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A Passage to India

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mrpola
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ADELA (early 20’s) arrives in the Indian city of Chandrapore in the company of MRS MOORE, her fiancé RONNY’s elderly mother. Ronny, who is the City Magistrate and a prominent member of the tradition-bound British community, looks askance at the enthusiastic Adela’s curiosity about the local customs and people. She and Mrs Moore make friends with DR AZIZ, a handsome widower, and FIELDING, the outspoken principal of the British college. Aziz invites his new friends on a picnic expedition to view the famous Marabar caves in the hills outside the city. He goes to extravagant lengths to impress them, including the hiring of an elephant, but the day ends in chaos when Adela claims to have been assaulted in one of the caves by Dr Aziz. She is rushed back to Chandrapore as Aziz is arrested and thrown into jail to await trial. Certain that his friend is innocent, Fielding joins Aziz’s friends in an attempt to exonerate him but they are met with resistance at every turn by the irate British community, who close ranks around Adela. A strong case is built against Aziz and his defence becomes a rallying point for the burgeoning Independence Movement. Mrs Moore, who wants no part of the proceedings, leaves the city and dies in her railway carriage. With the future of the British Raj at stake, all eyes are on Chandrapore as the trial opens. As Adela is being led through the specifics of the fateful day, she backs down and refuses to name Aziz as her assailant, claiming that he is innocent. It is a total vindication for Aziz and a humiliating defeat for the local British establishment, who are all either recalled or forced to resign their posts. Ronny, who has no other choice but to end his engagement to Adela, places her into Fielding’s care. As Fielding sees Adela off to start a new life in England, they are watched by Dr Aziz.
In 1921, ADELA QUESTED, an enthusiastic English girl in her early twenties, accompanies MRS MOORE, a handsome middle-aged lady, to the city of Chandrapore in India where Mrs Moore’s son RONNY is the City Magistrate. Ronny, who is Adela’s fiancé, takes the new arrivals directly to his bungalow in the all-British sector where Adela expresses a desire to see the real India and to meet some real Indians, a notion that Ronny dismisses.
On a beautiful moonlit night, while Ronny and Adela are at the club watching the amateur theatricals, Mrs Moore wanders off on her own, finding herself in a mosque where she is surprised by the appearance of handsome young Indian doctor AZIZ. Aziz, a widower with three children, is charmed by the elderly woman and feels his natural resentment of the English slip away as they speak.
TURTON, the administrator of the city, has given in to Adela’s wishes by offering to throw a party to which he invites the more prominent members of Chandrapore’s Indian community. The upcoming party is discussed at the home of Aziz’s uncle HAMMIDULLAH among his other friends MAHMOUD ALI, a barrister, and the NAWAB BAHADUR, the leading Muslim of the area. Aziz has no intention of attending the party as it coincides with the anniversary of his wife’s death even though his friends warn him that his absence will be viewed as a snub by the British.

At the party, Adela scandalizes the Anglo-English contingent by introducing herself and Mrs Moore to the Indian guests, who are rudely being kept at a distance by their hostess MRS TURTON. FIELDING, the principal of the local public school, is taken with Adela’s politeness and invites her and Mrs Moore to his apartment at the college for tea. Adela asks Fielding to invite Dr Aziz, who Mrs Moore has told her about.

Fielding also invites his associate, the eccentric Brahmin PROFESSOR GODBOLE to his tea party. When Ronny arrives to pick up Adela for the polo match, he berates Fielding for allowing his fiancée to go for a walk with Aziz and Godbole, who are planning a picnic expedition to show her the famous Marabar caves, located in the hills outside the city.

At the polo match, Adela tells Ronny, who she feels has grown more intolerant and conventional, that she has had second thoughts about their marriage. They are interrupted by the Nawab, who offers to take them for a drive in his new Rolls-Royce. The Nawab’s chauffeur swerves the car to avoid hitting an animal and drives off the road. NANCY DEREK, a pretty young Englishwoman who works as the secretary to a local Maharajah, comes driving by in her employer’s car and offers them a lift back to town. Something in the familiarity between Ronny and Miss Derek puts Adela on the alert and when they get back to Ronny’s bungalow, she announces to a surprised Mrs Moore, who has been expecting to hear otherwise, that she plans to marry Ronny after all.

Aziz, who has been having sexual fantasies about Adela, confides to Mahmoud Ali that he wants to take a break in Calcutta where he hopes that his cousin will be able to find some women for him. While making elaborate preparations for his picnic, Aziz comes down with a fever and has to push himself to finish the extensive preparations on the day. Fielding has been invited along as well, along with Professor Godbole, but they miss the train for the hills.

At Marabar, Aziz has arranged for an elephant to take his party to the caves. Adela is also feeling unwell and the intense heat overtakes Mrs Moore who stays behind as Aziz and Adela follow their GUIDE on the hazardous climb. When Adela loses sight of Aziz, she stumbles into the nearest cave where in the darkness and confusion, she thinks that she sees the shadow of a man coming toward her.

