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A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 2, Chapter 18 ((Caves)) | Summary



McBryde, the Superintendent of Police, is not surprised at Aziz's downfall. His private theory is that all natives born south of latitude 30° are criminal at heart, through no fault of their own. It should be noted that he himself was born below that latitude.

When Fielding comes in, McBryde tells him that Adela has charged Aziz with making "insulting advances" to her. The police found her binoculars in his pocket, which she had used to hit him, breaking the strap in the process. She also reports having heard a frightening echo in the cave. McBryde adds that Miss Derek saw Adela running down the slope, rescued her among some cactuses, and then drove her directly to McBryde's bungalow.

Fielding thinks Adela is under a delusion, and he can't imagine Aziz would hold on to the binoculars if he assaulted her. But McBryde says such behavior is typical of Indians who go bad; he knows, because unlike Fielding, he sees the Indians at their worst. He then holds up a letter he found on Aziz from a friend who owns a brothel in Calcutta. Fielding says he did the same at Aziz's age—and so did McBryde, although he doesn't say as much. He then asks if he can see Adela to question her about what happened, because "I want someone who believes in him to ask her." But Major Callendar won't allow it on the grounds of her being ill.

When Fielding asks to see Aziz, McBryde asks, "Why mix yourself up with pitch?" and suggests that the English must now all hang together. "The man who doesn't toe the line is lost." McBryde tells Fielding that he must apply to the City Magistrate—Ronny—for permission to see Aziz. At that moment more "evidence" arrives from Aziz's bungalow, including Aziz's photograph of his wife, which McBryde takes to be evidence of Aziz's licentiousness. Fielding tells him that it's a photo of Aziz's wife, but McBryde is skeptical.


Although McBryde is less emotional and politer about Aziz, he is completely hypocritical in his theory of criminality; it also should apply to himself. Fielding and McBryde discuss the same evidence but draw different conclusions, because each is predisposed to think a certain way: Fielding believes in Aziz, and McBryde has a theory of native criminality. The letter from the brothel owner and the photo of the woman serve to confirm his theory. In the same way Ronny judged Aziz by his collar, McBryde uses the evidence to prove what he already believes, making a sham of objectivity.

Although someone else could very well question Adela about what happened to her, Fielding insists on questioning her himself because she will be influenced by anyone else who questions her; in other words, she would succumb to the opinion of the herd. Once again Fielding reveals his faith in feeling when trying to arrive at the truth. Meanwhile, McBryde urges Fielding to stick with the herd.

When McBryde learns Turton took Fielding away from Aziz, the police superintendent won't allow Fielding to visit the prisoner. This causes Fielding great distress, because he feels he unintentionally abandoned Aziz. But the English officials clearly want a show of English unity on the matter.

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