A Passage to India

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A Passage to India Part 2, Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Aziz waits inside the cave for a moment, and when he comes out he finds that the guide is alone. They hear the sound of an automobile at the bottom of the hill. Aziz tries to find Adela, but the guide says that she went into a cave. Aziz reprimands him for not keeping their guest in sight. Aziz starts to panic, and he and the guide shout for Adela. There is no answer, and Aziz slaps the guide’s face in frustration. The guide runs away. Aziz worries that his career is over because of this disaster.
The defining incident has occurred, but we never actually see it. Thus the climactic action of the book is itself a muddle, an inexplicable occurrence that unleashes trouble in all directions, but can never be truly described. The guide disappears for the rest of the novel, and with him goes the only chance of an explanation of what happened in the cave.
Themes
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Aziz is then relieved to see that Adela is down at the bottom of the hill, talking to another lady near the car. Aziz sees Adela’s field glasses lying broken at the entrance to one of the caves. He puts them in his pocket. Aziz returns to the camp, and is delighted to see that Fielding is there, having arrived in Miss Derek’s car. Aziz gets Fielding a drink, and they toast to India and England.
Ironically Aziz is overjoyed that his outing was a success and that he can now spend time with Fielding, even though the aftermath of the incident has already begun without his knowing. Their toast to India and England is ironically feeble considering all the racial tensions about to erupt.
Themes
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Aziz sends some servants to escort Miss Derek from her car, but they find that Miss Derek and Adela have already left to drive back to Chandrapore. Aziz is disappointed but still happy about the picnic. Fielding, however, senses that something has gone wrong, and guesses that Adela has requested to drive back immediately. Mrs. Moore is sulky and argumentative, but she and Fielding try to bond over their fondness for Aziz. They feel awkward about “being drawn together by an Indian.”
Aziz remains happy despite Adela’s sudden departure, but everyone else has been negatively affected by the day. Mrs. Moore now feels that nothing has meaning, and she grows petty and argumentative. Fielding worries that something is wrong and that Adela will cause trouble for Aziz. And still no one is able to properly communicate.
Themes
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Aziz tries to avoid the memory of Adela’s question about multiple wives, so he changes the facts in his mind, editing the story of the past hour without even realizing that he is being untruthful. He tells Fielding that he was with Adela when she saw Miss Derek’s car and decided to run down to her, escorted by the guide. Fielding is vaguely angry at the women for ruining Aziz’s picnic, and questions Aziz about the details of what happened. Mrs. Moore is vaguely angry at Fielding, but is too apathetic to feel much.
We know that Aziz is innocent, but he unwittingly acts guilty by making up a false story about the outing, even though he is just trying to preserve his “truth of mood.” Everything is still a muddle and the characters feel isolated and unhappy, except for Aziz, who still feels like a successful host.
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Fielding worries that Aziz has been insulted by the women, but Aziz is still ecstatic about the success of the outing, and feels like a hospitable Mughal emperor. On the elephant ride back to the train, Fielding asks about the cost of the whole day, and Aziz admits that it will add up to hundreds of rupees. He knows he has been swindled out of lots of extra money, but he feels that it was worth it to please his English guests.
Fielding can sense that trouble is brewing, and he also seems disapproving of Aziz’s extravagance in providing the outing. The whole situation is a good example of what Fielding sees as the muddle of India.
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The group boards the train and travels back to Chandrapore, the “nasty little cosmos” of the Marabar Caves retreating into the romantic shapes of the distant Marabar hills. When the train arrives, Mr. Haq, the inspector of police, opens their carriage door and informs Aziz that he is under arrest. Aziz panics and tries to run out a different door, sobbing. Fielding catches him and tries to calm him down, warning him to not “act the criminal.” Aziz breaks down, worried about the shame this will bring on his name. The two men step onto the platform together, where Mr. Turton calls Fielding aside and Aziz goes on to prison alone.
At first it seems like everything is back to normal, but the horrifying world of the Marabar has now been unleashed upon Chandrapore, and the chaos and suffering spreads. Once again Aziz acts like he is guilty by fleeing. He is wrongfully accused, but his actions are still somehow disappointing and contribute to the trouble that follows. Turton calls Fielding aside so that he won’t be seen associating with not just a “criminal” but an Indian criminal. Turton is protecting Fielding, but also the image of all Anglo-Indians.
Themes
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Friendship Theme Icon