In E.M.Forster’s A Passage to India, Adela Quested is presented as a plain young woman whose best qualities are her innate honesty and a kind of courageous decency. In the beginning, she accompanies Mrs. Moore to India for the purpose of seeing her fiance at work before deciding on marriage to him. She is a queer, cautious girl with an intellectual approach to life. She wants to see India, rather than to know Indians, but she rebels against the view of India as seen from the English Club. The thought of spending her life trying to recreate England in the middle of India appalls her, and she tries to break the bonds which she feels tightening around her. She tries to understand Ronny’s attitude, but she feels in the main that her countrymen are unjustifiably rude and snobbish.
Lacking Mrs. Moore’s intuition and sympathetic heart, Adela questions intently everyone she meets, accepting what they say as verbal truth. She resents Ronny‘s self-satisfied manner, and she refuses to let him force his opinions on her. Her relationship with him is friendly but passionless. She knows life, love, and death as if all her experience came from books.
On the way to the caves, Adela is preoccupied with plans for her forthcoming marriage and her future life in India. Somewhat gauche in her quest for truth, Adela longs to find some universal truth about India which will keep her from adopting the Anglo-Indian mentality against her will. She realızes with a start that she doesn’t love Ronny and is amazed not to have considered this question before. Adela casually asks Aziz how many wives he has. She is her usual decent, honest, inquisitive self, and she fails to see the consternation this question causes in Aziz. He bolts into a cave and she leisurely follows him.
What happens in this cave profoundly affects Adela’s life. Perhaps a hysteria grips her when she confronts with the pre-historic darkness; perhaps she suffers a hallucination while glimpsing a vision of the universe. She comprehends in a terrifying way her own limitations, especially her incapacity to love. The echo she first hears in the cave remains with her until the trial, constantly reminding her of the emptiness of her own soul. She wishes Mrs. Moore, of whom she is genuinely fond, would visit her. But the older woman has also had a terrifying experience and she cannot extend herself for anyone. Adela is often reduced to tears, which she considers vile, a degradation more subtle than anything endured in the Marabar.
She feels very remorseful over what happened, wishes she could repay Ronny indeed, all of India -for the trouble she has caused. Adela feels unfit for a personal relationship. She accepts Ronny’s rejection of her as a wise decision. She tries to write a letter of apology to Aziz but realizes she has no real affection for Aziz, nor for Indians generally. Her courage in admitting that she was mistaken in her accusation in the face of tremendous pressure on the part of the British colony is not appreciated by anyone save Fielding. These two decent, sensible, honest people become friends. Adela assures Fielding that she will be all right once she is in England, among her own friends, and settled in a career. But her sense of guilt remains with her, and she tries to find ways to repay India for the harm she has done.
Also read: Symbols and Motifs in Forster’s “A Passage to India”