A Passage to India


E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India: Part 2, Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Lady Mellanby, the wife of the province’s lieutenant-governor, learns of the trouble in Chandrapore and offers to help Ronny by letting Mrs. Moore travel back to England with her in her cabin, as all the boats are full. Ronny is relieved at this seeming miracle, and pleased that his name will now be known to the lieutenant-governor. He feels a renewed rush of tenderness for his mother.
Mrs. Moore now begins to exit the story, having been broken by the Marabar Caves. Her madness and death are a horrifying example of the possible failure of Forster’s theme of unity, or the Hindu idea of universal oneness. Mrs. Moore will now be unable to help Aziz as well.
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Though Mrs. Moore gets everything she wished for—an escape from the trial and the marriage, and a trip back to England to see her other children—she is unable to feel enthusiasm or pleasure. She continues in her state of apathy, feeling at all times both “the horror of the universe and its smallness.” She sees everything good or beautiful as pointless, and thinks of the true powers behind the universe as “something very old and very small,” a malicious, petty force which was manifested in the echo of the Marabar Caves. She again thinks of “love in a church” and “love in a cave” as essentially the same.
Forster further clarifies the quality of Mrs. Moore’s depression and apathy. Unlike Godbole’s philosophy and the Hindu idea of pantheistic love, the Marabar Caves represent existence as an unfriendly, all-encompassing darkness, something that cares nothing for love or human relationships. We hear more vague references to Mrs. Moore’s other children, but Forster doesn’t introduce them until the third section.
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This view of the universe as petty and selfish has left Mrs. Moore feeling selfish and irritable herself, to the point where she is even jealous of all the attention Adela gets. But when Mrs. Moore does get any attention, she rejects it irritably.
Nothing can please Mrs. Moore anymore, and her kind and noble character has been tragically broken down by the echo of the Marabar.
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Ronny is unable to escort Mrs. Moore to Bombay and no one from Chandrapore comes along either, so she is untroubled by reminders of the past. She has a pleasant journey, and again admires the moon shining on the Ganges River. She passes by many mysterious and magnificent sights, and regrets that she has seen so little of India, or “not the right places.” She arrives in Bombay, a huge city of confusion and crowds, which seems to mock her for thinking that the Marabar Caves represented all of India, when there are actually a “hundred Indias.”
This is the last we see of Mrs. Moore, and she leaves with the realization that her and Adela’s quest to see the “real India” was naïve and hopeless. Forster uses the phrase “a hundred Indias” several times throughout the novel to illustrate the vastness of the country and the divisions among its culture, geography, and religion. Forster and Mrs. Moore ultimately conclude that India is too complex to comprehend—one can only decide whether that complexity is a “muddle” or a “mystery” and interact with the individuals within it.
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