A Passage to India By E. M. Forster Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapters 25-32

The trial that vindicates Aziz has some strange results, but an expected result is the mass hysteria of the natives of Chandrapore.

If Adela's honesty had freed a Caucasian, she would have been a heroine to him and his friends. The Indians, however, are unable to understand or appreciate the honest effort to be fair that prompted Adela to rescind her accusation; it is too cold and unemotional for them. Aziz not only does not feel gratitude toward her, but he violently resents having his name linked with hers on a sexual charge, because she is physically unattractive. Although technically he has been declared innocent, the stain on his character remains. He states that all he has left is the affection of his friends.

The English are furious because the outcome of the trial weakens their political superiority and their prestigious social position.

Fielding resents having to protect Adela from the rioting crowd. He has no feeling for her because his hardheaded approach to life made him doubt her veracity from the first.

When the first surge of the victory celebration breaks over Chandrapore, one senses the strength and the menace of the revolutionary spirit. Hamidullah and Mahmoud Ali, usually quiet and thoughtful, suddenly turn against the English with loud and angry voices. One can almost see the guillotine fall on the necks of the Turtons and the McBrydes. This is India, however, and not France: Dr. Parma Lai, Aziz's unprincipled colleague, saves the riot from more disastrous results by playing the fool at the hospital; and finally the weather has the last word. The heat saps the strength from the momentary rebellion and it dies.

Nawab Bahadur, whose attitude has been one of appeasement, significantly changes his name back to Zulfiqar. Bahadur means "brave one." Perhaps the events of the trial make him feel that reconciliation between the nationalities is futile, and that the name bestowed upon him by the English no longer has meaning.

Chapter 26 deals with the interaction between Fielding and Adela, which is brought about by her enforced stay at his cottage. Adela's earnest attempt to analyze the situation at the cave and her complete honesty earn Fielding's grudging admiration. He thinks she has had a hallucination; she agrees that that may be true — or she may have been attacked by the guide who disappeared, or by someone else; they will never know, and it no longer seems important.

Forster inserts a bit of comic irony as he has Hamidullah announce Ronny Heaslop's coming by saying, "He comes, he comes, he comes." Krishna will not come when Godbole calls, and He is God, but the English come unbidden. They come with their superiority, their blunt English manners, and their lack of understanding.

Fielding is particularly disappointed in Hamidullah. The barrister has been the most stable of the Indian gentlemen, but he is far from any kind of understanding. The trial, which should have proved that someone connected with the British officials could be fair, does nothing to soften the hearts of the Indians toward their rulers — though of course it is true that the entire affair was caused by Adela's mistaken accusation.

After the victory celebration dinner, Fielding and Aziz talk about the damages that Aziz feels Adela owes him. It is a curious exchange in that Aziz, through his confinement, has acquired a way of thinking that is in some ways hard, blunt, and very much Western. Yet when Fielding chides him on the disproportion of his emotional feelings for the two women — his strong affection for Mrs. Moore, who has done nothing for him, and his strong dislike of Adela, who has freed him at great cost to herself — Aziz objects to this unemotional common sense.

Forster comments on the difference in the Western and Eastern ideas of leisure and on the natural grace, the civilized "restfulness of gesture" of the Oriental — the social equivalent of Yoga."

Chapter 28 reveals three significant attitudes toward Mrs. Moore's death:

  • It is an inconvenience to Lady Mellanby; it spoils her homecoming.
  • In Chandrapore, the natives begin a short-lived "Esmiss-Esmoor" cult, and a legend grows up that Ronny has killed her for trying to save an Indian's life.
  • Ronny Heaslop at first feels guilty, but with his customary rationalizing, he manages to lay the blame for his mother's death on her, because she had "mix[ed] herself up with natives." He decides to forget the matter, planning a memorial tablet to her in her church in England.

Ronny is shown rapidly hardening into the pattern of the "twenty-year official." Having taken care of his mother, he turns his thoughts to Adela. He feels that she will be detrimental to his career, no doubt because she has shown that she can never be an adequate part of the British Raj, and he plans to break their engagement.

The lieutenant governor reinstates Fielding at the club and murmurs the usual glib clichés of the observer who is not personally involved in an affair.

For the second time Forster says that Adela gets "the worst of both worlds." She has gained the enmity of the English, but she has not earned the gratitude of the Indians. The Indians cannot understand the generosity of her honesty, so they mistrust her motives. She is not physically attractive, so she cannot gain their admiration. She, in turn, has no real affection for them and only waits in India for Ronny to make up his mind about her.

When the subject of the damage suit arises again, Fielding uses what he knows of Oriental thought to persuade Aziz to drop the charges. Having failed to arouse him to a feeling of sympathy for Adela, Fielding turns to Aziz's affection for Mrs. Moore. Her memory is the only key to any leniency that he may expect from Aziz, and Aziz cannot override it; he drops the suit.

Although Fielding uses the thought of immortality to help convince Aziz that Mrs. Moore would not want him to trouble Adela, he himself takes no stock in the afterlife. Adela agrees with him in principle. Their conversation occasionally approaches matters beyond their understanding — such as Adela's suggestion of. Mrs. Moore's telepathic knowledge - - but they both shy away from anything which their honest intellectuality cannot comprehend. However, they are vaguely aware of the immensity of what they avoid; and as they shake hands in parting, Forster records that they are as "dwarfs."

With the thought of England and her job, Adela returns to stability. She is really untouched by India, because without the "understanding heart" she cannot meet its demands.

The trial accomplishes nothing as far as the Anglo-Indian problem is concerned, except to deepen the ill-feeling between the races, but it does bring about at least a temporary and local tolerance between Moslem and Hindu. Aziz is invited by a Hindu (Mr. Bhattacharya, brother-in-law of Das, the magistrate at the trial) to write a poem for a new Indian magazine for both Hindus and Moslems. However, despite his realization of the need for a unified India, he never writes the poem, but rather decides to leave British India.

When Hamidullah tells Aziz of the rumor of an affair between Fielding and Adela, Aziz is resentful at the thought that Fielding did not tell him of the affair; such an omission indicates a lack of trust and affection. (Later he assumes that Fielding talked him out of the damage suit because he intended to marry Adela, and, in effect, have the money himself.) When Aziz mentions the matter to Fielding, the latter in his surprise calls Aziz "a little rotter," much to the distress of both.

Later, as they strive to salvage the remnants of their friendship and are discussing poetry, Fielding makes an important observation about Hinduism. Though he is an atheist, he says that "there is something in religion that may not be true, but has not yet been sung.... something that the Hindus have perhaps found." Since this remark comes from Fielding it carries much weight.

When Fielding leaves India and sees the harmony between the works of man and nature in the Mediterranean countries, he is more conscious than ever of the disharmony, the muddle, of India; he has returned to the "human norm," to that which he understands well.

Glossary

victoria A low, four-wheeled carriage for two passengers with a folding top and a high seat in front for the coachman.

tatties A fragrant grass mat which is kept wet and hung at doors and windows of a house to cool the house during the hot weather.

band-ghari A four-wheeler.

almeira A wooden wardrobe.

durry A thick cotton cloth or carpet.

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