Sir Gilbert Mellanby Lieutenant- governor (Viceroy) of India; highest British official in India

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A Passage to India

E.M. Forster

Paul Tansey


Sir Gilbert Mellanby – Lieutenant- Governor (Viceroy) of India; highest British official in India
Lady Mellanby – wife of Viceroy Mellanby
Mr. Harry Turton (the Collector, the Burra Sahib) – the head of the British District at
Chandrapore; Ronny Heaslop’s boss
Mrs. Mary Turton – the anti-Indian wife of Harry Turton
Ronny Heaslop – the City Magistrate of Chandrapore; engaged to Miss Adela Quested
Adela Quested - engaged to Ronny Heaslop; newly arrived in India
Mrs. Moore – the elderly mother of Ronny Heaslop, the British magistrate of Chandrapore; she
accompanied Adela Quested to India; she had two younger children in England, Ralph
and Stella
Ralph Moore - half-brother to Ronny Heaslop; future brother-in-law of Cyril Fielding
Stella Moore - half-sister to Ronny Heaslop; future wife of Cyril Fielding
Cyril Fielding – the principal of Government College in Chandrapore; future husband of
Stella Moore
Major Callendar – the, passionately, anti-Indian Civil Surgeon of Chandrapore; Director of
Minto Hospital; Dr.Aziz’s boss
Mrs. Callendar –wife of Major Callender
Miss Nancy Derek – companion to the maharani of Mudkul, a southern, Hindu Indian state
Mr. McBryde – the British District Superintendent of Police of Chandrapore
Mr. (Reverend) and Mrs. Bannister – the clergy that Hamidullah stayed with in England
while he was attending college there
Hugh Bannister – son of Mr. (Reverend) and Mrs. Bannister; leather merchant in Cawnpore
Mrs. Blakiston – beautiful, and somewhat brainless, Anglo-Indian wife of a minor British train
Mr. Graysford – older of the two Christian missionaries
Mr. Sorley – younger of the two Christian missionaries
Mr. and Mrs. Lesley – Anglo-Indian couple living in Chandrapore; members of ‘the club’
Mr. and Mrs. Burton – Anglo-Indian couple living in Chandrapore; members of ‘the club’
Major Roberts – replaced Major Callendar as Civil Surgeon

Milner- replaced Ronny Heaslop as City Magistrate

Characters (cont.)

Dr. Aziz –young Muslim doctor at Minto Hospital in Chandrapore; widower; his three young

children, Jemilla, Ahmed and Karim lived with his deceased wife’s mother
Hassan – Dr. Aziz’s servant
Hamidullah - Muslim attorney; good friend of Dr. Aziz
Hamidullah Begum – wife of Hamidullah; distant cousin of Dr. Aziz
Mohammed Latif – elderly, freeloading, distant cousin of Hamidullah
Mahmoud Ali – Muslim, anti- British attorney; good friend of Dr. Aziz; one of Dr. Aziz’s
attorneys at his trial
Nawab Bahadur (Mr. Zulfiqar) - a very wealthy and highly respected Muslim landowner and
philanthropist; a good friend of Dr.Aziz; Nawab Bahadur was an honorable title
conferred on Mr. Zulfiqar by the British authorities
Nureddin -grandson of Nawab Bahadur
Professor Narayan Godbole – Deccani-Brahaman Hindu; professor at Government College;

assistant to Mr. Fielding; future Minister of Education

Dr. Panna Lal – elderly Hindu doctor at Minto Hospital; assistant to Dr. Aziz
Ram Chand – a troublesome Hindu driver for Dr. Panna Lal
Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharyas – wealthy Hindu, Bengali couple; Mrs. Bhattacharya is the
sister of Mr. Das, the chief magistrate at Dr. Aziz’s trial
Syed Mohammed – Muslim assistant engineer; friend of Dr. Aziz
Rafi – troublesome nephew of Sayed Mohammed
Mr. Haq – Muslim police inspector in Chandrapore; friend of Dr. Aziz
Mr. Das – Hindu magistrate; brother of Mrs. Bhattacharya; assistant to Ronny Heaslop; the
magistrate in charge of Dr. Aziz’s trial

Amritrao – famous Hindu lawyer from Calcutta; one of Dr. Aziz’s attorneys at his trial

Rajah of Mau – and elderly Hindu ruler
Krishna – attendant at Ronny Heaslop’s office
* Anthony - Mrs. Moore’s and Miss Quested’s servant

