Overview: A Passage to India
The main incident of the novel is the accusation by an English woman that an Indian doctor followed her into a cave and attempted to rape her. Doctor Aziz (the accused man) is a respected member of the Muslim community in India. Like many people of his social class, his relationship with the British administration is somewhat ambivalent. He sees most of the British as enormously rude, so he is pleased and flattered when an English woman, Mrs. Moore, attempts to befriend him.
Fielding also becomes a friend, and he is the only English person who attempts to help him--after the accusation is made. Despite Fielding's help, Aziz is constantly worried that Fielding will somehow betray him). The two part ways and then meet many years later. Forster suggests that the two can never really be friends until the English withdraw from India.
A Passage to India is a searing portrayal of the English mismanagement of India, as well as an accusatory missal against many of the racist attitudes the English colonial administration held. The novel explores the many rights and wrongs of Empire--the way in which the native Indian population was oppressed by the English administration.
With the exception of Fielding, none of the English believe in Aziz's innocence. The head of the police believes that the Indian character is inherently flawed by an ingrained criminality. There appears to be little doubt that Aziz will be found guilty, because the word of an English woman is believed over the word of an Indian.
Such friendships cannot last in the heat of the Indian sun--nor under the auspices of the British Empire. Forster ushers us into the minds of the characters with his stream-of-consciousness style. We begin to understand the missed meanings, the failure to connect. Ultimately, we begin to see how these characters are kept apart.
A Passage to India is a marvelously written, and marvelously sad novel. The novel emotively and naturally recreates the Raj in India, and offers insight into how the Empire was run. Ultimately, though, it's a tale of powerlessness and alienation. Even friendship and the attempt to connect fails.