A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 1, Chapter 4 ((Mosque)) | Summary

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Summary

After Turton invites various prominent Indians to his proposed Bridge Party, a group of Indian men discusses the unprecedented development, for none has ever set foot in the English club. Mahmoud Ali suggests this was done on orders from the Lieutenant-Governor, believing the higher-ups are more sympathetic to the Indians. But the Nawab Bahadur, a rich landowner and loyalist with a title conferred by the English, sticks up for Turton and says he will come to the party all the way from his country estate, a move that will sanction the party in the eyes of others. One of the men, Ram Chand, suggests the Nawab Bahadur will make himself cheap by attending, but the Nawab maintains his position, and his decision influences others who feel they need the Nawab's presence for cover.

The narration then turns to the lower social circles of Indians who had not received an invitation down to the lowest, poorest of the Indians, some of whom are proselytized by the Christian missionaries, old Mr. Graysford and young Mr. Sorley. Using the phrase, "In our Father's house are many mansions," they teach there is a place for everyone in heaven. They are asked if there is a place for monkeys, to which Mr. Sorley replies, "Yes." And what about jackals? And wasps, and all other things down to bacteria? To this Mr. Sorley replies negatively: "We must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing."

Analysis

This short chapter shows the effect among the elite Indians of Mr. Turton's very unusual invitation. One way the English have worked to solidify their control over the country is to confer power and honors onto loyalists such as the Nawab Bahadur, who now becomes an example others will follow in honoring Turton's request. When challenged by the idea that he will "make himself cheap," the Nawab seeks to avoid embarrassing his accuser, another example of an Indian adhering to "truth of mood."

The rest of the chapter muses on the various levels of Indian society, including those too low to have been invited, all the way down to animals and even inanimate objects, in a nod to Hindu conceptions of cosmic and social order, and reflects on how the local Christian missionaries—who are clearly in opposition to the likes of Mrs. Callendar—might explain Christianity to Hindus.

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