E M Forster’s A Passage to India presents a glimpse of the Indian society and culture during the British rule. Instead of focusing solely on the atrocities of the British government and officials, Forster has presented how the Indian society and political landscape were changing in the era. Apart from the rise of nationalism in British ruled India, Forster also highlights how India’s view of the outside world was changing influenced by British rule. Indian characters like Dr. Aziz and Prof Godbole are used to bolster the sarcasm in the novel which is also a satire and mocks the British intervention in Indian politics.
The leading characters in the novel include Dr. Aziz, Cyril Fielding, Mrs. Moore, Ronny Heaslop and Adela Quested. Forster’s tale is set in pre-independence, undivided India and uses fictitious characters and settings to tell the story. The first part of the novel is named Mosque. Apart from the Mosque and the local hospital most of the tale in the initial part is set in the club and the local high school. Then it moves on to the Marabar caves adding frenzy and excitement to the story. Dr. Aziz is the main character in the first part apart from Cyril Fielding. Other major characters that feature in the first part of the novel include Mrs. Moore, Ronny Heaslop, Adela Quested, and Prof Godbole.
Aziz is a talkative and friendly creature who is pained and bored by the attitude of the British but has adjusted to his way of life at Chandrapore under his British superiors. He is a close friend of Cyril Fielding and likes him a lot. Aziz is interested in Arabic poetry and Mughal history. Apart from his practice as a doctor, he spends time writing poetry. He likes Mrs. Moore whom he welcomes at the Mosque and respects her as a mother throughout the novel. Aziz’s transformation begins from the Marabar incident and by the end, he is fully transformed and the hatred of the British has grown in him. He leaves Cyril Fielding and wants to fight for the freedom of India and so will his successors.
Despite being a British, Fielding is unlike the other British characters in the novel who treat the locals as inferiors and are here to rule India. He is a trusted friend of Aziz and likes to mix with the local people. The headmaster of the local high school, Cyril is patient and more human than most British characters at the club. He actively works to free Aziz after his arrest following the cave incident. While it makes him even dear in the eys of Aziz and hated by the British, his attempts to defend Adela make Aziz suspicious who thinks Adela must be punished for having wronged him. Fielding marries Stella, one of Mrs. Moore’s kids. Readers also see a reflection of Forster in Fielding’s character.
The mother of Ronny Heaslop, the magistrate of Chandrapore is annoyed by the environment at the local club in Chandrapore and decides to cool her mind by seeking refuge inside the local mosque where she finds Aziz alone. The two get acquainted and Aziz admires her simple and kind nature. While Mrs. Moore is also unsettled by the cave incident, she maintains that Aziz is innocent. She dies on her way back to England. However, Aziz remembers her with respect and because of her, he decides to pardon Miss Quested following his release after the cave incident.
Ronny Heaslop is the son of Mrs. Moore whose attitude towards the Indians is the opposite of his mother’s. Ronny wants Aziz to be punished severely for the cave incident. He is the local magistrate and uses his influence to affect the outcome of the case. However, Adela takes her allegations against Aziz back and he is released. Till the end, Aziz is unable to pardon Ronny Heaslop. Ronny is in India only to do his duty and he soon becomes a part of the British herd at the club after coming to India. Both Mrs. Moore and Adela dislike his attitude towards the locals but Ronny cannot be as sympathetic to Indians as his mother since it affects his position as a British official.
Adela is betrothed to Ronny but the relationship breaks following Aziz’s trial. In her attempt to explore India, she ends up being on the wrong side of the picture and ends up giving rise to rumors about herself among the natives and the British. However, her stay in India still proves to be an important turn from where her life takes a new course. Aziz starts hating her for she accuses him of having tried to molest her at the caves. Some days later when her mind clear she frees Aziz from her allegations believing it could have been someone else inside the caves. Cyril Fielding supports her after her relationship with Ronny has broken and she wants to return to England. Aziz thinks that Fielding is interested in Adela and believes he wants to marry her. The friendship of Aziz and Fielding is affected due to Adela since she gives rise to suspicions in Aziz’s mind. However, his doubts are cleared at the end when he discovers Fielding has married Stella, Ronny’s step-sister.
Prof Godbole teaches at the same college as Fielding. He does not like to get involved in the local affairs and maintains his distance. After the first part, he resurfaces in the novel at the end in the third section titled temples. Forster has used his character to inject some fun into the novel.