A Passage to India

A Passage to India

A Passage to India Part 2, Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The hot season arrives in full force soon after Mrs. Moore’s departure, and everyone hides inside, avoiding the sun. The narrator claims that beautiful myths are the result of the annual European retreat from the cold, but in India the retreat from the sun, the source of life, results only in disillusionment. Adela has recently returned to the Christianity of her earlier years, as it seems “the shortest and easiest cut to the unseen,” and she asks God for a favorable verdict on the morning of Aziz’s trial. The only response she seems to get is the sickening heat.
Forster portrays the crushing heat as a similar to the echo in the Marabar Caves—an all-reducing, all-encompassing force that removes all individuality and causes apathy and depression. Adela remains a rationalist, but after the Marabar she can sense that there is some kind of supernatural or mystical reality beyond her comprehension, and so she returns to traditional Christianity to approach it.
Themes
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Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
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After Mrs. Moore left, Adela has been staying with the Turtons, who have been very kind to her, though it is “her position [as victim] not her character that moved them.” Only Ronny seems concerned with Adela’s personality and struggle. On the morning of Aziz’s trial Adela fears that she will break down under the cross-examination, and once again she can hear the Marabar Cave’s echo in her ears.
Forster makes it abundantly clear that the English value Adela only as the impetus for their nationalistic pride and conflict with the Indians. No one but Ronny seems concerned with Adela’s actual suffering, which is mostly the lingering Marabar echo, not the memory of her attack or any hatred of Indians.
Themes
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“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
The Turtons drive Adela to the courthouse with an escort of Indian police, and on the way a few children throw stones at the car. Turton thinks to himself that he doesn’t really hate the Indians, for to do so would be to “condemn his own career as a bad investment.” He decides that it is the English women who make life difficult in India, and he slightly resents Adela even while he feels chivalrous towards her. They arrive at the courthouse and some students jeer at the car. Rafi, Syed Mohammed’s nephew, hides behind another boy and yells that the English are cowards.
We see (again from Adela’s detached perspective) more of the English-Indian conflict that has grown so heated in the lead-up to Aziz’s trial. Even Turton, who is more attentive to Adela than most of the English, slightly resents the presence of Englishwomen in India for making his job harder. Turton again must play a complicated part, as he tries to avoid actively hating the Indians he is supposed to be governing and “civilizing.”
Themes
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Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
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Adela and the Turtons go inside, where many English are gathered in Ronny’s private room. There is news of Indian workers striking, and of Muslim women threatening to starve themselves until Aziz is acquitted. All the English in the room feel like Fielding is behind all the trouble, and they verbally abuse him as a traitor and spy. Meanwhile Adela sits quietly trying to preserve her strength, and no one notices her for a long time. When they do they are ashamed of being so loud and disturbing her.
Forster plays up the irony here: the English seem to be obsessed with Adela’s attack, but no one actually cares about Adela herself. Instead they use it as an excuse to gossip about the Indians, disparage Fielding, and stir up conflict and fear. Adela remains detached from her compatriots, lost in the world of the echo.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
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Ronny assures Adela that Das, his Indian subordinate who is judging the case, is “all right,” though Major Callendar protests that “not one of them’s all right.” Callendar goes on to declare that the whole situation is a good thing, except for Adela’s suffering, as it has created an opportunity to punish the Indians. He laughs as he describes the injuries the Nawab Bahadur’s grandson Nureddin recently received in a car accident, and says that “nothing’s too bad for these people.” Mrs. Turton loudly agrees with him, making Mr. Turton uncomfortable. She goes on to call all the English men “weak,” and says that all Indians should be made to crawl in the future whenever an English woman passes by. Once again Adela is forgotten in the conversation.
Ronny proves himself more sympathetic than most of the English, as he at least cares for Adela personally and supports Das, his Indian subordinate. Ronny, like Turton, chooses to focus on the success of English justice (which produced Das as judge) rather than dwelling on inter-racial conflict. Callendar and Mrs. Turton, on the other hand, have clearly used the attack to let their hatred run wild, as Callendar boasts about Nureddin’s suffering and Mrs. Turton calls for extreme measures of punishment for all Indians.
