A Passage to India

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A Passage to India Part 2, Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mr. Turton calls Fielding into a waiting room, where he informs him that Adela has been “insulted” (probably sexually assaulted) in one of the Marabar Caves. Turton looks brave and almost godlike as he speaks. Fielding feels that “a mass of madness had arisen and tried to overwhelm them all,” and he panics. Turton doesn’t notice, and informs Fielding that Adela herself has lodged the complaint against Aziz. Fielding immediately defends Aziz, calling Adela crazy, and Turton grows furious.
We now see the aftermath of the incident from Fielding’s point of view, and so can observe the immediate English reaction. Turton is usually a practical man, but he is overcome with self-righteousness at the thought of an Indian assaulting a white woman. Fielding can sense that the madness of the Marabar has begun to expand.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Fielding withdraws his remark about Adela, but continues to protest that Aziz must be innocent. Turton, still enraged, lectures him that this is why Indians and Englishmen cannot be friends. Turton breaks down with emotion, overwhelmed at the thought of the innocent Adela, “fresh from England,” being taken advantage of by an Indian. Fielding recognizes that Turton wants to “avenge the girl,” while Fielding is concerned with saving Aziz.
If the first “Mosque” section of the novel seemed to show that cross-cultural friendship is possible in India, then “Caves” breaks apart that optimism. Turton himself states that this attack is the result of English people trying to befriend Indians. None of the English liked Adela originally, but they now begin to idealize her as the innocent victim. Only Fielding doesn’t partake in the Anglo-Indian circling of the wagons.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Turton tells Fielding that there is to be an informal meeting at the English club that night to discuss the situation. Fielding says that he will come, and asks about Adela’s health. Turton says that she is ill. He is angry that Fielding hasn’t become enraged at the phrase “English girl fresh from England,” and joined with the English and white race in rallying against the Indians. All over Chandrapore, the English are letting their emotions take over, feeling especially patriotic, angry, and brave.
Adela’s attack allows the English to feel justified in whatever stereotypes or dislike they had held against the Indians. Adela’s attack was an individual incident involving individuals, but it immediately highlights the racial tensions throughout the area. The English almost seem pleased to have a cause to rally behind, one that allows them to feel superior and hate the Indians.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Turton leaves and is disgusted by the confusion of the Indians on the train platform. Many are looting some of the Englishwomen’s belongings. Turton coldly puts a stop to it, though inside he is still “insane with rage.” He drives back to his bungalow, and on the way he lets his hatred focus on each Indian he passes, promising to himself that he will “make them squeal.”
The Indians are on the “right” side in the matter, but they too act disappointingly, looting the Englishwomen’s belongings. Turton now feels justified in letting whatever hatred he had suppressed now run wild. The Indian muddle seems especially repulsive to him.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
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