A Passage To India by Forster

A Passage To India - Go back in time and discover a descriptive account of the colonial rule of India. Read a tense story about friendships and mistrust between the English and the Indians.

This book could be described as hard going. It is very descriptive.

I urge you to persevere and you will not only find an intricate story, buy you will also be educated on what it was like to be Indian during British rule in the circa 1920's.

The Plot

A Passage To India

The book is set in the city of Chandrapore in India and Forster goes to great lengths to describe the city to us. It is immediately apparent that it is very different from England.

He then introduces us to the various characters in the book. Adela and the elderly Mrs Moore arrive from England and are in search of the "real India" rather than the very British way of life in India.

Dr Aziz is an Indian doctor who has much to do with the English in India. He is often at the beck and call of Mr Callendar the surgeon, and gets invited to parties, as a well off Indian. It's clear that Aziz is frustrated and annoyed by the way he is treated by The English and Mr Callendar in particular.

Aziz and Mrs Moore bang into each other at the mosque and become friends. Aziz is genuinely surprised that an English person could treat him so nicely.

Aziz, through Mrs Moore and Adela, meets Mr Fielding, the principal of the College and they immediately hit it off.

To repay the kindness that the ladies have shown to Aziz, he plans a trip for them to see some of the real India - Marabar Caves. They are to get a train there along with Fielding and a few others. But Fielding misses the train so Aziz is left to take the ladies on his own.

The caves are dark and the group gets separated. Adela has a funny turn in the cave (she realises that she can't marry Mrs Moore's son, Ronny) and gets a car back on her own to the city.

Aziz is arrested upon his return, for the sexual assault of Adela. He is clearly outraged and Fielding believes in his innocence.

What follows is a set of riots as British/Indian relationships become extremely tense. In court, Adela admits to making a mistake and Aziz is free to go.

But Aziz from then on hates the English and sets up his practice a long way from Chandrapore and has nothing to do with the English. His friendship to Fielding suffers, as he believes that he has married Adela - how could he marry her after all that she did to him?

Many years later they are reaquainted and Aziz discovers that Fielding married Adela's sister in fact. The ending of the book suggests that until England rules India, they can not really be friends.


A Passage To India

The acute precariousness of  relationships between the the two countries

It is clear that relationships between the two countries are extremely tense and Forster shows this through the various characters in the book.

The English are suspicious of the Indians & vice versa. The English feel superior to the Indians whilst the Indians resent British rule & the lack of respect for their many & varied cultures, such as those between Muslim & Hindu to name just one.

Mrs. Callendar says of the Indians, "------the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die." Her view is supported by many others too.

When Fielding sides with Aziz over the supposed assault in the caves, the English women shun him, "------he who would also keep in with English women must drop the Indians."

It is sad to think that Aziz and Fielding can't be friends due to the resentment that Aziz feels towards the British and their rule of India.

Lack of Communication

There are many examples of this but perhaps we see most between Adela and Ronny (Mrs Moore's son). Aziz also presumes that Fielding marries Adela. Is is possible that their friendship could have been resurrected sooner if he had bothered to find out the truth?

Justice and Fairness

The court case is a right and just result for Aziz. Although, one could say that the damage had already been done - that Aziz's reputation had already been ruined.

Forster tries hard to show the Indians in a more considerate light than the British, in order for the story to seem fair. (Well our group thought so)


There is some talk in the novel about christianity and Hinduism. Mrs Moore in particular seems open to the beliefs of Hinduism (all living things are seen as important in Hinduism) and finds the views of Christianity a bit limiting.

The Role of Britain in India

Forster clearly shows his contempt for some of the government officials and particularly portreys the majority of the British women as fairly racist. It doesn't seem to paint a great picture of the British rule. Mrs Moore's son Ronny depicts The Establishment, determined to fulfil the terms set down by the government back home regardless of truth or justice

Book Club Questions?

A Passage To India

  • Forster goes to great lengths to set the scene in India, describing the buildings, the countryside etc. Why do you think he does this?

  • What differences do you see between the English way of life in India and Aziz's home and community.

  • Can you justify the lie that Adela tells in the cave?Why does she do it?

  • Is Adela brave for standing up against her peers in court?

  • Do Mrs Moore and Adela get to see the real India as they first set out?

  • Discuss the role of Britain in India. Did you learn something new?

  • Can Aziz and Fielding ever be friends? Why or why not?

  • With more and more countries accepting refugees and asylum seekers, freer movement of people between borders, our society is becoming more multi-cultural. How relevant are some of the issues highlighted in A Passage To India in today's society?


A Passage To India

This is a book that you either absolutely love or totally reject! Some members of our group found it very descriptive and heavy going.

It scored 6.5/10 as an average score.

But if you persevere through the first 100 pages, it does get easier to read and the story and themes are very interesting indeed.

There was some disappointment with the outcome of the trial, where Adela suddenly withdraws her false accusation.

There is such a build up, such tension, only to fizzle out suddenly.

Perhaps this is the result of us all watching too many Murder Mysteries on the TV.

The trial & its outcome lead to terrible riots which serve to illustrate the real tensions between the two countries at a higher level.

It's easy to see that Forster is concerned with greater questions than simply providing his reader with a dramatic outpouring in the dock. He's concerned with truth, justice, fairness, differences, communication or lack of it etc. 

The themes in A Passage To India are as relevant today as they were then.

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