* Mr. Harris – Nawab Bahadur’s Eurasian chauffeur

Anglo-Indian Terminology
ayah – an Indian nursemaid who looks after children
babu – an Indian clerk who writes English; a Hindu gentleman - a form of address equivalent to
bandy, band – an Indian horse-drawn conveyance
bania – moneylender; a merchant or trader
bandobast – a practical, detailed organization; settlement; business
bearer - the head servant of a household
Begum - the title of a married Muslim woman; a title of respect for a woman in some Muslim
bhakti – the Hindu practice of loving devotion to a deity (God) as a means of salvation
bhisti, bheesty – a servant water carrier
box-wallah – an itinerant peddler
Brahmin, Brahman – the first of the four Hindu castes, the members of which are priests and
scholars of Vedic literature (any of the most ancient, sacred writings of Hinduism written
in Sanskrit)
bulbul – a songbird often mentioned in Persian poetry; a nightingale
burhka, burka – a loose garment (usually with veiled holes for the eyes) worn by Muslim
women, especially in India and Pakistan
cantonment – temporary living quarters specially built by the army for soldiers
caste – a Hindu social class system that stratifies society into 4 or 5 levels based on differences
of wealth, inherited rank, or privilege, or occupation, which contains social barriers
sanctioned by custom, law or religion

charpoy – an Indian rope bed

chowkidar – somebody who kept watch
chuprassy – an office-messenger
dandi, dandy – a kind of vehicle used in the Himalaya consisting of strong cloth slung like a
hammock to a bamboo staff, and carried by two or more men
dhoby – a servant laundryman, washer-man
dhurzi, durzi – a tailor who had his own business but did contract work for others
dooreah – a servant that took care of the household dogs
gharry, gahri – a horse-drawn carriage
Governor-General – from 1773-1858, the highest ranking British authority in India; the first
Governor-General of India was Warren Hastings
Gurkha – fierce Hindu soldiers (fighters) from Nepal who served in the British army
hakim, Hakeem – a Muslim doctor who uses traditional remedies; a Muslim judge or ruler; ‘the
hookah – an oriental tobacco pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a container where the
smoke is cooled by passing through water
howdah – a seat for riding on the back of an elephant or camel
humeh rakub – to ride horses together; literally, stirrup to stirrup
Huzoor – a respectful way for natives to talk to or about exalted personages, or their masters
Jat – a member of an Indo-European people scattered throughout the northwest of the Indian sub-
continent consisting of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs
jib – to be unwilling to do something
Juggernaut, Juggernaut Car – huge Indian idol of Vishnu drawn, by as many as 4,000 people, at
festivals, on a cart beneath whose wheels worshipers were erroneously believed to throw
themselves to death
khidmatgar – a servant table boy; a waiter
khitmagar – the 2nd head servant after the bearer in a household
landau – a 4-wheeled covered carriage with a roof divided into two parts (front and back) that
can be let down separately
machan – a raised platform, often in a tree, used to watch for tigers and other game in India
maharajah – a great rajah; a Hindu prince or king; ranking above a rajah
maharani – a great rani; a princess; the wife of a maharajah
malee – a servant who takes care of the gardens; a eucalyptus shrub; thick growth of such shrubs
masalchi – a servant that cleaned the house etc.
memsahib – a term of respect used by natives when addressing European women; a female sahib
Mogul, Moghul, Mughal – a member of the Muslim dynasty of Mongol origin which ruled much
of India in the 16th to 19th centuries; the first Mughal emperor was Babbar 1st who came
to India
from Farghana (now Uzbekistan); mogul (informal), an important or powerful person; in 1858,
the last Mughal was deposed in India by the British
Mohurram (Muharram) – the first month of the Islamic (Muslim) year; a Muslim festival
held during that month
mosque – a Muslim place of worship
Muhammedan, Mohammedan – a follower of Islam; a Muslim; Muslims consider this term
offensive because it suggests they worship Mohammed (the founder of Islam) rather than
Allah (God)
mullah – a Muslim trained in the law and doctrine of Islam; the head of a mosque; a term of
respect for a Muslim man who is thought to be very wise
munshi, moonshee – somebody whose profession involves writing or language skills, for
example a secretary or language teacher
Muslim (Moslem) – a believer or follower of Islam; Muslim is the preferred term by followers of
mussalman – a Muslim
nawab, nabob – a Indian, Muslim nobleman; a title used for a local nobleman or governor in
India during the Mogul empire
Nizam – the title given to the hereditary ruler of the former Indian state of Hyderabad
nullah – a watercourse (sometimes dry); a ravine or gully
pan – betel-nuts
pargana – a division of a district or estate, usually made for financial purposes
Pathan (Pashtun) – the name applied throughout India to Afghans; most Pathans (Pashtuns) live
in southeastern Afghanistan, although some may be found in northwestern Pakistan and
northwestern India as well; patrilineal descent - if your father is not a Pathan (Pashtun),
then neither are you; excellent soldiers who enlisted largely in the native army of India;
their language is Pashto
pujah – to worship; prayers
pukka – to be socially acceptable; authentic; (informal) excellent
Punjabi- a native Indian language spoken in Punjab in northwestern India
punkah – an overhead cloth fan, pulled with an attached rope; it usually covers the entire ceiling
punkah wallah – a native servant that pulls the rope of the punkah to keep air circulating
purdah – the shielding of women from the view of men, accomplished by the use of a curtain,
screen, veil, clothing etc.; a Hindu and Muslim practice
Raj, The Raj (rule) - the British rule of the Indian subcontinent, now the countries of India,
Pakistan and Bangladesh from 1757-1947
raja, rajah, – a Hindu prince or king
rani – a Hindu princess or the wife of a rajah
saddhu (s) – a Hindu holy man
sahib – a term of respect used by natives when speaking to European men; Sir; master; usually
used after the name
Sahib Huzoor – can be translated as ‘Your Highness’; a term of respect used by natives when
speaking of or to exalted personages or their masters; sometimes used to address
European gentlemen in the presence of another European
salaam, salaaming – to greet someone by bowing low from the waist with the right hand against
the top of the face; a Muslim form of salutation
sepoy – a native of India employed as a soldier in the service of a European power, esp. of Great
shikar, shikaree – a native expert who brings in game on his own or accompanies European
sportsmen as guide and aid; a member of the Hindu lower caste who maintains his
livelihood entirely by catching birds, hares and all other sorts of animals
shikara – a flat-bottomed, gondola-type boat
subaltern – a British commissioned army officer below the rank of captain; bachelor officers
suttee – a Hindu practice, outlawed by the British in 1828, in which a widow would throw
(immolate) herself on the funeral pyre of her dead husband
sweeper – a servant from the lowest Hindu caste (untouchable) who emptied and cleaned
bathroom chamber pots and performed other menial tasks that higher caste Hindus would
not do
syce – a groom; a servant who took care of horses
tame dhobi – a servant who washed and ironed clothes
tatty, pl. tatties – A screen or mat made of roots of fragrant grass with which door or window
openings are filled up in the season of hot winds. The screens, being kept wet, their
fragrant evaporation as the dry wind blows upon them, cools and refreshes the house
greatly, but they are only effective when such winds are blowing.
tank – reservoir of water
tiffin – a light midday meal; luncheon
tonga – a light 2-wheeled vehicle for two to four persons, drawn by one horse
topi – a lightweight, helmet-shaped hat worn in the tropics for protection against the sun
trap – a light horse-drawn carriage with two wheels
Urdu- the official literary language of Pakistan; widely used in India (mostly by Muslims)
vakil – a lawyer or legal representative in a court of law

