A Passage to India
Part II, Chapters XXIV–XXV
Summary: Chapter XXIV
The hot season has begun, and everyone retreats indoors, away from the sun. The morning of Aziz’s trial, the Turtons drive Adela to the courthouse with a police escort. On the way, Mr. Turton thinks to himself that he does not hate Indians, for to do so would be to denounce his own career and the energy spent on them. He concludes that it is Englishwomen who really make matters worse in India.
In front of the courthouse, students jeer at the car. Rafi, hiding behind a friend, yells that the English are cowards. Inside, the English gather in Ronny’s office and loudly trade rumors about an Indian rebellion and Fielding’s traitorous behavior. Ronny expresses confidence in his subordinate, Das, who is acting as judge for the case. Major Callendar loudly denounces all Indians. He relates with satisfaction that the Nawab Bahadur’s grandson recently suffered severe facial injury from a car accident; all Indians should be similarly made to suffer. Everyone ignores Adela, who sits quietly, fearing she will have a breakdown during her examination.
When the case is called, the group files into the courtroom to their special chairs. Adela notices the lowly Indian servant operating the fan. He has a beautiful, godlike demeanor and appears aloof from everything taking place in the room.
McBryde opens the case for the prosecution. He presents as scientific fact his assertion that darker races lust after fairer races, but not vice versa. An Indian in the audience protests that Adela is ugly. Adela becomes flustered. Callendar requests that Adela be moved to the platform for better air. All of the English then move to the platform. Amritrao, the lawyer from Calcutta, protests that having all the English up on the platform will intimidate the witnesses. Das agrees that everyone but Adela must return to the floor. Outside the courtroom, word of this humiliation spreads, and the crowd jeers.
McBryde argues that Aziz lives a double life, simultaneously “respectable” and depraved. McBryde dwells on Aziz’s attempt to crush Mrs. Moore in the first cave. Mahmoud Ali objects to this accusation, as Mrs. Moore will not be testifying at the trial. Mahmoud Ali bemoans the fact that Ronny has sent Mrs. Moore away, as she knew Aziz was innocent. Despite Das’s attempts to restore calm, Mahmoud Ali shouts that the trial is a farce and all of them slaves. He leaves the courtroom in protest. The Indians begin chanting “Mrs. Moore” as if it were a charm, until the chant sounds like “Esmiss Esmoor.”
Adela goes up to the witness stand. She suddenly feels like she is back at Marabar, and that it seems more lovely this time. As McBryde questions her, she visualizes each step of that day. When he asks if Aziz followed her into the cave, she requests a minute to answer. Visualizing the caves, she cannot picture him following her. She states quietly that she has made a mistake, that Aziz never followed her. The courtroom erupts. Callendar tries to halt the trial on medical grounds, but Adela confirms that she withdraws all the charges. The enraged Mrs. Turton screams insults at Adela. Das officially releases Aziz.
Summary: Chapter XXV
Adela is pushed along in the tide of Indians toward the exit. Fielding asks her where she is going. She responds listlessly, so he reluctantly takes her to his carriage for her safety. Fielding’s students are gathered around the carriage. They convince Fielding and Adela to get inside and they then pull the two through town. Indians drape flowers around Adela, though some are critical of the two English sticking together.
The roads in Chandrapore are blocked with crowds, and the Eng-lish are cut off on the way back to the civil station. Adela and Fielding are pulled back to the college. The phone lines are cut, and the servants gone. Fielding encourages Adela to rest and lies down himself.
Meanwhile, Aziz, in his victory procession, cries out for Fielding, who has abandoned him. Mahmoud Ali orders the procession to the hospital to rescue the Nawab Bahadur’s grandson, as word has circulated that Mahmoud Ali overheard Callendar bragging about torturing the young man. The Nawab Bahadur urges restraint, but the crowd proceeds to the hospital.
Disaster is averted only by Panna Lal, who mistakenly believes the crowd has come to the hospital to punish him for offering to testify for the English. Lal acts the buffoon to honor the vengeful men, and he retrieves the Nawab Bahadur’s grandson for them. The Nawab Bahadur averts further disaster by making a long-winded speech in which he renounces his loyalist title. He invites Aziz and friends to his house for a celebration that night. The baking heat of the hot season bears down on the city, and nearly everyone retreats indoors to sleep.
Analysis: Chapters XXIV–XXV
By the time of the trial, it becomes clear that the English value the sense of conflict that Adela’s alleged assault has triggered much more than the welfare of Adela herself. The English solely focus on the vengeance to be had through Aziz’s trial, ignoring the true trauma that Adela still suffers—the trauma of the echo. The less sympathetic English essentially ignore Adela, even on the morning of the trial, and instead engage in gossip about Fielding and inflated stories about Indian dissent and rebellion. Even the sympathetic, chivalrous Mr. Turton, who is attentive to Adela, thinks to himself that the general presence of Englishwomen in India is the cause of all English-Indian tension.
