A Passage to India
Part II, Chapters XV–XIX
Summary: Chapter XV
Aziz, Adela, and the guide climb up toward other caves higher in the hills. Aziz’s mind is preoccupied with breakfast preparations. Adela is also distracted, as she suddenly realizes that she and Ronny are not in love. Adela asks Aziz if he is married and if he has more than one wife. The second question shocks Aziz, and he ducks into a cave to recover. Adela follows shortly and enters another cave.
Summary: Chapter XVI
Aziz exits the cave to find the guide alone. The two men hear the sound of a motorcar. Aziz looks for Adela, and the guide explains that she went into one of the caves. Aziz scolds the guide for not keeping Adela in sight, and together they shout for her. In frustration, Aziz slaps the guide, who runs away. Then, with relief, Aziz notices Adela already down the hills, speaking to a woman near the motorcar. Aziz notices Adela’s field-glasses lying broken on the ground. He picks them up and proceeds back to camp, where he is elated to find that Fielding has arrived in Miss Derek’s car. Aziz sends a retinue down to escort Miss Derek up to the camp, but Miss Derek and Adela have already started to drive back to Chandrapore. Aziz cheerfully accepts this new development, but Fielding senses that something is wrong with Adela.
Aziz, wanting to avoid the unpleasant memory of Adela’s question about polygamy, has already refined the facts of their excursion up the hill. Fielding presses Aziz for details because he feels the two women have been rude to the Indian. Aziz, barely realizing he is lying, reassures Fielding that the guide escorted Adela down to the car.
On the elephant ride back to the train, Fielding figures that the expedition must have cost Aziz hundreds of rupees. The group boards the train and rides back to Chandrapore. When they arrive at the city, Mr. Haq, the inspector of police, boards the train and arrests Aziz. Aziz panics and attempts to run out another door, but Fielding stops him. Fielding calms Aziz, reassuring him that there must be some mistake and that they will straighten it out together. The two men walk out onto the platform, where Mr. Turton orders Fielding to remain behind while Aziz goes to prison.
Summary: Chapter XVII
Mr. Turton, looking fanatical and brave, informs Fielding that Adela has been “insulted”—presumably, sexually assaulted—in one of the Marabar Caves. Adela herself has lodged the complaint. Fielding protests that Aziz must be innocent. Turton informs Fielding that there is to be an informal meeting at the club that night to discuss the accusations. Turton explains that Adela is quite ill, and he is furious that Fielding is not as enraged as all the other English are. As Turton rides back to his bungalow, he looks with self-satisfied outrage at each Indian he passes.
Summary: Chapter XVIII
Mr. McBryde, superintendent of police, receives Aziz politely at the jail. McBryde has a theory that Indians have criminal tendencies because of the climate—thus, the Indians’ behavior is not their fault. Fielding arrives at McBryde’s to get the details of the case. McBryde explains that Adela has claimed that Aziz followed her into a cave and made advances on her. She hit at him with her field-glasses and he broke the strap. McBryde shows Fielding the broken glasses, which the police have found on Aziz’s person.
Fielding wants to ask Adela if she is completely sure Aziz attacked her. McBryde sends to Major Callendar for permission, but Callendar refuses because Adela is so ill. Mahmoud Ali and Hamidullah arrive in turn to consult Aziz.
Fielding continues to refuse to believe Aziz is guilty. McBryde begins to tell Fielding of a letter from a brothel owner that has been found in Aziz’s house. Fielding does not want to hear details, however, and he admits that he himself visited brothels at Aziz’s age. A police officer arrives with evidence from Aziz’s bedroom, including pictures of women. Fielding explains that the photographs are of Aziz’s wife. Fielding asks to visit with Aziz.
Summary: Chapter XIX
Fielding runs into Hamidullah outside McBryde’s office. While Fielding is anxious and impassioned, Hamidullah is calm and resigned. Hamidullah strategizes for Aziz’s bail and defense team. Fielding feels deflated by Hamidullah’s pragmatism and by the discrepancies in Aziz’s story. But Fielding reassures Hamidullah that he is on “their” side, though he regrets taking sides at all.
Fielding returns to the college. Professor Godbole approaches Fielding about several trivial college matters. Fielding asks Godbole if he has heard about Aziz. Godbole has, but he quickly changes the subject. Fielding impatiently asks Godbole if he thinks Aziz is innocent or guilty. Godbole explains that according to his own philosophy, an evil action was performed at the caves, and that action was equally performed by Aziz, the guide, Fielding, Godbole himself, Godbole’s students, even Adela herself. This response frustrates Fielding because it does not recognize the difference between good and evil. Godbole clarifies. Both good and evil are aspects of God, as God is present in good and absent in evil. Godbole then changes the subject again.