Viceroy – a governor who represents a sovereign in a province, colony, or country; replaced the

Governor-General as the ruling authority in India in 1858 when India was placed under
the direct rule of the British crown; in 1876, Queen Victoria was proclaimed the Empress
of India

victoria – a light, open, two-seated, four-wheeled carriage, with raised driver’s seat

walla, wallah – a person in charge of a particular thing or associated with a particular service or
zemindar – a landholder who governs a district and collects taxes

Religions of India

Hinduism- a body of philosophical and religious beliefs and cultural practices native to India and
characterized by a belief in reincarnation and a supreme being of many forms and
natures; by the view that opposing theories are aspects of one eternal truth and by a desire
for liberation from earthly evils; the predominant religion of India; has a caste system;
started in India around 1500 B.C.; about 80 % of Indians practice Hinduism
Jainism – an ancient branch of Hinduism that rejects the notion of a supreme being and
advocates a deep respect for all living things; some adherents refuse to wash for fear of
killing creatures on their body; religion founded in the 6th century B.C. as a revolt against
the overdeveloped ritualism of Hinduism; emphasizes asceticism, immortality and
transmigration of the soul; followers of a sect of this religion refuse to wear clothes and
practice flagellation
Buddhism – a religion or philosophy originating in India about 525 B.C. and founded by
Siddartha Gautama (Buddha) (563, 566? - 480, 483? B.C.); the teaching of Buddha that
life is permeated with suffering caused by desire, that suffering ceases when desire
ceases, and that enlightenment obtained through right conduct and wisdom and
meditation, releases one from desire and suffering and rebirth; Buddhism was virtually
extinct in India by the 13th century
Islam (literally means surrender or submission ‘to the will of God’ in Arabic) – the monotheistic
religion of Muslims founded in Arabia in the 7th century A.D.; based on the teachings of
Muhammad as laid down in the Koran; the religion of Muslims collectively, that governs
their civilization and way of life; India currently has the 2nd largest population of

