Personal Relationships in "A Passage to India"

Seminar Paper, 2003

22 Pages, Grade: 1



1. Introduction

2. Similarities and Differentiations in personal relationships
2.1 Sympathy in the relationship of Dr. Aziz and Mrs Moore
2.1.1 Mosque
2.1.2 Caves
2.1.3 Temple
2.2 The cross-cultural friendship of Dr. Aziz and Mr Fielding
2.2.1 Mosque
2.2.2 Caves
2.2.3 Temple
2.3 The gender and social relationship of Adela Quested and Ronny Heaslop
2.3.1 Mosque
2.3.2 Caves

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction

E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India was published in 1924 and based on two personal visits of Forster’s to India in 1912 and a few years later after World War I in 1921. During his visits to India, Forster travelled a great deal and met many Indians, among them Syed Ross Masood, who was to become an intimate friend and also the basis for the character of the young Indian doctor Aziz in his novel. The friendship between them is portrayed by Forster in the friendship between Aziz and Mr Fielding, the English schoolmaster. In this way, Forster was able to experience both sides, maintaining a cross-cultural relationship and deriving from this completely new knowledge and feelings, but also the negative side with all the hardships of cultural and political misunderstandings. Forster gives a very vivid description of exactly these difficulties in his novel, and shows, without sparing the British in any one point, the state of British Rule in India at the time of his second visit. He attempts to criticise the unjust superior behaviour of the British. Due to this narrative technique, the reader is immediately apt to sympathize with the ruled race, badly and impolitely treated by the English officials (such as Callendar, Turton, Heaslop). In his novel, the author attempts to answer a question even he had had to pose himself: Is it possible for an Englishman and an Indian to be friends? This question appears in the book on one of the first pages during a discussion of Aziz’s Indian friends, but the answer is left open for the time being. As already mentioned, the overall theme of the novel is that of relationships, friendship, and “the yearning for communication and connection”[1] which needs must lead to a “catastrophic failure”[2] of those attempted relationships due to a political and cultural world without an overall understanding for such mixed relationships or individuality.

The novel is divided up into three main parts: Mosque, Temple and Caves. This structure has given much room for different interpretations, one of such which is the structure of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. The first part of the novel, Mosque, contains the thesis, or the main question: Is it possible for an Englishman and an Indian to be friends? Furthermore, the characters are introduced and the setting is given. The reader is also already confronted with the problem of prejudice and cultural differences in the first two chapters. In chapter I the actual space and room lying between the British and the Indian housing areas and in chapters II and III, the figurative space between the two cultures. The part Mosque allows friendships and relationships to develop and has an overall positive touch, but every approach between the two cultures is almost immediately followed by some misunderstanding or the other.

The second part, Caves, is the antithesis. In this part the story reaches its climax and the misunderstanding lead each relationship to a certain fall. Adela accuses Aziz of an attempted sexual harassment, due to which Aziz is imprisoned and led to trial. Even though Adela sees in the end that it was not Aziz and Aziz is let free, all friendships and relationships have taken a grave turn. Mrs Moore has quickly left India and has died on her journey back to England, leaving Aziz only the memory of his good friend. Ronny no longer wishes to marry Adela, for she has turned her back on her countrymen and he could not stand the pressure of his fellow officials. The friendship between Fielding and Aziz also almost breaks apart during the proceedings, and when Fielding leaves India for England, Aziz is sure of his friend’s betrayal.

The last part of the book, Temple, is a kind of synthesis, but with a limitation. The question in the first part of the book is only partly answered. When Aziz meets Mrs Moore’s son Ralph, he experiences that same spontaneous sympathy and intimacy towards him as he did with Mrs Moore, this gives us hope for a future understanding of the two nations. But when Aziz and Fielding meet again, and all misunderstandings are eliminated, there is still a barrier between them. And with Fielding’s last question, the answer to the first part is given:

“’Why can’t we be friends now?’ said the other [Fielding], holding him affectionately. ‘It’s what I want. It’s what you want.’

But the horses didn’t want it – they swerved apart; the earth didn’t want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single-file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn’t want it, they said in their hundred voices, ‘No, not yet,’ and the sky said, ‘No, not there.’ “[3]