Fielding visits Aziz that afternoon, finding the doctor miserable and incoherent. Fielding leaves and writes a letter to Adela.
Analysis: Chapters XV–XIX
Aziz and Adela’s hike to the higher caves is plagued by a sense of awkward sexual guilt and embarrassment. Aziz already feels somewhat repelled by Adela because of her lack of physical beauty and because of her upcoming marriage to Ronny, which will make her a rude Englishwoman like the rest. Meanwhile, Adela’s startling realization that she and Ronny do not love each other makes her doubtful and ashamed. She unconsciously transfers her shame and discomfort to Aziz by insensitively asking him if he has more than one wife. Aziz resents this offense to his Western value system and ducks into a cave, feeling embarrassed both for himself and for Adela. Adela ducks into a different cave, feeling guilty about her lack of love for Ronny. While Aziz and Adela never meet in the same cave, Adela’s mysterious experience of being “insulted” appears to stem from this prevailing atmosphere of sexual shame and embarrassment.
As with Mrs. Moore’s experience in the cave in the previous section, Forster does not allow us to see Adela while she is actually in the cave, which leaves her attack a mystery to us. We do, however, see Aziz’s thoughts and whereabouts during this time, so we know that he is innocent. As in the early parts of the novel, Forster gives us the Indian perspective first, upstaging the inevitably contradictory English viewpoint. Indeed, as we see in the upcoming chapters, the action continues to center on Aziz rather than Adela. While we see the English jump to conclusions about Aziz’s guilt, we see Aziz inadvertently make himself appear guilty by trying to run from the police and by fudging his story to Fielding. Accordingly, Part II follows the plot of the wrongful incrimination of Aziz and its ramifications, rather than devolving into a routine mystery story about what really happened in the cave. Forster encourages us not to try to guess who or what might have attacked Adela, but rather to focus on the result—the racial tensions that erupt afterward.
Ironically, it is only Aziz who remains happy through the remainder of the Marabar outing. He is thrilled with the arrival of Fielding, and he does not let Adela’s sudden departure bother him. The outing has affected everyone else negatively, however, and it has begun to divide them with accusations of blame. Mrs. Moore blames Miss Derek for Adela’s hasty departure. Fielding blames Miss Derek and especially Adela for being rude to Aziz. Mrs. Moore and Fielding view each other as competitors for Aziz’s affection. Finally, Fielding feels somewhat alienated from Aziz by what he sees as Aziz’s impractical spending on an expedition for ungrateful Englishwomen. This sudden aura of blame and suspicion foreshadows the charges that are filed against Aziz, along with the broader tensions that those charges soon inflame.
The chapters immediately following Aziz’s arrest are told from Fielding’s point of view, which allows us to see how the alleged crime and arrest bring out the worst in both the English and the Indians. The English officials immediately and unreservedly assume that Aziz is guilty, and they go on to apply that guilt to Indians generally. Even the relatively reasonable Turton and McBryde are shocked and offended that Fielding would even think of standing up for Aziz. There is a tenor of self-satisfaction to the Englishmen’s reaction, as though this crime confirms their long-held suspicions and stereotypes about Indians. The Indians, for their part, do not stand in defense of Aziz’s moral character, but instead focus on details of evidence and legal process. As usual, Forster is more sympathetic in his portrayal of the Indian side, especially Hamidullah and Aziz’s other friends, whose practical reaction to Aziz’s arrest seems warranted by the clearly biased investigation. Still, both the English and Indians use the occasion of Aziz’s arrest as a call to arms of sorts, an opportunity to consolidate sides and battle out racial tension that has long been simmering under the surface.
Though Fielding is reluctant to take sides in the uproar, the only person who stays completely aloof is Professor Godbole. When Fielding presses Godbole for his opinion about Aziz’s innocence or guilt, Godbole offers only the philosophic musing that everyone is responsible for the evil action that has occurred at the Marabar Caves. Godbole’s refusal to distinguish between good and evil recalls the all-equalizing, all-reducing echo that Mrs. Moore experiences in the caves. Yet while Mrs. Moore and Fielding both are unsettled by the muddle of good and evil, Godbole finds comfort in his philosophy, which concerns itself with eternal questions rather than minute particulars. Indeed, Godbole’s Hindu viewpoint is not without a moral message. He implies that by meditating on the spiritual force that enfolds us all, we avoid the pitfalls of pointing fingers and assigning blame.
by UGLYHASSNAA69, November 12, 2012
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