Muslims of any country in the world (Indonesia has the largest); first introduced to India

in the 8th or 9th century A.D.
Sikhism – the doctrines of a monotheistic religion which rejects idolatry and caste, founded in
northern India in 1469 by Guru Nanak; it was founded at a time when India was being
torn apart by caste sectarianism, religious factions and fanaticism; it contains elements of
Hinduism and Islam
Sikh (literally means ‘disciple’) - an adherent of Sikhism; a Sikh man almost always bears the
surname Singh, which means ‘lion’ and a Sikh woman, can be identified with a second
name of Kaur, which means ‘princess’ (Kaur is an exclusively Sikh name); Sikh’s can be
identified by their turban (usually white and peaked), which is their crown of spirituality,
uncut hair and beard, a hair comb, a sword to be used only all other means fail, a steel
circular wrist bracelet, and special cotton underwear; the defenders of the poor, the meek
and the oppressed masses of India; they adhere to no sexual relations outside of marriage,
no alcohol, meat, tobacco or other intoxicants
Parsee – a member of a religious group whose monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism, considered
to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions, was founded in Persia (ancient Iran)
sometime between 1700 B.C. and 600 B.C.; Parsees are to be found mostly in western
India (Bombay region)

English Words from Indian Languages

bangle bandana bungalow

cash cashmere catamaran

cheetah cheroot coolie

cummerbund cushy curry

dinghy dungaree jodhpur

juggernaut jungle khaki

loot mango mugger

pariah punch pajamas

shampoo shawl teak

thug verandah

About the Author

Edward Morgan Forster was born in London, England on January 1st, 1879. His father,
also named Edward Morgan Forster, an architect, died when Forster was an infant, and he was
raised by his mother Alice ‘Lily’ Whichelo and his aunt and benefactress, Marianne Thornton.
He attended King’s College, Cambridge, England, an elite college founded in 1441, and
graduated in 1897.
Upon graduation, he traveled with his mother in Europe for a few years before publishing his first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, in 1905. He was to write three more novels before the advent of WW1 (1914-1919); The Longest Journey in 1907, A Room with a View in 1908, and Howard’s End in 1910. Following Howard’s End, there was a lull of about fourteen years, in which he traveled and worked in India for brief periods, before A Passage to India, which had been started in 1912, was published in 1924. Maurice, a novel with a homosexual theme, although written in 1913 and distributed privately, wasn’t published until after Forster’s death on June 7, 1970, due to the controversial nature of its subject matter. He also wrote four books of short stories, two biographies, several non-fiction works, and collaborated on the opera “Billy Budd.”

He never considered himself to be a great writer and was aware he didn’t write often enough. He said he wrote partly for money and partly for the respect of the friends he respected. In 1949, he refused a knighthood from the British crown, but accepted an honorary fellowship at Cambridge, which was to become his permanent home. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1969.

E.M.Forster was a very liberal thinker for his time and was not reluctant to take a stand against what he perceived to be social injustices, even if his views were unpopular. In A Passage to India, which many British critics claim was an anti-British novel, he was one of the first authors to address the issues of racial prejudice and intolerance in Britain’s colonial empire. Although many other British writers had written about problems associated with colonization, Forster wrote about them from the perspective of the native as well as the ruler, not just the ruler.

His novel, A Passage to India, considered by most to be his finest work, won several awards, including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse, and, in 1996, was voted one of the best 100 novels of the past century by the readers of Britain. It has been used as a standard for teaching young writers and continues to be analyzed by literary critics.

The British in India

In the early 17th century, British merchants of the East India Company set out to trade with the Mughal dynasty (1526-1857), which at that time, ruled much of India. As the Mughal empire declined, the British took political and military control of the Indian territory, defeating the French and various Indian rulers to become the dominant power. Britain ruled India through the East India Company until after the Great Mutiny of British Sepoy troops in 1857-1858, in which native Indian Army soldiers revolted against their British commanders, captured Delhi, and overran the garrison in Cawnpore, massacring all British soldiers, women and children. After the mutiny was put down, India was placed under the direct rule of the British crown.

Following the 2nd World War, Britain lost interest in maintaining colonies that wanted freedom and, in 1947, granted independence to India. The country was partitioned into two nations, Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, with both nations choosing to temporarily remain under British dominion by joining the British Commonwealth. India chose to leave the British Commonwealth in 1950 and became the Republic of India. Pakistan continued with the commonwealth until 1956, when it became the Republic of Pakistan.

India is the 2nd largest country in the world by population with over 1 billion people, and the 7th largest by size (area). It is the largest democratic country in the world, comprised of 26 states and 6 union territories governed by the President. Religiously, it is predominantly Hindu (82%), with Islam being the 2nd largest religious group (12%). Christianity (2%), Sikhism (2%), Buddhism (.8%), Jainism (.4%), and several other religious traditions (.8 %) complete the picture of a country rich in cultural diversity.

However, differing religious practices, customs and traditions have often been a source of contention and conflict. For example, while the Hindus consider the cow to be sacred and not to be harmed in any way, the Muslims have no problem with slaughtering one to use as a sacrificial offering. It should be noted that while only about 12% of the people of India follow Islam, the country still has the 2nd largest number of Muslims of any country in the world (Indonesia has the largest number), even after the partition of mostly (97%) Muslim Pakistan. Prior to the 1857 mutiny of native Indian troops under the command of British officers, the British managed to thoughtlessly offend both religious groups by giving the native soldiers ammunition packed in pig fat and cow fat. While cows are sacred to Hindus, pigs are considered unclean by practicing Muslims.

