Passage to India
Forster’s tone is often poetic and sometimes ironic or philosophical major conflict · Adela Quested accuses Dr. Aziz of attempting to sexually assault her in one of the Marabar Caves. Aziz suspects Fielding has plotted against him with the English. rising action · Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore’s arrival in India; the women’s befriending of Aziz; Adela’s reluctant engagement to Ronny Heaslop; Ronny and the other Englishmen’s disapproval of the women’s interaction with Indians; Aziz’s organization of an outing to the Marabar Caves for his English friends; Adela’s and Mrs.
Moore’s harrowing experiences in the caves; Adela’s public insinuation that Aziz assaulted her in the caves; the inflammation of racial tensions between the Indians and English in Chandrapore climax · Aziz’s trial; Adela’s final admission that she is mistaken in her accusations and that Aziz is innocent; the courtroom’s eruption; Aziz’s release; the English community’s rejection of Adela falling action · Fielding’s conversations with Adela; Fielding and Aziz’s bickering over Aziz’s desire for reparations from Adela; Aziz’s assumption that Fielding has betrayed him and will marry Adela; Aziz’s increasingly anti-British sentiment; Fielding’s visit to Aziz with his new wife, Stella; Aziz’s befriending of Ralph and forgiveness of Fielding 5. What is the significance of negation in the novel, with particular reference to the Marabar Caves? The word “nothing” occurs frequently in A Passage to India, especially in Part 2, which deals with the Marabar Caves.
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The word does not appear by accident; it suggests an important aspect of Indian religious thought. Central to Hinduism is the concept conveyed by the words “neti, neti,” which means “not this, not this. ” The ultimate reality is beyond anything that can be known by the senses, mind or intellect. It is eternal, without form or attributes. It is beyond the subject-object distinction and cannot be known in the way that the things of the world are known. Anything that is said about it must be false, since it is beyond the realm of language. (In Western thought, this is known as the “via negativa,” the negative way. ) The ultimate reality is in this sense nothing, “no-thing,” which yet contains the potential of all things.
A careful examination of the way the Marabar Caves are described clearly suggests this “neti, neti” dimension of Indian thought (although it does not exhaust the meanings of this potent symbol). The Marabar Caves are renowned, and yet, curiously, there is very little to be said about them. In chapter 7, Adela tries to get some information from Professor Godbole about what the caves are like. But Godbole talks only about what they are not. When Adela prompts him, suggesting some attribute the caves must have, such as ornaments or sculptures, Godbole’s refrain is “Oh no, oh no. ” He repeats this negation four times, in a clear parallel to “neti, neti. Then Aziz asks Godbole to describe the caves, and he says it will be a pleasure, but no details are forthcoming.
Aziz thinks Godbole is holding something back. Perhaps the caves are full of stalactites, but again, the answer is in the negative: “but no, they weren’t. ” Other descriptions of the caves emphasize their nothingness: “Nothing, nothing attaches to them, and their reputation-for they have one-does not depend on human speech” (Chapter 12). Later in the same chapter, the numerous caves that have never been unsealed are described as follows: “Nothing is inside them, they were sealed up before the creation of pestilence or treasure; if mankind grew curious and excavated, nothing, nothing would be added to the sum of good and evil” (chapter 12).
When the expedition reaches the caves, Aziz speaks of the Mogul Emperor Akbar, who tried to unite India: “Nothing embraces the whole of India, nothing, nothing, and that was Akbar’s mistake. ” (chapter 14). In each of these passages, it is striking how the word “nothing” is always used twice: “Nothing, nothing. ” The fact that the caves have such an adverse effect on two of the English people, Adela and Mrs. Moore, suggests the strangeness of this idea of nothingness to the Western mind. For them, the “nothing” that is the caves is more like a frightening void than the infinite potential out of which all creation arises. It is yet another example of how the Western mind struggles and fails to understand the mysterious nature of India.