A Passage to India

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A Passage to India Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mr. Turton keeps his promise, and the next day he invites several Indian gentlemen to his “Bridge Party,” adding that Mrs. Turton will entertain any ladies they might bring. The Indians are surprised and excited by this event. Mahmoud Ali suspects that the lieutenant governor is making Turton throw the party, as the higher-ups seem more sympathetic to the Indians than are the officials the Indians deal with every day.
The Bridge Party immediately turns into a political event filled with distrust and division. The lieutenant general will appear later as a more “liberal” figure who is more open to and less racist toward the Indians, although he is also totally detached from daily life in India (and his liberalism is described as being a product of that detachment). Mahmoud Ali is generally more suspicious of the English than his friends.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
The Nawab Bahadur, the leading Muslim landowner and Loyalist of the area, says that it is “easy to sympathize at a distance,” and he appreciates Turton's invitation. He announces that he will attend. One man accuses the Nawab Bahadur of cheapening himself with this, but in general the Nawab is highly respected in the community and many other Indians decide to attend if he will.
The Nawab Bahadur is a Loyalist, meaning he is an Indian who sympathizes and works with the English. He is a similar figure to Turton (on the English side), as both men strive to “bridge” the two cultures for political reasons, and often have to repress their true feelings for the sake of their work.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Outside the room where the Nawab Bahadur is speaking (which is near the Courts) lower-class Indians wait outside and sit in the dirt. These people received no invitation from Mr. Turton. Farther out are even lower classes, castes of Indians who live in total poverty and receive no kind of “invitation” to anything at all.
One important theme of the novel is the attempt to describe India as either a “muddle” or a “mystery.” Scenes like this one contribute to the view that India is a muddle—an incomprehensible, chaotic place—as the scene expands to masses of nameless people.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Still musing on invitations, the narrator then describes Mr. Graysford and Mr. Sorley, two missionaries who live on the outskirts of the city and never enter the English club. They both agree that in heaven there will be room for all people, no matter their race or class. Mr. Sorley, who is young and “advanced” feels that there might even be a place in heaven for monkeys or other mammals. He has discussed this with his Hindu friends, but he is unwilling to consider allowing wasps, plants, bacteria, or mud into heaven. Mr. Sorley feels that “we must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing.”
These characters never reappear, but they begin an important discussion about universal oneness in a spiritual sense. They are both Christian, but the “advanced” Mr. Sorley leans towards a more Hindu vision of heaven, where some creatures other than humans might be included. In the novel’s discussion of religion Christianity is often portrayed as too exclusive or narrow-minded to contain the vastness of all life. The wasp reappears, representing a lowly living thing. Yet these discussions also suggest the way that ultimately people feel important through the exclusion of others. In Sorley’s case, he excludes the wasp. In the India of the novel, the English exclude the Indians, and the Indians of different backgrounds exclude each other.
Themes
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
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