A Passage to India
E. M. Forster
Contributed by Pearl Vahle
Chapters 24-25

The hot season arrives in India, and the day of the trial dawns. Adela fears she may break down on the witness stand. As the English party drives to the court, the town is restive, and some workers are on strike in protest against the trial. Some of the English blame Fielding for the bad feeling in the city, and Callendar takes the opportunity to make a series of vicious racist remarks against the Indians.

At the trial, Mr. McBryde opens the case for the prosecution. There is an interruption, and the English party demand to be seated on the raised platform. They intimidate the magistrate, Das, and virtually take charge of the courtroom. But the defense, led by Amritao, soon succeeds in getting all the English removed from the platform, with the exception of Miss Quested.

McBryde continues with the prosecution case, attempting to demonstrate that the assault was premeditated. He mentions Mrs. Moore, whom he does not intend to call as a witness, and the rumor goes around the court that the prosecution has smuggled her out of the country because she would have proved Aziz’s innocence. Mahmoud Ali demands that Mrs. Moore be produced. He gets excited by his own rhetoric, then walks out of the court, saying the trial is a farce. The Indians in the court invoke Mrs. Moore’s name, and the chant is taken up by the crowd in the street outside.

After order is restored, Adela is called to testify. But as McBryde prompts her to say that Aziz followed her into the cave, she balks. She cannot find any memory of Aziz being present. She replies that she is not sure. When pressed by McBryde, she says she made a mistake, that Aziz never followed her into the cave. As bedlam breaks out in the courtroom, Adela says she withdraws her charge. Stunned, McBryde is forced to drop the case. The court breaks up in confusion.

Outside, as the authorities declare that a riot is taking place, Fielding takes charge of protecting Adela. They are carried along in a carriage together while the Indians throw garlands on them and applaud them. They end up at Fielding’s Government College, where they rest.

Meanwhile, a triumphal procession carries Aziz along, although for him there is no pleasure in it, because he has suffered too much. Fired up by the excitable Mahmoud Ali, the mob is about to attack the hospital to free Nureddin, the grandson of the Nawab Bahadur, whom they claim is being tortured. Only an intervention by Dr. Panna Lal, who retrieves Nureddin from the hospital, saves the day. The Nawab declares that he will renounce his British-conferred title.


The trial scene combines drama with farce. It seems to bring out the worst in both sides. Each has contempt for the other, and every action, on either side, merely confirms the racial stereotypes already well established. The English act as if they own the court, and McBryde’s remark that the darker races are attracted to the fairer, but not vice versa, is presented (as racism often is) as a simple matter of scientific fact, not prejudice. It is McBryde’s belief in this kind of science that enables him to regard the Indians as an inferior race, and still think of himself as a fair-minded man.

Adela’s sudden reversal comes as a surprise, but she has had her doubts all along about Aziz’s guilt, and she finally finds the courage, at the last minute, to speak honestly. What really happened in the cave has still not been established; it remains a mystery.

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