2. Similarities and differentiations in personal relationships

2.1 Sympathy in the relationship of Dr. Aziz and Mrs Moore

2.1.1 Mosque

Both Mrs Moore and Dr Aziz go to the mosque to escape from something unpleasant. Dr. Aziz has been treated very rudely by his superior Major Callendar who had had him disturbed during dinner with his good friends and had stood him up, and Mrs Moore was attempting to escape the heat at the club and the boredom of having to watch a play which she had already seen in London[4]. Aziz is sitting in the mosque contemplating happiness, religion and love and dreaming of his tomb, which should bear a Persian inscription. This inscription includes one very significant line, which gives us an idea on his views on friendship: “But those who have secretly understood my heart-“[5]. For him, friendship means understanding one another’s hearts. This is what is about to happen when an English lady, who happens to enter the mosque, interrupts him in his thoughts. At first, Aziz reacts very rudely to her but when he notices that it is an old lady and that she acts very politely towards him, he also becomes polite. In the course of their small chat about why she is in the mosque and about their families, a kind of mutual silent understanding develops and it is exactly this secret understanding that Aziz feels to have found in Mrs Moore. He feels inclined to talk openly to her about his aversion towards the Callendars and feels understood by her. In the end he even calls her an “Oriental”[6]. She is exactly the way that he wishes the other British officials to be towards Indians: she is kind, interested, open-minded and not at all arrogant; he feels respected by her: “You understand me, you know what I feel. Oh, if others resembled you!”[7]. Mrs Moore doesn’t even know that she is behaving in a different manner to Aziz; she is just behaving naturally and frankly. She also feels a certain wave of intimacy between them, but also does not speak about it. They sit “down side by side in the entrance”[8] in the same way that old friends would do. After her return to the club she tells Ronny and Adela about her encounter with the doctor in the mosque and doesn’t react to her son’s shocked behaviour about Aziz’s impoliteness towards her, but on the contrary defends him and says that ”His nerves were all on edge”[9]. It is only after a longer talk with her son that she begins to think about the situation from a different perspective, namely from her sons prejudiced point of view. After a while she begins to understand Ronny’s disapproval and thinks it could be a possibility[10] that the doctor only wanted to impress her and show his rebellious spirit: “Yes, it could be worked into quite an unpleasant scene”[11]. Nevertheless she likes Aziz, feels sympathetic with him and thinks this very “false as a summary of the man”[12].

The next meeting between them takes place at Fielding’s tea party. This meeting is not as intense as the former one at the mosque, but is still pleasant for both of them. Aziz had even forgotten their meeting, “The romance at the mosque had sunk out of his consciousness as soon as it was over”[13], and is reminded by Fielding who has invited the two English ladies to his tea-party. At first he is not all too happy with the arrangements because he would rather be alone with Fielding, but when he does meet the two ladies, he is very polite and for appearance’s sake even invites them to visit him; first to his home and after thinking of his rather miserable bungalow he decides on taking them to the famous Marabar Caves. Mrs Moore accepts because she thinks that the doctor is excessively nice and also “a new feeling, half languor, half excitement”[14] prevents her from turning down his invitation.

The first part of the book therefore “offers a promising beginning”[15] for the friendship between Dr Aziz and Mrs Moore, and the reader is inclined to look forward to the development of their friendship, presumably at the picnic at the Caves. This part of the book ends with certain “visions of harmony”[16] and prospects of possible sympathy between the English and the Indians.

2.1.2 Caves

In this part of the book, the story reaches its climax, and the part chance plays here becomes enormous.

Mrs Moore and Adela are invited by Aziz to visit the Marabar Caves with him, Godbole and Fielding. From the very beginning, the expedition is bound to fail. Even before the visit is supposed to take place, Aziz encounters numerous difficulties in planning the expedition; these are supposed to show the gulf dividing people in India as well as the English from the Indians.[17]

“Trouble after trouble encountered him, because he had challenged the spirit of the Indian earth, which tries to keep men in compartments.”[18]


[1] Messenger, Nigel, How to Study an E.M. Forster Novel, London: The Macmillan Press, 1991,p.146.

[2] Jeremy Tambling, ed., E.M. Forster, London: The Macmillan Press, 1995, p. 139.

[3] Forster, E.M., A Passage to India, London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2000, p.288.

[4] Colmer, John, E.M. Forster: A Passage to India, London and Southampton: The Camelot Press Ltd., 1967, p.21.

[5] Forster, E.M., op. Cit., p.14.

[6] ibid., p.17.

[7] ibid., p.17

[8] ibid., p.15.

[9] ibid., p. 24.

[10] Gillie, Christopher, A Preface to Forster, Hong Kong: Astros Printing Ltd., 1983, p. 144.

[11] Forster, E.M., op. cit., p. 27.

[12] ibid., p. 27.

[13] ibid., p. 55.

[14] ibid., p. 58.

[15] Gillie, Christopher, op. cit., p.143.

[16] Colmer, John, op. cit., p. 38.

[17] ibid., p. 39.

[18] Forster, E.M., op. cit., p.113.

Excerpt out of 22 pages


Personal Relationships in "A Passage to India"
University of Würzburg
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
591 KB
Personal, Relationships, Passage, India
Quote paper
Kathrin Langner (Author), 2003, Personal Relationships in "A Passage to India", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Personal Relationships in "A Passage to India"

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free