A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 2, Chapter 19 ((Caves)) | Summary

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Summary

Outside McBryde's office, Fielding encounters Hamidullah, who strikes Fielding as too cautious and tentative, not demonstrating his faith in Aziz. Hamidullah mentions appealing to the Nawab Bahadur concerning bail, and he then suggests the famous Hindu barrister Amritrao for defense attorney. Fielding considers Amritrao too political and potentially inflammatory to the English of Chandrapore. Fielding reassures Hamidullah he is on Aziz's side, although internally he regrets taking any side.

Fielding next must patiently listen to Godbole's theory about a poisonous snake that got into his classroom. Godbole then mentions that he heard Fielding made it to the caves and says he hopes the expedition was successful. Fielding assumes Godbole hasn't heard the news about Aziz. The doctor says he has, but he cannot say whether the expedition succeeded. Godbole, who is planning to leave Chandrapore to start a school in the remote state of Mau, next asks Fielding his opinion about a name for the school. But Fielding is too upset about Aziz to think about such questions and is astonished Godbole can.

Finally, Fielding asks Godbole directly if Aziz is guilty. The professor says that when an evil action is performed, all perform it; likewise with a good action, and good and evil are both sides of the Lord. His point of view about good and evil, based in Hindu philosophy, recalls the echo in the cave that reduces all noise to the same sound. His answer frustrates Fielding, who seeks definite answers. Then Godbole goes on to relate a legend about a tank at the Marabar. When Fielding finally sees Aziz, the doctor is miserable and tells Fielding only, "You deserted me."

Analysis

Fielding finds he must take sides on this issue; it makes him uncomfortable because he has always preferred to remain an individual, apart from any crowd. Yet even he is finding the Indians disappointing: either too weak or too inflammatory.

His conversation with Godbole is even more frustrating. Godbole seems to want to be completely detached from the issue, outdoing Fielding's typical taste for neutrality. But his opinion on the issue of Aziz's guilt seems to come from a position of Hindu philosophy and takes a larger view of issues, reminiscent of the tone of Chapters 1, 10, and 12, in which, viewed from an impartial, detached perspective, human affairs seem insignificant.

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