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Quote 3

[Mrs. Moore] felt increasingly (vision or nightmare?) that, though people are important, the relations between them are not, and that in particular too much fuss has been made over marriage.

This quotation, appearing in Chapter XIV during the train ride to the Marabar Caves, foreshadows Mrs. Moore’s upcoming crisis with the cave echo. Ever since setting foot in India—or, more specifically, since hearing Godbole’s religious song in Chapter VII—Mrs. Moore has felt a spiritual presence larger than her own Christian God. The largeness of this presence frightens Mrs. Moore and convinces her that human interactions are petty and meaningless. Her crisis at Marabar reinforces this feeling and leads her to paralyzing apathy. Mrs. Moore’s vision, which shows that something larger than man encompasses the entire world and renders it equal, is a sort of negative version of Godbole’s Hindu vision. The Hindu vision of the oneness of all living things finds comfort and joy in surrendering individual existence to the collective. Though Mrs. Moore takes this vision of impersonality to mean that human relationships are meaningless, the vision can also be liberating. Indeed, it is through a similar vision of impersonality that Adela is able to realize that Aziz is innocent and that she must proclaim him so, regardless of the cost to her own person and reputation.

This passage also evinces Forster’s subtle critique of the institution of marriage. Mrs. Moore and Fielding, both potential mouthpieces for Forster himself, express distaste for marriage, specifically because it does not lead to a fruitful relationship that enlightens one about oneself or others. Few marriages exist in A Passage to India; indeed, we witness the breakdown of two—Ronny and Adela’s before it even starts, and the McBrydes’ through adultery. As such, Forster implies that the English sentimentalize the domestic structure of husband, wife, and children. They view this structure as a sacred symbol of all that is good about the British Empire, though the author contends that, in reality, domestic situations can lead to trouble and ignorance.