Feverous and delirious, Adela staggers out of the cave where Miss Derek, who has just given Fielding a lift out to the caves to rejoin the party, finds her wild-eyed and nearly incoherent, her clothing torn. Miss Derek drives Adela back to Chandrapore as Aziz returns to the base of the hill where he tells the waiting Mrs Moore and the newly-arrived Fielding that he has seen Adela getting into the Maharajah’s car.

Aziz, Fielding and Mrs Moore return to Chandrapore by train where the police are waiting at the station to arrest Aziz for assaulting Adela. Fielding’s insistence to Turton (whose own career has been placed on the line by the incident) that Aziz cannot possibly be responsible for this heinous act, falls on deaf ears.

McBRYDE, the local police authority, tells Fielding that Aziz’s guilt is a certainty. Adela has named the doctor as her assailant and the broken field glasses with which she tried to beat him off have been found at the site. DR. CALLENDAR, Aziz’s superior at the hospital, will not allow Fielding, who is more and more certain that Adela is mistaken about her accusation, to question her.

Fielding joins the Nawab, Hamidullah and Mahmoud Ali to discuss Aziz’s defence and bail. The Indians warn Fielding that he is placing himself in jeopardy by siding with them against Turton and the British colony. They have sent for the notoriously anti-British barrister AMITRAO to defend Aziz, and Fielding becomes worried that bringing in such a controversial figure will be seen by the British as a direct challenge to the Established Order. But it becomes clear to him that this is just what his Indian friends are eager for.

The British colony gather at the club where Turton tells the assembly that Aziz’s request for bail will be refused. When Fielding dares to question this in the name of justice, he is forcibly ejected from the club by the drunken throng.

Adela survives the night and her fever breaks. The next morning, Mrs Moore refuses to visit her although Ronny protests that, as it is now “us” against “them”, his mother’s indifference will be looked on as very curious behavior.

Because of the upcoming Festival – a notoriously troublesome period for the city – and Adela’s improving health, Turton is backed into agreeing to grant Aziz’s bail request. As the case is being watched closely by Turton’s superiors in London, it is no longer advisable for Ronny to preside over the trial. Turton replaces him with Ronny’s Indian associate DAS. When the English ladies at the club learn that a case involving one of their own will be heard by a native judge, Mrs Turton takes it upon herself to go over her husband’s head to send for his superior SIR GILBERT.

Fielding, Hamidullah, Mahmoud Ali, and the Nawab travel to Chandrapore to question the native guide, who they are certain holds the key to finding out the truth. They arrive at the caves to learn from McBryde that the guide has disappeared. But McBryde is convinced that he has enough evidence against Aziz – including damning character testimony from Aziz’s rival DR. LAL along with a letter to Aziz’s cousin in Calcutta, making arrangements to visit a brothel. Fielding is reminded that even he will be called upon to testify that Aziz behaved strangely on the train ride back to Chandrapore after the incident.

When Adela is well enough to be questioned by McBryde, she confesses that she was never actually touched by her assailant.
Returning to his bungalow, she tells Ronny that she is no longer certain that Aziz was her assailant. Mrs Moore backs her up but Ronny remains adamant - the machinery has started and must work to its end. Mrs Moore decides that it would be better if she returned to England rather than take part in the trial. As Aziz’s bail hearing gets under way, a crowd from the festival procession gathers outside the courtroom demanding his freedom. A near-riot breaks out and after his bail is arranged, Aziz is hustled away in the Nawab’s car. But when the car crashes into a ditch, Aziz is charged with disturbing the peace and locked up again.

Sir Gilbert arrives in Chandrapore and explains to Turton that it is no longer a matter of justice or of Adela’s humiliation – it is the future of the Raj in India that is at stake. Mrs Moore leaves Chandrapore before Adela has a chance to say she’s sorry for the trouble she has caused. The following morning, Mrs Moore is found dead in her railway carriage.

As Aziz’s trial opens, the mob of anti-British agitators camp outside the courts, calling for justice and an Indian National Government. McBryde opens the case for the prosecution with an attack on Aziz’s character during which Mahmoud Ali has to be escorted out of the courtroom after an unflattering remark about Adela. After a scuffle over seating arrangements – the British contingent are not allowed to separate themselves from the rest of the Indian public – McBryde calls Adela as his first witness. As he leads her through the events of the fateful day, Adela stuns the courtroom by testifying that Dr Aziz never followed her into the cave and that she now believes him to be innocent.
Adela withdraws the charge to shouts of protest from the British community.

As riots and celebrations break out in the city, Fielding takes Adela back to his apartment at the college as she has nowhere else to go, having been abandoned by Ronny and the British.

Ronny, Callendar, Turton and McBryde all pack their things in preparation for leaving Chandrapore - it has been a total victory for Aziz. Fielding attempts to convince Aziz to call off collecting damages from Adela, which she can hardly afford. But Aziz has become violently anti-British and stands firm until Fielding tells him that Mrs Moore has died at which point he has a change of heart.

Fielding sees Adela off at the station. As the train pulls away, Adela hangs out the window looking back but failing to see Aziz on his bicycle watching her departure.…...

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