Themes
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Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
The case is called, and the English group has their chairs carried in before they enter, so that they look dignified and superior. The court is crowded and hot, and Adela is overwhelmed. Her attention is captured by a lowly Indian servant, an “Untouchable,” who is operating the room’s fan. The man is beautiful and innocent-looking, almost like a god, and he seems divinely separate from everything else happening in the courtroom. Looking at him, Adela feels that her Christian God is a “suburban Jehovah,” and wonders that the English presume to claim that they are so important and civilized. She wishes she could discuss this with Mrs. Moore.
The trial begins, but Forster foreshadows its strange anticlimax with the description of the detached Untouchable. Somehow the sight of the man who is both godlike and sits at the very bottom of the Indian social hierarchy lets Adela’s mind expand so that she can view her memories with greater distance and clarity, prefiguring her confession later. She has a similar feeling to Mrs. Moore, recognizing that Christianity and English civilization is somehow too narrow to encompass all the muddles and mysteries of both life and India.
Themes
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“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
The trial begins, and McBryde opens the case for the prosecution. He doesn’t bother being eloquent, as he assumes that it is obvious that Aziz is guilty. He describes the background of the incident in detail, but then gets diverted by his own ideas about “Oriental Pathology,” claiming that it is scientific fact that darker races are attracted to lighter ones, but not vice versa. An Indian in the crowd calls out that Adela is uglier than Aziz, which makes Adela upset.
As is the English way, McBryde chooses to present everything as dry fact rather than appealing to emotion, thus making the confused events of the incident seem clear-cut and obvious. He diverges into his racist pseudoscience, which is immediately disproved by a rowdy member of the crowd.
Themes
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“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
The English all act concerned about Adela’s health, and Callendar requests that Adela be given a seat on the platform to get better air. Das allows it, but then all the English follow Adela onto the platform. Mrs. Turton and Callendar verbally express that this is a better position for them, presiding over the rest of the crowd. Das is afraid to cause trouble with the English, but he is annoyed. Meanwhile Adela looks out at the crowd and sees Aziz, and she wonders again if she has made a mistake about him.
The English try to take a position of physical division and elevation above the Indians (like the English settlement elevated above Chandrapore) so as to feel their familiar sense of superiority. Adela sees Aziz for the first time since the day of the Marabar expedition, adding to her sense of clarity.
Themes
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Amritrao, the defense’s lawyer, stands and protests (“in an Oxford voice”) that the English on the platform will intimidate the witnesses. Das agrees and requests that all the English except Adela should climb back down to the floor. Ronny approves of this, though Mrs. Turton complains of the “incredible impertinence.” Eventually they all climb back down, even Adela, and the news of this humiliation spreads outside the courtroom, where the crowd jeers.
The trial becomes almost farcical here as the English are forced to give up their condescending positions and return to the floor, where they are subjects to justice as well. Ronny alone is pleased, as he sees Das’s authority and fairness as an extension of himself and the success of the English colonial system.
Themes
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“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Despite the embarrassment for the English, Adela feels better after having seen the crowd from the platform. She tells Ronny and Mrs. Turton this, but they are “too much agitated with the defeat of British prestige to be interested.” Adela then sees Fielding in the crowd, with an Indian child sitting on his knee. Das is happier and more confident now, having asserted his authority.
Adela feels a greater sense of detachment from the conflict now, like the Indian working the fan. Once again the English are more concerned with their own pride than with Adela’s well-being. From afar we see how ingrained Fielding is in the Indian community by now.
Themes
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Race and Culture Theme Icon
McBryde continues with his evidence, arguing that Aziz “duped” many people beforehand, including Fielding, the servant Antony, and the Nawab Bahadur—trying to argue that the crime was premeditated, so as to merit a harsher sentence. He describes all the events as Adela had related them, culminating with the damning evidence of the field glasses found in Aziz’s pocket. McBryde claims that his witnesses will prove that Aziz was leading a double life, one simultaneously “respectable” and “degenerate.” As an example of this, McBryde brings up his claim that Aziz tried to smother Mrs. Moore to death in a cave.
McBryde’s prosecution case shows the English preoccupation with factual truth over emotional truth. As when Ronny reinterpreted Aziz’s encounter with Mrs. Moore in the mosque, McBryde can easily twist the events of the Marabar outing to prove his point, presenting his interpretations as fact but leaving out the intention behind it all—and Aziz’s true character.