In the chapters that deal with Aziz’s trial, we begin to see clearly the differences between Ronny’s character and the character of the majority of the English. Though Ronny does not focus on Adela’s personal pain more than any of the others, he does become somewhat more gracious in the aftermath of her ordeal. Adela’s assault makes Ronny into a sort of martyr figure for the English, as his fiancée has been wronged; this status seems to release him from the English community’s vengeance-seeking. During the trial, Ronny almost exclusively focuses on his subordinate, Mr. Das, who is trying the case. Ronny feels condescendingly confident in Das and looks forward to Das’s successful performance as a good reflection on Ronny himself. Here, like Turton, Ronny is a character who feels confident in the British Empire and in the process of justice that the Empire brings to India. Though Ronny does not share the cross-culturally sympathetic character of his mother, Mrs. Moore, neither does he seek disproportionate revenge against the Indians, as many of the other English do.
The strategy of McBryde, the prosecution’s lawyer, is to present his interpretation of the facts of the case in such a dry, emotionless, and “scientific” manner that they appear to be the truth. His interpretation of Aziz’s actions and character resembles Ronny’s interpretation of Aziz’s meeting with Mrs. Moore in the mosque in Chapter III. Mrs. Moore acknowledged that Ronny’s ungenerous interpretation, though it could be factually correct, ignored the warmth and trustworthiness of Aziz’s character that she herself sensed. Here, McBryde’s account similarly presents mere interpretations of fact as fact. McBryde’s account is devoid of any recognition or sympathetic understanding of Aziz’s honorable character. Additionally, McBryde’s account—while presenting itself as “truth”—ignores specific angles of the case (such as the disappeared Marabar guide) and depends on biased character witnesses such as Panna Lal.
In response to the pretense of logic and fact that the English put forward, Mahmoud Ali emotionally argues that the English have conspired to withhold Mrs. Moore as a witness. This assertion prompts the Indian crowd in the courtroom to begin chanting Mrs. Moore’s name. To the English, these actions are proof of the Indians’ tendency to be overemotional and superstitious; Forster, however, presents the incantation of “Esmiss Esmoor” as a sort of collective Indian intuition about what is missing from the English pretense of justice. Mrs. Moore comes to symbolize an ideal, spiritual, sympathetic, and—perhaps most important—race-blind understanding. Though Mrs. Moore herself succumbs to apathy after her visit to Marabar and never offers to defend Aziz at his trial, she acquires an almost godlike significance through the rest of A Passage to India. Forster adeptly shows Mrs. Moore’s shortcomings as human, yet also presents her as a positive symbol of unself-conscious and spiritually perceptive interracial understanding. Forster implies that Mrs. Moore’s brand of extraordinary, undemonstrative compassion is what is missing from the English-style trial.
Adela is able to declare Aziz’s innocence during the trial because she experiences a vision during her testimony. This vision is, in a sense, a positive version of the vision Mrs. Moore experienced after going into the first cave at Marabar. In that cave, Mrs. Moore has a vision of all differences being collapsed into the sameness of the echo, “boum.” This lack of individuation and valuation frightens Mrs. Moore and makes her cease to care about individual relationships. Adela’s vision is similarly impersonal. She experiences an out-of-body re-creation of her expedition into Marabar, and in it, she actually “sees” that Aziz did not enter the cave after her. The impersonal, detached point of view of this vision allows Adela to put honesty before her individual feelings or relationships with others. Forster foreshadows this revelation of Adela’s relative unimportance when Adela first enters the courtroom and notices the poor but godlike Indian operating the fan. His aloofness and beauty suggest a detached, spiritual perspective from which Adela and her trauma appear less significant. Forster presents Adela’s experience of spiritual impersonality as a positive vision that restores the balance of justice in the trial.
All the main events in A Passage to India, strangely, are actually nonevents. The event of Adela’s experience of an assault in the Marabar Caves turns out to be an imagined assault. The event that should be Aziz’s conviction is rendered a nonevent by Adela, who quietly affirms Aziz’s innocence. Similarly, in the aftermath of the trial, the strain on English-Indian relations builds to a climax, but these tensions wither in the oppressive heat of the sun. The riotous Indians who gather at the Minto Hospital leave without violence to return home for naps. This anticlimactic tendency shows that Forster cares less about plot events than about how those events make an impression on individual characters and on the social atmosphere of the novel. Furthermore, the series of anticlimaxes reminds us of the pervasive sense of emptiness, absence, exclusion, and nothingness at the core of A Passage to India: more important than what we see occur is what we do not see occur; more important than what happens is what does not happen.
by UGLYHASSNAA69, November 12, 2012
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