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Quote 5

Were there worlds beyond which they could never touch, or did all that is possible enter their consciousness? They could not tell. . . . Perhaps life is a mystery, not a muddle. . . . Perhaps the hundred Indias which fuss and squabble so tiresomely are one, and the universe they mirror is one. They had not the apparatus for judging.

In this quotation from Chapter XXIX, which details Fielding’s and Adela’s reactions to Adela’s strange experience at Marabar, Forster shows the inadequacy of English rationalism to evaluate mystical India. Adela is unable to articulate her frightening experience in the caves, even after her vision at the trial shows her Aziz’s innocence. She and Fielding both approach the problem logically, attempting to outline a number of possible explanations: hallucination, the absence of the guide, and so on. Though Adela and Fielding are committed to rationally explaining the occurrence, each of their explanations falls short of Adela’s experience. Here, we begin to see that Adela’s experience in the cave stands as a sort of synecdoche—a metaphor that takes a part for the whole—for the entire experience of the foreignness of India. Like Marabar, India presents a confused set of stimulants, not all of which can be incorporated into a dominant explanation or interpretation. The only possible way to understand and classify the chaos of Marabar and India is to ascribe these mysteries to a force larger than humanity—a mystical force. Once mysticism is acknowledged, the “muddle” of Marabar becomes a “mystery,” and the strangeness of India comes to appear as a coherent whole.

This passage also shows Fielding and Aziz coming closer to each other through mutual respect and similar experience. Though Fielding does not like Adela for much of the novel, disagreeing with her theoretical and unemotional approach to Indians and India, the two do share a level of rationalism and non-spiritualism. Both are -atheists in a way and cannot truly fathom mystical presence as Mrs. Moore can. Fielding begins to respect Adela for her frank objectivity and her willingness to admit that she is unable to explain what happened in the caves. Through conversations like this one, Adela and Fielding grow closer by acknowledging the strangeness of the India around them. Aziz senses that this is the tenor of Adela and Fielding’s friendship, and he begins to resent Fielding for it.