Themes
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The crowd protests vehemently against this claim, and an enraged Mahmoud Ali objects that this accusation is out of line, especially since Mrs. Moore has been “smuggled” out of the country and can’t speak for herself. Mahmoud Ali claims that Mrs. Moore would have proved Aziz’s innocence, as “she was on our side.” Das, tries to restore calm, but Mahmoud Ali is beyond reasoning. He decries the corruption of “English justice,” and declares that all of them are slaves and the trial is a farce. He hands his papers to Amritrao and dramatically leaves the courtroom.
The invocation of Mrs. Moore’s name has a powerful effect on the courtroom. Mahmoud Ali makes this dramatic scene to prove a point—that “English justice” is incomplete and corrupt, and that though an Indian might be judging the case, Aziz (or any other Indian) can never escape English colonial power.
Themes
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Meanwhile the crowd outside hears the name “Mrs. Moore” and starts to repeat as if it is a charm, even those who don’t know the old lady herself. The English all try to recover themselves after the scene, but Ronny is disturbed to hear his mother’s name being repeated like a chant. Eventually the chant becomes “Esmiss Esmoor,” as if Mrs. Moore had been transformed into a “Hindu goddess.”
In actuality Mrs. Moore grew apathetic and never tried to defend Aziz, but in her absence she becomes a powerful presence on the Indian side. In chanting her name, the crowd seems to sense that it is precisely what Mrs. Moore represented that is missing from the English trial: kindness, intuition, sympathy, and openmindedness.
Themes
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Adela prepares to go up to the witness stand, and she tells her friends that she is feeling stronger and more sure of herself. Amritrao, McBryde, and Das discuss Mahmoud Ali’s departure, and soon quiet is restored to the courtroom. Adela goes up to the witness stand, feeling that her account of the incident is inexplicably tied up with her engagement to Ronny, especially because her attack was immediately preceded by her conversation about marriage with Aziz.
Turmoil is erupting around her, but Adela remains relatively detached and caught up in her own mind. The muddle of the cave incident is still linked to her shame for her lack of love for Ronny and her insensitive question to Aziz. The moments before the attack keep re-affecting her with the echo of the Marabar Cave.
Themes
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McBryde questions Adela, and she retreads all her steps of that day, feeling like she is back at the Marabar Caves. She had earlier remembered the excursion as “dull,” but in her memory everything seems more beautiful now. McBryde leads her along up to the moment of the incident, but when he asks if Aziz followed her into the cave, Adela falls silent, and then asks for a minute to answer the question.
As McBryde methodically questions her, Adela experiences a kind of vision in which she recreates the expedition to the Marabar. She reaches the darkness of the cave, and the “boum” that still haunts her, but then can somehow “see” that Aziz is not in the cave with her.
Themes
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Adela visualizes the Marabar Caves and her own memories, and she cannot locate Aziz in the picture. She stammers that she is unsure. McBryde tries to direct her towards the assumed answer—that Aziz did indeed follow her—but then Adela gives a firm answer: no, he did not. She declares that she has made a mistake, and Aziz did not follow her. Das cuts off McBryde and questions Adela directly. Callendar tries to stop him, claiming that Adela is unwell, but she firmly states that she withdraws all the charges.
Adela has this moment of clarity, and she chooses the truth over the wishes of her peers. McBryde tries to lead her into her answer, and all the other English are clearly counting on her testimony, but Adela has a moment of pure honesty and admits that she was mistaken. Thus even the climactic trial is essentially a nonevent, as it never even reaches a conclusion.
Themes
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The courtroom erupts into a frenzy. McBryde is enraged, while Mrs. Turton yells that no one is safe, and then screams insults at Adela. Das officially declares that Aziz should be released “without one stain on his character.” Aziz faints into Hamidullah’s arms, and the Indians celebrate wildly. The English flee, shielded by their servants, and eventually the courtroom is cleared. The only person left behind is the godlike Untouchable, still aloof from everything and operating the fan as if nothing has happened.
Mrs. Turton again shows the extremes of English hypocrisy—she first snubbed Adela, then became compassionate and nurturing after Adela’s attack, and now viciously turns on her when she goes against the English agenda. The godlike Indian is like Adela in her moment of dispassionate clarity. He seems above even justice, as his devotion is entirely to operating the fan.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon