E M Forster – A Passage to India (Novel Summary)

Short Biography of E M Forster:

E. M. Forster was born in 1879 and died in 1970, his life spanning almost an entire century. His father died when he was an infant, and his mother moved with him to Hertfordshire, where he spent some unforgettable days of his childhood. He studied at Tonbridge public school from 1893 to 1897. He went on to study at Cambridge where he made good friends like John Maynard Keynes, Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Desmond MacCarthy, Roger Fry, Alfred Whitehead and Bertrand Russell. After graduating in 1901, he spent two years travelling in Italy and Greece. He inherited a legacy from his great aunt for which he was forever grateful because it enabled him to lead a life of private means and become a writer.

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He published four novels in the first decade of the 20th century, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908), and Howard’s End (1910). He visited India in 1912-13, and again in 1921-22. He began his first draft of A Passage to India after his first visit and finally completed and published it in 1924. He continued to publish a wide variety of books including a critical work, Aspects of the Novel (1927). He died in 1970.

Characters in A Passage to India:

  • Aziz is a sensitive young Muslim doctor who is put on trial for attacking Adela Quested at the Marabar Caves.
  • Adela Quested is a repressed, intellectual young woman who comes to India to visit Ronny Heaslop
  • Mrs. Moore is a kind Englishwoman who accompanies Adela Quested to India
  • Cyril Fielding is a liberal-minded Englishman in his 40s who is principal of Government College
  • Ronny Heaslop, Mrs. Moore’s son, is the officious young Chandrapore City Magistrate
  • Professor Narayan Godbole is a Hindu teacher
  • Hamidullah is a sophisticated lawyer, a relative of Dr. Aziz
  • Ahmed is one of Aziz’s three children.
  • Mahmoud Ali is a lawyer and friend to Aziz.
  • Amritrao is a famous Hindu lawyer from Calcutta
  • Antony is Adela’s unreliable servant who later tries to blackmail her.
  • The Nawab Bahadur is a wealthy and well-respected Muslim landowner
  • Hugh Bannister is one of Reverend and Mrs. Bannister’s children
  • Mr. Bhattacharya and his wife are an Indian couple who invite Adela and Mrs. Moore
  • Major Callendar is the Civil Surgeon and Aziz’s boss

Summary of A Passage to India:

The novel is set during the British rule in India. Chandrapore is a town situated on the banks of the River Ganges in north-eastern India. The famous Marabar caves are twenty miles away from this town. Adela Quested accompanies Mrs. Moore on a visit to Chandrapore to see her son, the new City Magistrate, Ronny Heaslop. Adela and Ronny have met in England and their engagement is now to be confirmed. Adela’s wish is to see the real India. Mrs. Moore meets a young Moslem, Dr. Aziz, by chance, on an evening walk by herself. Aziz has been at a social evening with friends which was disrupted by imperious summons from his superior, Major Callender, to the City Hospital, and has also been snubbed by his wife, Mrs. Callender.

Maurice Jarre A Passage to India - YouTube

A friendship develops between him and Mrs. Moore because he sees that she respects his religion. The Collector, Mr. Turton, arranges a Bridge Party at the club for Adela, where the English visitors can meet some local Indians, but this is not a success. The women meet Cyril Fielding, the Principal of the Government College. He likes their liberal attitude and invites them for tea at the college along with the Hindu Brahmin, Professor Godbole, and Dr. Aziz. He and Aziz had both wanted to meet each other. Aziz invites the ladies on an expedition to the Marabar Hills and the famous caves. When Ronnie arrives, he is displeased by the informality and they all feel uncomfortable. Adela feels that Anglo-Indian life has changed Ronnie and now she does not want to marry him, but a car accident brings them together and they are engaged.

Fielding and Aziz become good friends. The expedition to the caves does not begin well as Fielding and Godbole miss the train. Mrs. Moore suffers from claustrophobia and feels ill when she enters the first cave. She is also overcome by a strange feeling caused by the cave’s empty echo. Adela and Aziz go into the caves with a guide. They become separated and enter different caves. The guide misses Adela and Aziz sees her next at the foot of the hills talking to an English woman, Miss Derek, with whom she leaves. On their return to Chandrapore, Aziz is arrested for molesting Adela in a cave. An attitude of hostility develops between the British and Indian communities. Fielding believes that Aziz has been falsely accused and resigns from the club. Adela complains of a strange echo in her head and has a nervous breakdown. Mrs. Moore believes Aziz to be innocent, but leaves for home, and dies at sea on the very day of the trial. Adela suddenly declares Aziz to be innocent and the trial breaks up in disorder.

A Passage to India | The Soul of the Plot

Adela is disowned by the Anglo-Indian community and is protected by Fielding much to the displeasure of Aziz and his friends. Ronnie breaks off the engagement and Adela leaves for home. Aziz suspects that Fielding plans to marry Adela himself and is deliberately absent when Fielding departs on leave for England. Two years later, in Mau, in central India, Godbole is the Minister of Education, and, through his influence, Aziz is mow the personal physician of the Maharajah. It is the time of the Gokul Ashtami festival, to celebrate the birth of Krishna, and during the festivities, Fielding remembers Mrs. Moore’s trance like state.

Aziz learns of Fielding’s arrival on an official visit as an Education Inspector with his wife and brother, but does not want to meet him because he thinks that Fielding has married Adela. But when he meets him, he realizes that Fielding has married Stella, Mrs. Moore’s daughter by her second marriage and Ronnie’s half-sister. Later, he meets Ralph Moore, and is strangely drawn to him just as he was to his mother. They go to the Mau tank to see the Gokul Ashtami procession. Their boat collides with Fielding’s boat as he has come with Stella, and they all fall into the water. Though this accident helps to bridge the gap between them, they realize that they cannot be true friends while political inequality exists between their two nations.


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