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A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Quotes


They all become exactly the same ... I give any Englishman two years.

Hamidullah, Part 1, Chapter 2

Hamidullah, Mahmoud Ali, and Aziz are discussing a phenomenon they have observed in the English colonial administrators who come to India: the administrators behave decently when they arrive and then become rude and callous to Indians after they have settled into their official roles. Colonialism frames their relationship with Indians as one of superiors and inferiors.


You are an Oriental.

Aziz, Part 1, Chapter 2

After Aziz tells Mrs. Moore she understands him and knows what others feel, Mrs. Moore says she doesn't understand people; she only knows whether she likes or dislikes people. In other words she relies on instinct and intuition rather than analysis. To Aziz's mind this makes Mrs. Moore an "Oriental," unlike, say, Adela, who is—to Aziz's mind—a typical English person, relying heavily on rational thought.


I want to see the real India.

Adela, Part 1, Chapter 3

Adela tells Mrs. Moore she is uninterested in the typical superficial sightseeing tour, which will probably involve an elephant ride. True to her last name, Quested, Adela instead sets off on a quest to interact with Indians, which sets the novel's plot in motion.


We're not out here for the purpose of behaving pleasantly!

Ronny, Part 1, Chapter 5

When Mrs. Moore criticizes the way the English treat the Indians, her son replies as a colonist would. Ronny has the mindset of an official with a job to do, and he doesn't see any need to interact with the Indians socially.


Fielding ... had dulled his craving for verbal truth and cared chiefly for truth of mood.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 7

After Aziz makes a statement Fielding knows is inaccurate, Fielding remains mum. Unlike other English people, he understands and acknowledges the feeling behind what Aziz is saying and isn't out to correct minor mistakes. This shows his growing connection to the people of India, who generally value mood and intention far more than the literal-minded English do.


No one can ever realize how much kindness we Indians need.

Aziz, Part 1, Chapter 11

Aziz makes this comment after Fielding demonstrates an understanding of and respect for Aziz's attitude toward purdah. Aziz is speaking not only of his appreciation for Fielding's empathy and friendship but also of relations between England and India; England's empty gestures cannot take the place of genuine feelings or mask its attitude of superiority and racism toward India.


Nothing embraces the whole of India, nothing, nothing.

Aziz, Part 2, Chapter 14

Aziz is discussing the Mogul emperor Akbar, who created a religion intended to encompass the whole country. This feat proved impossible because there is no one India. This idea recurs throughout the book; one cannot simply "see India" because there are a hundred Indias.


He was still after facts, though the herd had decided on emotion.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 17

When Turton tells Fielding about Adela's assault accusation against Aziz, he expects Fielding to rally around the banner of race; after all, as Turton says, "an English girl, fresh from England" has been assaulted. Turton's attitude reflects the racism of many English colonists but stands in contrast to the English tendency to take a fact-driven, objective view of events. Fielding is determined to look for facts, however, especially as his friend Aziz's reputation is at stake.


Love in a church, love in a cave, as if there is the least difference.

Mrs. Moore, Part 2, Chapter 22

Mrs. Moore has been deeply affected by her trip to the Marabar Caves, where every sound is reduced to a single echo; it revealed to her the meaninglessness behind all human action. Now she sees no difference between marriage and the alleged sexual assault in the cave. So many aspects of life that used to seem significant now seem indistinguishable to her.


Where there is officialism, every human relationship suffers.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 24

Just before Adela's trial, the narrator notes the English support her—after all, she is one of them, and Aziz is an Indian—but they have no idea what is going on in her mind. Because he is a British official, even Ronny has only the vaguest notion of how she feels. The English all speak of her, and of the trial, as if from a distance; Adela is "the accused," not an individual with individual feelings.


While relieving the Oriental mind, she had chilled it.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 26

After Adela's trial, Fielding and Hamidullah discuss where she should go. Fielding expresses sympathy and concern for her, but Hamidullah does not. As the narrator notes, the Indians were relieved when she withdrew her charge against Aziz; however, they did not warm toward her because she showed no emotions and thus evoked no emotions.


We exist not in ourselves, but in terms of each others' minds.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 26

Fielding comes to this realization—one for which "logic had no support"—after learning Mrs. Moore has died and hearing Hamidullah speak callously about her death. Hamidullah cares nothing about Mrs. Moore's death—she barely existed in his mind—and Fielding hardly knew her either, though he is far more sensitive to her fate. His thought about existing "in terms of each others' minds" reflects Forster's belief in the power of subjective reality.


Your emotions never seem in proportion to their objects, Aziz.

Fielding, Part 2, Chapter 27

Fielding says this to Aziz when he expresses great affection for Mrs. Moore, but has no generosity or pity for Adela, who bravely alienated herself from her people for the sake of telling the truth and setting him free. Fielding doesn't quite understand what is behind Aziz's emotions at times.


Were there worlds beyond which they could never touch? ... Perhaps life is a mystery.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 29

Here the narrator reflects on an important theme in the novel: the limits of English rationality. Adela and Fielding cannot understand how Mrs. Moore could have known what happened in the cave. Despite her English background Mrs. Moore seemed to have a natural openness to and connection with India's mystical side; Adela and Fielding remain staunchly rational and therefore foreign to India.


Drive every blasted Englishman into the sea, and then ... you and I shall be friends.

Aziz, Part 3, Chapter 37

Aziz makes this comment to Fielding while they ride through the Mau forest at the end of the novel. His remark summarizes colonialism's effect on human relationships. An Indian and an Englishman cannot truly be friends until both nations are independent and free.

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