A Passage to India

A Passage to India

A Passage to India Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mrs. Moore enters the club, where the play Cousin Kate is in its third act. The play room is very hot, so she goes to the billiard room instead. Adela Quested, a young woman who traveled with Mrs. Moore from England, is there saying “I want to see the real India.” Mrs. Moore escorted Adela at Ronny’s request. Adela and Ronny might become engaged soon.
Forster now shifts to portraying the English of Chandrapore at their exclusive club. Adela’s desire to see the “real India” is on the one hand admirable in the sense that the other English characters feel no desire to connect with India at all. On the other hand, her desire leads to trouble later on, and is based on the naïve and condescending idea that India can somehow be comprehended as a whole—an idea that Forster will continually disprove.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Adela and Mrs. Moore are both slightly disappointed by their visit so far, as they have mostly stayed in the English settlement and haven’t seen what they imagine as the “real India.” Mr. Turton, the district collector (the chief administrative officer) of Chandrapore, enters and orders drinks for them. He praises Ronny as a dignified young man and “one of us.” Mrs. Moore is surprised and not entirely pleased to hear this.
Mr. Turton is essentially the governor of the town of Chandrapore. Ronny has basically become one of the typical Anglo-Indians, meaning that he has been corrupted by the colonial system such that he has become racist and conformist, suffering the fate that Aziz and Hamidullah were lamenting earlier.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
The play ends and a band plays the English National Anthem. All conversation stops as it plays, and everyone is reminded that they are English, part of an Empire occupying a foreign land. After the song Adela again asks to see the “real India.” Cyril Fielding, the principal of the Government College, passes through the room and suggests that Adela should try meeting some Indians.
Forster brings up the curious fact that the English in India are often more patriotic and nationalistic than those actually living in England. They have a greater tendency to idealize their homeland and contrast it to their current “savage” circumstances. Just as the different Indian groups are united in their feelings against the English, the English feel more English because of their contrast to the Indians. Fielding suggests that rather than “see India” Adela meet actual Indians – that she interact with real people rather than a romanticized idea.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
The ladies of the club, including Mrs. Turton and Mrs. Callendar, are amused by Adela’s desire to see Indians. They assure her that it’s best to avoid them, as all the Indians are creepy and disrespectful. Mr. Turton wants to please Adela, however, so he promises to hold a “Bridge Party” for both Indians and English. Mr. and Mrs. Turton then leave the club, with Mrs. Turton thinking that she doesn’t like Adela or Mr. Fielding, because they aren’t “pukka” (respectable) enough.
More examples of the English women showing their disgust and dislike for the Indians. Forster will later draw attention to the difference between Adela’s desire to see the “real India” but not necessarily “real Indians.” Mrs. Turton is one of the most racist and negative characters, and her disapproval of Fielding predicts his sympathetic nature.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Get the entire A Passage to India LitChart as a printable PDF.
A passage to india.pdf.medium
As distant extensions of the British monarchy, the Turtons are like royalty in Chandrapore, and when they leave the party breaks up. Ronny is excited that Mr. Turton was so friendly to his guests. Ronny says that he’s been learning how to deal with the Indians properly. He mentions Mahmoud Ali, whom Ronny felt he had to snub in court to avoid being taken advantage of.
We now see that Ronny is the “red-nosed boy” who used to be friendly to Mahmoud Ali, but now purposefully snubs him to show his superiority and detachment. Ronny’s character is the prime example of the colonial system’s power to corrupt even originally well-meaning English individuals.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Mrs. Moore goes outside and feels a sudden sense of unity with the moon and stars. She, Ronny, and Adela ride home, and on the way Mrs. Moore points out the mosque she stopped at. She mentions the “nice young man” she met there, and Ronny assumes from the tone of her voice that she is talking about an Englishman. When he learns that she’s talking about an Indian he is surprised and angry, and starts accusing Aziz of impudence.
Mrs. Moore again seems almost mystical as she feels a sense of oneness with the sky, foreshadowing the novel’s later emphasis on Hindu pantheism. Ronny is instinctively angry when his mother goes against his attempts to be “one of us” and fit in with the mindset of the English club members.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
They stop momentarily and admire the Ganges, and then return to their bungalow. Adela goes to bed and Ronny starts interrogating his mother about Aziz. He uses phrases he has learned from his superiors to discuss Indians, and he interprets Mrs. Moore’s words to sound like Aziz was being insubordinate. Mrs. Moore scolds her son, saying that Ronny “never used to judge people like this at home.” Ronny responds that “India isn’t home.”
We see more evidence of Ronny’s change in character, and how the colonial system in India has made him more narrow-minded, judgmental, and unkind. Because of the inherent power the English hold over the Indians, it is easy for Ronny to twist a friendly encounter into a seeming show of insubordination.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Ronny feels obligated to tell Major Callendar about Aziz being impudent, but Mrs. Moore makes him promise not to. In exchange Ronny asks his mother to not tell Adela about Aziz. Ronny is afraid that Adela will start worrying about whether the English treat the “natives” properly. Mrs. Moore reminds him that Adela has come to India to observe how Ronny is when he’s at work.
Ronny is clearly not “one of us” all the way yet, as he worries that the English are actually unfair to the Indians, and that Adela will notice and dislike him for it. Here we also start to see the complex, confusing system of gossip and rumors in both the English and Indian societies of Chandrapore.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Mrs. Moore goes into her bedroom, and as she hangs up her cloak she sees that there is a small wasp on her coat hook. The narrator says that “no Indian animal has any sense of the interior,” as all human architecture is just a “normal growth of the eternal jungle.” Mrs. Moore calls the wasp “pretty dear” as it continues to sleep.
In the novel the wasp generally represents the “lowliest” of living things, and as a symbol it always appears alongside either Mrs. Moore or Hinduism. Here Mrs. Moore expresses a natural feeling of love and kinship with the wasp, again associating her with a mystical idea of unity across not only people but all living things. Forster associates Indian architecture with the formless and primitive jungle.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon