A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 2, Chapter 13 ((Caves)) | Summary

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Summary

Adela one day casually mentions she wishes she could have seen the caves, and this comment, overheard by a servant and magnified in significance, makes its way via rumor to Aziz. By the time it reaches him, he worries he has mortally offended the ladies by not delivering on his promise, which he had believed he was free from once Adela was engaged to be married. But he now resolves to engineer a spectacular outing, inviting Godbole and asking Fielding to approach the ladies. All agree to attend, but none are enthusiastic about the outing. Aziz goes to great trouble and expense to arrange this—seeking leave from Major Callendar, accommodating everyone's diets, borrowing servants and cutlery, and avoiding characteristic Indian lateness by spending the previous night at the train station.

The ladies arrive very early, civil but not delighted. The station is a flurry of activity as servants, quarreling over precedence, prepare for the excursion and load up the "purdah carriage" in which the ladies are to travel. The ladies dismiss their disapproving servant, Antony, and Aziz introduces them to Mohammed Latif, whom he has brought along to act as a sort of steward as well as a clown. When the train starts up, Fielding and Godbole arrive too late to board, leaving Aziz distraught; he declares, "Our expedition is a ruin." But Mrs. Moore soothes him by saying, "We shall be all Moslems together," which touches him deeply. He then realizes he has a chance to prove Indians are not incapable of responsibility. The chapter ends with Aziz wondering what there is to see at the caves.

Analysis

The power of rumor, which Aziz feared so much earlier in the book, sets off the events of this chapter, which turn out to be key to the entire plot. Also prominent is the power of servants, who are ignored at their masters' peril. Hindu-Muslim differences also compound the planning of the event for Aziz.

This outing is yet another in a series of East-West parties, each of which has been troubled, and this one, too, begins with a major difficulty. Yet Mrs. Moore, who acts on her gut and understands others' feelings, knows just the right thing to say: her words show her respect for Muslim institutions. The events here are also significant because now an Indian has a chance to be in charge, without the British to organize and arrange things. Aziz now has a chance to prove his own capability.

Finally, the chapter introduces a clown motif. Aziz has brought along Mohammed Latif for purposes of comic entertainment; he joins a long historical and literary line of subordinates called on to entertain their superiors.

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