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MonkeyNotes-A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
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PLOT (Synopsis)

The story is first set in Chandrapore, a dusty, dry, and hot town in India. The most noticeable characteristic of the dull town is the sharp contrast in the British and Indian housing, which is a mirror of the superior attitude of the British towards the natives. The only extraordinary feature in the area is the Marabar Cave, twenty miles away.

Adela Quested is a young, intelligent, and sensible British woman who becomes engaged to Ronny Heaslop, Mrs. Moore's son by her first marriage. He works as a magistrate in Chandrapore. Adela Quested originally travels to India with Mrs. Moore because she wants to become better acquainted with Ronny and to see the sites of the country. Both women are liberal, kind, and sympathetic. The local British, including Ronny, are contemptuous of their desire to understand India and its people; the two women are shocked by Ronny's arrogance towards the Indians. He has become so prejudiced against the natives that he considers them to be "barbarians" and tries hard to maintain a distance from them.

Ronny warns his mother and Adela not to befriend any Indians. Ignoring his warnings, Mrs. Moore visits a Mosque one evening and meets Aziz, a young Muslim doctor who is a widower. Aziz comes alone to the Mosque to find peace and to escape from the hurt and humiliation he feels from being deliberately snubbed by the British officers. He feels particularly insulted by the British women, for in India females are expected to be submissive and quiet and to look after the needs of their men. He considers that Indian women are also cared for and respected.


At first, Aziz is angry at Mrs. Moore when he finds her in the Mosque. He expects that, like most British, she will be contemptuous of Indians; however, he is instantly calmed by the fact that Mrs. Moore has entered the Mosque barefooted, showing her sensitivity and respect for native customs. He is further soothed by her kindness and simplicity. A remarkable friendship develops between this older British woman and the young Muslim doctor; it a friendship beyond the considerations of age or race. Adela, too, becomes a friend of Aziz.

To show how much he cares for his new found friends, Dr. Aziz, on a sudden impulse, invites Mrs. Moore and Adela for a visit to the Marabar Caves. Two more friends, Cyril Fielding, a college professor, and Mr. Godbole, a lecturer in the same college, are invited to join the party; however both Mr. Fielding and Mr. Godbole miss the train. As a result, Aziz must conduct the tour for the two women on his own. Inside one of the caves, something or someone frightens Mrs. Moore. Feeling suffocated by the crowds around her, she rushes out of the cave, feeling frightened and confused. She tells both Aziz and Adela to continue their exploration. While she waits, Mrs. Moore, feeling listless, tries to analyze what has come has come over her.

As Aziz and Adela continue through the caves, she asks if he has one or more wives. Aziz, angry and hurt by the insensitive question, is a widower; his wife, whom he loved dearly, died in childbirth. Feeling dejected, Aziz wanders into another cave. Adela tries to follow him, but she gets lost. In one of the caves, something happens; but Forster is intentionally vague about the circumstances. Like Mrs. Moore, Adela becomes nervous and rushes out of the cave. Aziz, searching for her, sees her leaving in Miss Derek's car.

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