The Setting

The story is set in Chandrapore, a fictitious Indian city thought to be modeled after Bankipore, part of the city of Patna, in the northern region of Bihar state, in northeastern India. The time setting for the novel is believed to be in the early 1900’s; a time when India was still ruled by the British ‘Raj’, but before it gained its independence in 1947.

The Marabar Caves are also fictitious, but there are similar Jainist, Buddhist and Hindu caves about 100 kilometers south of Patna in the Barabar and Nagarjuni Hills. They have long been used by monks for spiritual retreats, places for meditation and reflection, and are frequently visited by pilgrims on holy days as offerings of dedication, since the journey to them is quite arduous. Moslems and Sikhs have similar caves also.

The Story

Chandrapore is a rather unremarkable city. It’s only distinguishing characteristic being its proximity to the Marabar Caves, some twenty miles to the south. The city is arranged in three tiers with the local native population occupying the mud huts and bazaars of the lower section, the Eurasians in the slightly higher, somewhat more prosperous, middle tier near the railway station, which also contains the hospital and oval maidan, an open field for sports and parades, and the British Civil Station located on the upper tier, on a rise overlooking the other two tiers. The Civil Station is laid out very properly; it is neat and economic. The wooden bungalows are arranged on properly laid out, right angled streets, behind the stations most prominent building, the red brick, for Europeans only, ‘Club.’ A grocery store and a cemetery make up the remaining buildings of the cantonment.

Dr. Aziz, the young Muslim doctor in charge of the local hospital under the direction of the British Civil Surgeon, Major Callendar, arrives at the home of his good friend Hamidullah and interrupts a conversation that is taking place between Hamidullah and Mahmoud Ali. Both men are Muslim attorneys and are discussing whether it is possible to be friends with an Englishman. Mahmoud Ali, who has recently been insulted in court by the young City Magistrate, Ronny Heaslop, maintains that it is not, while Hamidullah, who attended university in England many years ago, maintains that under certain conditions it may be possible, maybe not in India but perhaps in England. Both men view the British as arriving in India with a proper gentlemanly attitude toward their colonized subjects, but after a few years for the men and only a few months for the women, the newcomers adopt the demeaning manners and mentality of the ruling Anglo-Indian clique, who, stereotypically, perceive the Indians to be inferior and untrustworthy. Throughout the novel, the differences between the Asian more circular approach to reasoning, and the European more direct approach, are apparent. The British look with distain on the Indian approach, which they view as ‘muddled.’ They make little effort to understand the cultural, religious and philosophical make-up of the eastern mind.

While they are talking, “Hamidullah raised his voice suddenly, and shouted for dinner. Servants shouted back that it was ready. They meant that they wished it was ready, and were so understood, for nobody moved.”

Dr. Aziz refused to take sides in the discussion and simply said, “Why talk about the English. Brrrr…! Why be either friends with the fellows or not friends. Let us shut them out and be jolly.”

Just as they sit down to eat, a messenger arrives from Major Callendar, requesting Dr. Aziz to come to his bungalow. Aziz quickly jumps on his bicycle and races away; he intends to be prompt. Unfortunately, his bicycle has a flat tire and he has to push it to a friend’s house, where he quickly brushes his teeth before looking for a carriage to take him to the Major’s house. There were few carriages available and when Aziz finally finds one he is late for his appointment. Major Callendar, vehemently and outspokenly anti-Indian, assumes Dr. Aziz is being insolent by not arriving immediately, and snubs him, once again, by not being there when Aziz arrives, and not leaving a message. Without his permission, Aziz’s carriage is appropriated by Mrs. Callendar and another lady on their way to the Club , and he has to walk to town. On the way, he passes a mosque and decides to go inside where he unwittingly meets Mrs. Stella Moore.

Mrs. Moore, the mother of the City Magistrate, Ronny Heaslop, has recently arrived from England, at her son’s request, as a companion to Miss Adela Quested, his potential fiancée, and has entered the mosque out of curiosity. It was hot in the Club and she was bored by the play being performed, so she decided to take a walk and get some fresh air. Aziz is surprised that she has observed the Muslim tradition of removing her shoes before entering the mosque and they have a short, pleasant conversation. Aziz is a widower, with his three children, whom he financially supports, living with his deceased wife’s mother in another city, and they talk about their families. Mrs. Moore tells Aziz that she has two other children in England, Ralph and Stella, who are half- brother and sister to her son Ronny.

Aziz senses that Mrs. Moore is kind and unpretentious, not having developed the arrogant, prejudicial temperament of most Anglo-Indians, and criticizes Major Callendar for his continual snubs and offensive attitude. They depart amicably, having developed a rapport almost immediately and Mrs. Moore returned to the Club.

