A Passage to India Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 23 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Passage to India.
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A Passage to India Summary & Study Guide Description

A Passage to India Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on A Passage to India by E. M. Forster.

A Passage to India is a novel by award-winning author E. M. Forster. The novel begins by describing the city of Chandrapore, British India, the main setting for most of the story.

Dr. Aziz is a young surgeon working in a British-run hospital during the early 1920s, while India is still under the British Raj. Dr. Aziz meets with a few friends for dinner and they discuss the probability of Indians forming real friendships with the British Anglo-Indians; the group decides that it is impossible. During the meal, Dr. Aziz is unceremoniously summoned to the home of his British superior at the hospital. Dr. Aziz summons a tonga, or light horse-drawn carriage, and arrives at the home of Major Callendar only to find that he has already left.

Two British women see Dr. Aziz’s tonga and take it without asking him, forcing Dr. Aziz to walk back to town. He enters a mosque where he sees Mrs. Moore, an elderly British woman. Dr. Aziz chastises Mrs. Moore for being in the mosque at all, but at the very least for not removing her shoes. She informs him that she has removed them and understands and respects his customs. They begin talking and quickly form a friendship.

When they part, Mrs. Moore goes to the club—a place that the locals are not allowed—and tells her son, Ronny, about the kind young man she met. Ronny thinks she is talking about a British doctor and gets angry when he learns that it is Dr. Aziz, an Indian surgeon. Ronny doesn’t want his mother mixing with the locals. Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore’s traveling companion and the fiancée to Ronnie, is intrigued and wants to see “the real India” with Mrs. Moore.

The city tax collector, Mr. Turton, invites the women to a party he will host that will include many of the Indians on its guest list. At this party, Adela meets Cyril Fielding, the British headmaster to the government-run college for Indians. Fielding invites the two women and Dr. Aziz to another tea party. At the tea party, everyone becomes more comfortable with each other and Dr. Aziz invites everyone to an outing at the Marabar Caves, a series of caves about 20 miles outside of town.

Dr. Aziz, Mrs. Moore, and Adela are the only ones to make the trip to Marabar Caves because the others missed the train. The three begin to explore the caves with a guide, but Mrs. Moore becomes disenchanted with the echo, a single “Boum” sound. Dr. Aziz, the guide, and Adela go to the next series of caves without Mrs. Moore. Unfamiliar with the Indian customs, Adela asks Dr. Aziz if he has more than one wife. Dr. Aziz is embarrassed by the question and slips into a nearby cave to regain his composure. When he returns, the guide tells him that Adela is exploring the caves alone. Dr. Aziz angrily chases the guide away and starts searching for her. He discovers her broken field glasses and becomes concerned for her safety. Dr. Aziz looks down at the base of the hill and sees Adela taking with another British woman who has arrived in a car with Fielding; he goes down to meet them, but Adela and the other woman drive away before he gets there.

Dr. Aziz, Fielding, and Mrs. Moore return to the train station where Dr. Aziz is arrested for sexually assaulting Adela in one of the caves. Dr. Aziz is jailed and denied bail because of his assault on an English woman. Fielding openly supports Dr. Aziz’s innocence and is ostracized by the British community. Mrs. Moore also believes that Dr. Aziz is innocent, so her son sends her back to England; she dies of heat exhaustion on the trip.

During the trial, Adela admits that she was confused—also as a result of the cave’s echoes—and hadn’t been well for a while. She is unable to answer the direct question as to whether Dr. Aziz actually assaulted her and the case is dismissed. The British now consider Adela to be a race-traitor. Adela begins spending a lot of time with Fielding because they both feel unwelcome in the British community and the two become friends. Ronny refuses to marry Adela and she is forced to return to England.

Dr. Aziz is now bitter toward the Anglo-Indians and is insulted that Fielding has developed a friendship with Adela. Fielding, disenchanted with India, leaves the country to travel abroad. Dr. Aziz believes he is leaving to marry Adela in England. Dr. Aziz moves to the city of Mau, a Hindu city far from the British Raj, and starts a new life where he swears ever to befriend a white person again.

Several years later, Fielding returns to India with his wife. Dr. Aziz hears of his return and thinks he is married to Adela, causing his bitterness and anger to return. He learns that Fielding married Mrs. Moore’s daughter Stella, and Dr. Aziz and Fielding make amends. The novel ends with both Dr. Aziz and Fielding realizing that they cannot be true friends again as long as India is ruled by England.

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