A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 2, Chapter 16 ((Caves)) | Summary



Aziz leaves his cave and hears a motorcar approaching down the Chandrapore road. When he goes to tell Adela, she is nowhere to be found. The guide says she went into a cave but doesn't know which one. Aziz panics and then begins to search for her, but loses his bearings, with one cave looking just like the next. He calls the guide over and hits him, causing him to flee, and then despairs that she is lost.

Then he realizes she has joined the people who drove up in the car—he catches a glimpse of her—and feels reassured enough to return to camp, when suddenly he sees her binoculars, the strap broken, lying near a cave entrance, and puts them in his pocket. When he returns to camp he is delighted to see Fielding, who apologizes about the train and explains he has arrived in Miss Derek's car. Mrs. Moore and Fielding wonder where Adela has gone, but Aziz is unworried. However, when Fielding learns Miss Derek will drive Adela back to Chandrapore, he feels something has gone wrong; because he knows Miss Derek intended to join the picnic, he assumes Adela wanted to hurry back to Chandrapore. Aziz—mentally smoothing over the rough edges of her disappearance—says Adela wanted to see her friend.

When they begin to leave, Fielding sees the spot where he left the car and wonders how Adela got down the steep slope covered with cactus. Although Aziz tells him not to worry, Fielding thinks the ladies were rude to run off. But Aziz, riding atop his elephant, feels like the successful Oriental host, despite nearly bankrupting himself to pay for this picnic. During their friendly discussion, Aziz says he has no desire to kick the British out, as long as they're not too rude to him. They board the train, and when they finally return to Chandrapore, Mr. Haq opens the train door and says he must arrest Dr. Aziz, but he won't say why. Fielding tries to argue on behalf of Aziz, while Aziz tries to make a run for it. Fielding, sure there is a mistake, tells Aziz, "Never, never act the criminal!" Aziz responds, "My children and my name!" As Fielding walks with Aziz, the station begins to swarm with activity. Ronny comes for his mother, and Fielding is called off by Turton, so Aziz must go to prison alone.


What happens in this pivotal chapter is a mystery both to Aziz and to readers. Facts are elusive, but Aziz supplies an explanation to suit his ebullient mood. Fielding and Aziz's different reactions speak to their different social positions. Aziz, as the Oriental host who allows his guests to do whatever they wish, refuses to take offense, even though Fielding does, and chooses to view the day as a success. The English friend is going over the evidence; the Indian friend is buoyed by emotion. Furthermore, Fielding, who is more familiar with English society, is more tuned into norms of behavior than Aziz is.

They also react to the arrest according to their backgrounds. Fielding has faith in the police and is determined to clear things up; Aziz is hopeless and assumes he is seen as criminal. Furthermore, Aziz's first words reflect his rootedness in the community—"My children and my name!"—two things Fielding doesn't worry about.

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