Meanwhile the performance ended, and the amateur orchestra played the National Anthem. Conversation and billiards stopped., faces stiffened. It was the Anthem of the Army of Occupation. It reminded every member of the Club that he or she was British and in exile.”
When Mrs. Moore told Ronny about her chance encounter with Aziz and his criticism of his boss, Major Callendar, Ronny told her she should not have talked to him and that he was going to report Aziz’s criticism to Callendar. His mother asked him not to do it, since the conversation was private. Ronny reluctantly agreed.

Adela Quested was a rather plain, sensible young lady. She had come to India with the intention of marrying Ronny Heaslop if things work out. She knew him in England, when he was a student, and they had kept in contact through correspondence, but she wasn’t sure if he had changed since leaving, and she wanted to be sure she could adapt to the climate and culture of India; if she could become an Anglo-Indian. She also wanted to be sure that she loved him before accepting his marriage proposal.

Since her arrival, she had been very disturbed by the British Anglo-Indian’s condescending treatment of the native Indians, and mentioned it to Mrs. Moore, who in turn, related it to her son Ronny. He was slightly miffed and told his mother that being pleasant to Indians was only a side-issue of the British ‘Raj’ in India.

A side-issue, a side-issue?” she repeated. “How can it be that?”

“We’re not out here for the purpose of behaving pleasantly!”

“What do you mean?”

What I say. We’re out here to do justice and keep the peace. Them’s my sentiments. India isn’t a drawing room.”

Your sentiments are those of a god,” she said quietly, but it was his manner rather than his sentiments that annoyed her.

Trying to recover his temper, he said, “India likes gods.”

And Englishmen like posing as gods.”

Dr. Aziz was invited to tea at Mr. Fielding’s house and happily accepted, for he had been invited a month previously and didn’t bother to answer the invitation, and here was a second invitation without a word of rebuke. He was giddy with joy and looked forward to meeting the Principal of Government College. Also invited to the tea were Mrs. Moore, Miss Quested, and one of Mr. Fielding’s assistants,

Professor Narayan Godbole, a, scholarly, devout Hindu Brahman.

Cyril Fielding was over forty when he arrived in India. He was a good tempered, intelligent fellow, with a belief in education. He had taught all sorts of students and was well liked at the college by the native Indians he taught. He considered himself an atheist but was tolerant of the religious views of others. Due to his profession as an educator, and the liberal connotation attached to those in the field, he was never completely accepted as a brother Anglo-Indian by the British at the cantonment, especially since he was improving the minds of native Indians. The ‘Raj’ looked on all educated Indians as a potential source of trouble, since it was the better educated Indians who were the leaders of independence movements for their country. He was a member of the Club but rarely went.

When Dr. Aziz arrived at Fielding’s quaint, garden house, Cyril was dressing and shouted to him, “Please make yourself at home.” Aziz was stunned; here was a government employee of the ‘Raj’ treating him as a friend, not as a subject. He was expecting protocol, and here there was none; he was delighted. From that moment on Aziz and Fielding became close friends. Aziz was also delighted when he learned that his newly made friend, Mrs. Moore, would be at the tea.

The tea party was a success, but two substantial things inadvertently happened. Dr. Aziz invited the ladies to see the Marabar Caves as his guest, and Miss Quested unthinkingly answered Aziz’s question about her stay in India with a statement that she would not be staying in India permanently. As she came to realize several minutes after the utterance, she had made a decision to not marry Ronny Heaslop. She told him of her decision when he came to fetch her from the party. He was visibly upset but didn’t try to dissuade her. He accepted her decision, apologized for his earlier bad behavior, and continued treating her as the close friend she had been in England. After a car ride back to their bungalows, during which there was an accident, she again changes her mind and agrees to marry him.

A few weeks later, the trip to the ‘Caves’ started ominously, when Mr. Fielding and Professor Godbole missed the train due to Godbole’s extended prayer time. Except for the servants who were hired to attend to their every need, Dr. Aziz, and Mohammed Latif, a freeloading, distant cousin of his friend Hamidullah, whom Aziz had borrowed to help with the trip, were left alone to entertain Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested. Aziz was beside himself; the trip was a disaster and it was all his fault; he was ruined. He never should have made the insincere invitation, but then again, he never expected the ladies to accept. He didn’t know what to do. He had never been to the Caves himself and was relying on the expertise of Professor Godbole who had been there and was knowledgeable of their history. All was lost. The ladies came to his rescue by assuring him that they were not terribly upset by the loss of Fielding and Godbole and wished to continue with trip. They were both bored by their confinement in Chandrapore and wanted to see some of the real and historical India; they wanted to have a memorable experience, much as any tourist would want when visiting a foreign country.

