A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 2, Chapter 22 ((Caves)) | Summary

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Summary

Adela lies for days in the McBrydes' bungalow while Miss Derek and Mrs. McBryde extract cactus needles from her skin. The women are being extremely sympathetic to her, but she only wants to see Mrs. Moore, who does not visit. She tries to think through the incident in the cave logically; she doesn't think Aziz touched her. She then breaks down and cries, which evokes pity from the other English people; then she feels guilty about the trouble she has caused. But she is still plagued by the echo, which she started by scratching her fingernail against the cave wall.

When Adela feels better, Ronny and McBryde inform her she will have to testify at the trial, which will be presided over by Ronny's assistant, Das. Fielding—considered a mainstay of the defense—has sent her a letter, which McBryde opened. In it Fielding suggests Adela has made a mistake. Adela reacts by expressing concern about Fielding's behavior to Ronny. She then leaves the McBrydes' bunglalow; she is looking forward to seeing Mrs. Moore at Ronny's bungalow.

Mrs. Moore, who doesn't look well, is cool to Adela when they meet; she begins talking about her return to England. Adela says she is counting on Mrs. Moore's help, but Mrs. Moore seems irritable, unsympathetic, and uninterested in Adela's troubles until Adela says she can't seem to get rid of her echo. Mrs. Moore, who acts as if she knows the cause of the echo, won't explain it to Adela, and irritably asks not to be bothered. When Ronny asks her about testifying during the trial, she refuses to get involved. She then begins an extraordinary speech in which she complains about her physical ailments and all the demands people are making of her, going so far as to disparage the institution of marriage: "Why all this marriage, marriage? ... The human race would have become a single person centuries ago if marriage was any use. And all this rubbish about love, love in a church, love in a cave, as if there is the least difference."

Adela wonders aloud if she has made a mistake about Aziz. Then suddenly she says her echo is better. When she suggests Aziz ought to be released, Ronny tells her he was, until a near-riot during Mohurram; he had to be put back in jail after the Nawab Bahadur's car, driven by Nureddin, got into an accident. Adela insists she heard Mrs. Moore say Aziz was innocent, but Ronny says perhaps she confused what Mrs. Moore said with Fielding's letter. However, when Mrs. Moore returns, she says, "Of course he is innocent," but remains irritable and unwilling to answer their questions. Ronny asks if she has evidence, but she simply says she knows his character. Adela asks if there is any way to stop the trial, but it's too late: "The machinery has started," Ronny tells her. He then begins looking at the steamship schedule to send his mother home at once.

Analysis

The dichotomy of reason versus intuition is a central theme in this chapter. In a case of situational irony, Adela, who prides herself on being reasonable and logical, is now the object of sympathy from the other English ladies because she is a suffering victim, constantly in tears. She continually strives to be logical, but remains unsure. Interestingly, when she acts on intuition, insisting that Mrs. Moore called Aziz innocent, she turns out to be right. Mrs. Moore on the other hand, without reference to any evidence, is very sure of her opinion of Aziz, and as with other judgments she has made in this novel, speaks from her gut. Ronny, who clearly has strong feelings about the matter, continually talks about evidence and testimony.

Both women continue to be affected by their experience in the cave. Adela is plagued by her echo, which subsides only when she declares Aziz innocent. Mrs. Moore seems to have undergone a dramatic change in her personality from a warm, sympathetic mother figure to a bitter old crone. She has become not only cross and irritable, but somehow disconnected from society and its values. Unmoved by personal appeals from Adela, she seems to view human relationships from a detached, impersonal perspective, equating "love in a church," or marriage, with "love in a cave," or sexual assault. In this way her point of view, in which human affairs seem insignificant, is reminiscent of Professor Godbole's in Chapter 19, or of the distant narrative voice in Chapter 1 or 10.

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