Passage to India, published in 1924, was E. M. Forster's first novel in fourteen years, and the last novel he wrote. Subtle and rich in symbolism, the novel works on several levels. On the surface, it is about India — which at the time was a colonial possession of Britain — and about the relations between British and Indian people in that country. It is also about the necessity of friendship, and about the difficulty of establishing friendship across cultural boundaries. On a more symbolic level, the novel also addresses questions of faith (both religious faith and faith in social conventions). Forster's narrative centers on Dr. Aziz, a young Indian physician whose attempt to establish friendships with several British characters has disastrous consequences. In the course of the novel, Dr. Aziz is accused of attempting to rape a young Englishwoman. Aziz's friend Mr. Fielding, a British teacher, helps to defend Aziz. Although the charges against Aziz are dropped during his trial, the gulf between the British and native Indians grows wider than ever, and the novel ends on an ambiguous note. When A Passage to India appeared in 1924, it was praised by reviewers in a number of important British and American literary journals. Despite some criticism that Forster had depicted the British unfairly, the book was popular with readers in both Britain and the United States. The year after its publication, the novel received two prestigious literary awards — the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse. More than seventy years later, it remains highly regarded. Not only do many scholars, critics, and other writers consider it a classic of early twentieth-century fiction, but in a survey of readers conducted by Waterstone's Bookstore and Channel 4 television in Britain at the end of 1996, it was voted as one of the "100 Greatest Books of the Century."
Part I — Mosque
Set in India several decades before the end of British Rule, A Passage to India by E. M. Forster explores the relationships that ensue when Dr. Aziz, an Indian doctor, is befriended by Mrs. Moore and Miss Adela Quested, two recently arrived Englishwomen. In the opening scene, Dr. Aziz is involved in a discussion about whether or not it is possible for an Indian to be friends with an Englishman. The conversation is interrupted by a message from the Civil Surgeon, Major Callendar, who requests Dr. Aziz's immediate assistance. Aziz makes his way to Callendar's compound but arrives only to be told that the Civil Surgeon is out. On his way back home, Aziz stops in a mosque to rest and meets Mrs. Moore. He is delighted by her kind behavior and accompanies her back to the Chandrapore Club. Mrs. Moore's son, City Magistrate Ronny Heaslop, quickly learns of his mother's meeting with the Indian doctor. He instructs her not to mention the incident to his fiancee, Miss Quested, because he does not want her wondering whether the "natives" are treated properly "and all that sort of nonsense." Meanwhile, Adela, who travelled all the way from England to decide whether or not she will marry Ronny, expresses her desire "to see the real India." The Collector, Mr. Turton, makes plans to throw a Bridge Party — a party to bridge the gulf between East and West. But the event is not a great success and Adela thinks her countrymen mad for inviting guests and then not receiving them amiably. One of the few officials who does make a genuine effort to make the party work is Mr. Fielding, the Principal of the Government College. He hosts a gathering of his own a couple of days later, and it is then that Dr. Aziz first meets Adela and invites her and Mrs. Moore to visit the nearby Marabar Caves. It is also on this afternoon that a friendship begins to develop between Aziz and Fielding. Part II — Caves
The day of the visit to the Marabar Caves arrives and, except for the absence of Fielding and his assistant, Professor Godbole, who miss the...