They were met at the small train platform by an elephant, a guide, the local villagers, and several more servants. Aziz was filled with pride when he saw them, for he wasn’t actually sure they would be there. The arrangements had been made by Aziz, through friends, most of whom he had not talked to personally.

That an elephant should depend from so long and so slender a string filled Aziz with content, and with humorous appreciation of the East, where friends of friends are a reality, where everything gets done sometime, and sooner or later everyone gets his share of happiness.”

The Caves were an hours ride away, by elephant, and after leaving behind some servants who were not needed due to the absence of Mr. Fielding and Professor Godbole, they set out for an area just below the Caves where Aziz had arranged for a picnic breakfast. Against the background of the barren and forlorn ‘Hills’, the stifling and oppressive heat, and the confining presence of the dull, omnipotent, glutinous sky, a cloth was laid with artificial flowers in the center. The ladies are uneasy about their bleak surroundings.

Adela asks Aziz about Akbar (1542-1605), considered by many to be the greatest of the Mughal emperors. Akbar was tolerant of all religions and tried to unite India by establishing a new religion that would accommodate both Muslims and Hindus.

But wasn’t Akbar’s new religion very fine. It was to embrace the whole of India.”

Miss Quested, fine but foolish. You keep your religion and I mine. That is best. Nothing embraces the whole of India, nothing, nothing, and that was Akbar’s mistake.”

Oh, do you feel that, Dr. Aziz?” she said thoughtfully. “I hope you’re not right. There will have to be something universal in this country – I don’t say religion, for I’m not religious, but something, or how else are barriers to be broken down.”

Dr. Aziz, Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore set out for the first cave. As they entered the dark cave, as stark and bleak as its surroundings, they were followed by a crush of servants and villagers. Mrs. Moore became panicky and nearly fainted. She fought her way through the crowd to the entrance, with the echoes of the cave reverberating in her head. The fresh air helped to settle her, but she had made up her mind not to enter another cave. Dr. Aziz announced that it was time for breakfast, as he and Adela emerge from the cave smiling, for they had not noticed Mrs. Moore’s distress.

Following breakfast, Dr. Aziz, Adela and a guide continue on with the expedition. While walking to the next cave, Adela reflects on her relationship with Ronny and comes to the conclusion that they don’t love each other, which leads to the question of whether it is proper to marry someone you don’t love. She decides that it is too late to reconsider her acceptance of Ronny’s marriage proposal, since it would cause countless problems, and besides, she wasn’t convinced that love was necessary for a successful relationship. She asks Aziz about his marriage.

Are you married, Dr.Aziz?” she asked, stopping again, and frowning.

Yes, indeed, do come and see my wife” – for he felt it more artistic to have his wife alive for a moment.

Thank you,” she said absently.

She is not in Chandrapore just now.”

And have you children?”

Yes, indeed, three,” he replied in firmer tones.

Are they a great pleasure to you?”

Why naturally, I adore them,” he laughed.

I suppose so,” and after a thoughtful pause, “Have you one wife or more than one?”

Aziz was shocked and deeply offended with the callousness of the question and the casual way in which it was asked, for to ask an educated Indian Moslem how many wives he had, was appalling, hideous. To hide his anger and discomfort with the question, he ducked into the nearest cave. Adela, not realizing that she has said anything offensive, and not seeing Aziz, also duck into a nearby cave.

Having regained his composure, Aziz exited the cave to look for Adela, and found the guide alone with his head cocked to the side. He had heard a noise, he said. Then Dr. Aziz heard the sound as well. It was the sound of a car, far below, as it approached the platform where they had started their elephant ride to the caves. Once again, he asked the guide about the whereabouts of Adela. All the guide could tell him was that she had entered a cave, which cave, he didn’t know, since there were over twelve nearby. Aziz berated the guide for not doing his job of watching over the guests and struck him in the face for punishment. The man fled, and Aziz was left alone. He thought, “This is the end of my career. My guest is lost.” Then he thought, maybe Miss Quested had left her cave before he did, heard the sound of the car, and was on her way down to meet it. Feeling much better about the situation, Aziz headed back to the picnic area where Mrs. Moore had stayed. As he approached the area, he saw Mrs. Moore and to his delight, Mr. Fielding. After cordial greetings, Fielding explains that he was given a ride by Miss Derek, who was employed as a companion to a maharani in Mudkul, a southern state, and had borrowed the maharaja’s. car. He then asks Aziz about Adela. He says she is fine and has joined Miss Derek at the car. While they were talking, the car left on its way back to Chandrapore.

On his return to Chandrapore, Aziz is arrested at the train station and charged with making insulting advances toward Miss Quested in one of the Marabar Caves, the accusations having been made by Miss Quested herself. Aziz weeps and proclaims his innocence, saying some terrible mistake has been made. Fielding, who has returned with Aziz, tries to accompany his friend, but is escorted away by Harry Turton, the head of the British District at Chandrapore. Dr. Aziz is refused bail and taken away to prison.

