Fielding is the tolerant Englishman whose duty it is to educate the Indians in his position as a school headmaster. Despite his willingness to befriend natives like Aziz, his duty to his country and the cultural and racial tensions that surround him complicate their friendship, particularly when the trial catches him between standing up for Aziz and supporting Adella.Adella Quested is a young, intelligent, but sheltered school mistress who has a desire to see the ‘real India.

‘ The problem, of course, is that she sees India through her English point of view–the colonizer’s point of view. In projecting English fears and prejudices onto Aziz, she cannot truly come to know the Indian people and way of life, and her mistaken accusation against Aziz forces her to come to terms with her prejudicial point of view.Mrs. Moore, like Fielding, respects the Indian way of life and the Indian people, but her experiences, particularly Adella’s accusation against Aziz, leave her feeling disheartened and apathetic. She is the wise old English mother who endeavors, unsuccessfully, to inject some common sense into her children. Her son, Ronny Heaslop, embodies the British colonial point of view; he holds the belief that the Indian people must be civilized, and he ends his engagement to Adella when she retracts her accusation against Aziz, viewing it to be a betrayal of the English race.

Ultimately, the interactions between the characters in the novel illustrate the extent to which colonial domination and racial prejudice damage and even destroy our ability to transcend our differences and connect to one another as human beings.

Lesson Summary

E. M.

Forster’s novel A Passage to India explores English-Indian relations during a period when India was still under British rule. One of the novel’s main characters, Dr. Aziz is falsely accused of sexual assault by another main character, Adella Quested. Though some of the novel’s characters are willing to testify to Aziz’s innocence, and though the charges are eventually dropped, Dr.

Aziz reaches the sad conclusion that an English person and an Indian person cannot be friends until England’s colonization of India ends. This is because colonial domination and racial prejudice damage and even destroy our ability to transcend our differences and connect to one another as human beings.

Key Characters

Adella Quested: the main character who falsely accuses Dr. Aziz of sexual assaultMrs. Moore: a friend of Adella’sRonny Heaslop: the city magistrate and son of Mrs.

MooreDr. Aziz: a Muslim doctor that Adella meets and accuses of sexual assaultCyril Fielding: the headmaster of a British government-run college for Indians

Learning Outcome

Because you’ve properly studied this lesson, you can probably summarize A Passage to India and name its major characters with aplomb.

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