The arrest and subsequent trial polarizes the community, with the Anglo-Indians banding together in support of Miss Quested and the native Indians rallying behind Aziz. A notable exception is Cyril Fielding, who resolutely believes in his friend’s innocence, refuses to join the British side and is ostracized by his fellow countrymen. The trial takes place over many months, during which Aziz remains in prison except for a very short period when he is granted bail. The bail is quickly retracted after a native Indian demonstration and Aziz is sent back to prison to await the outcome of his trial. The time in prison changes him and he develops a deep dislike for anything British, particularly British rule. Not knowing of the intercession by Mr. Turton at the railway station, Aziz accuses Fielding of abandoning him in his time of greatest need, and remains somewhat suspicious of Fielding even after learning the truth.

Mrs. Moore had been sick ever since her return from the Cave. She believed Aziz to be innocent but refused to attend the trial. She booked passage on a ship to England, vowing to return for her son’s wedding. She died on the ship shortly after it left Bombay and was buried at sea.

Aziz is set free on the final day of the trial when Miss Quested recants her accusations, claiming she is unsure who really attack her. Throughout the trial she had been bothered by the echoes of the Cave ringing in her head. When suddenly the echoes ceased, her thinking cleared and she knew she was mistaken in accusing Dr. Aziz. It was very brave of her to stand up to against the Anglo- Indians who wanted to see the Indian, Aziz, punished, but he didn’t see it that way. He had spent a long time in prison and lost the ability to take care of his children due to her false accusations, accusations she should never have made. He was determined to sue her for a large sum of money, which, if accomplished, would leave her virtually penniless.

Adela remained in India for a few months after the trial. She stayed at Mr. Fielding’s, who was gracious enough to offer her his home while he stayed elsewhere, for no one at the Club would have anything to do with her. When Ronny finally asked her to release him from his marriage commitment, she unhesitatingly agreed to do so, and left for England shortly thereafter.

Aziz, who returned to his position at Minto Hospital, was persuaded by Fielding to not sue Miss Quested, but had reservations about his decision, especially when he heard rumors that Fielding and Miss Quested were romantically involved during her stay at his house. Fielding vehemently denied the charge, calling his friend “a little rotter” for even insinuating that the rumor might be true.

After Fielding returned to England shortly after the trial, Aziz was certain he had returned to marry Adela, the woman he hated; he was so certain that he refused to read any of the letters Fielding sent to him from England.

Two years later, when Fielding returned to India, many things had changed; Ronny Heaslop and Major Callendar had been replaced as City Magistrate and Surgeon-General respectively; Professor Godbole had been appointed Minister of Education; and, Aziz had taken a position as physician to an elderly maharaja in the southern Hindu state of Mau. Aziz had remarried and had his children living with him. He spent his free time writing Persian poetry, fulfilling a lifelong ambition.

When Aziz learned that Fielding and his bride were to pay a visit to Mau, he was filled with hatred; Fielding had betrayed him by convincing him not to sue Miss Quested and then marrying her for the money she had. It is only when Fielding confronts him that he learns the truth, it is not Miss Quested whom Fielding has married, but Stella, the daughter of his dear friend Mrs. Moore. He also meets Ralph, Mrs. Moore son, who has traveled to India with his sister and her husband, and through his contact with Ralph, envisions his deceased mother, Mrs. Moore, whom Aziz dearly loved. He is then able to forgive Adela Questa for what she did to him.

The book ends with the same question it started with. Can colonized subjects be friends with their rulers? The answer, according to Aziz, is no.


  1. Do you think it is possible for rulers and subjects to be friends? Discuss this in a small group and report back to your class.

  2. Why do you think the Marabar caves were so upsetting to Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested? Discuss your answer in a small group and give a report your class.

  3. Many people thought that the incident in the Cave never happened at all, that Adela had a hallucination and imagined the attack? What do you think? Discuss this in a small group and give an oral report to your class.

  4. Why do you think Dr. Aziz thought so highly of Mrs. Moore? Discuss this with a partner.

  5. Dr. Aziz though it was impossible to unite the Hindus and Moslems of India. What do you think? Please discuss this with a partner and report back to your class.

  6. What do you think about the echoes of the Marabar Cave that troubled Adela and Mrs. Moore? Discuss this in a small group and report back to your class.

  7. Why do you think the Anglo-Indians wanted Dr. Aziz to be found guilty? Discuss this in a small group and give an oral report to your class.

  8. Do you think it is proper for Dr. Aziz to tell Miss Quested that his wife is alive, when, in fact, she is not? Discuss this with a partner and report back to your class.

  9. Why do you think the Indians accepted the British ‘Raj’? Please discuss this with a partner and report back to your class.

10. Adela thought it was all right to marry someone you didn’t love. What do you think? Discuss this with a partner.

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