A Passage to India, a 1984 drama film directed by David Lean, is a well-acted intimate epic movie. While portraying the British ruling over India, the director succeeds in producing events that consequently move towards judging an elitist culture of Great Britain. Based mainly on E. M. Forster’s book written in 1924, the movie relates the story of two newcomers, namely Miss Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore, to India. Lean reaches success in illustrating feelings, emotions, and intentions of each hero. While analyzing the character of Adela, one may notice that she is confused with her live and motives. Therefore, the movie is about an English woman who cannot decide what she wants to do in her life and thus, unintentionally accuses an innocent man of sexual assault.
A Passage to India presents Miss Adela Quested as a young female whose positive qualities are her courage, decency and innate honesty. The audience may see that her approach to life is intellectual. The woman is sensible, but she is not sensitive. As a result, the audience views her as an antithesis to Mrs. Moore, who relies on her emotional intuition. Such a distinction impacts their understanding of one another. Adela’s character is significant in outlining the theme of the movie. It is Adela Quested who takes a passage to India and takes the audience on a journey with her. She is the reason why Mr. Cyril Fielding and Dr. Aziz meet. However, she is also the one who comes between them by the end of the film.
Miss Quested travels to India to be reunited with her fiancé Ronny, Mrs. Moore’s son. In this country, the woman acts as an educated free thinker and individualist. These features make her question the standard behavior of English people toward the Indians. This tendency also prevent her from making correct decisions. On one hand, she does not want to marry Ronny because she does not love him, while, on the other hand, she does not wish to be considered a typical English wife.
Sexual awakening is a theme that refers to Adela as it is explored primarily through her character. Although not discussed explicitly, the idea is prevalent throughout the whole film. In one episode, she tells Ronnie that she does not want to marry him because working as a British magistrate, he is busy with his job and seems to be disinterested in her. However, the next moment makes her change her mind. David Lean shows the woman on a bike ride shortly after her arrival in India. During the excursion, she finds a deserted crossroads sign, which has the shape of a cross. While riding away from the sign, she encounters the ruins of a temple. Adela observes one statue after another until she reaches the temple itself. The temple statues illustrate sexual encounters between men and women that fascinate Adela. A group of wild monkeys interrupts her observation and makes her come back to her house. Being confused, she admits to her fiancé that she has made a mistake of thinking that they should not marry. Apparently impressed by the temple ruins, Adela changes her mind, regardless of Ronny’s evident disinterest in her. The scene proves that the character cannot decide what kind of future she wants to have.
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The director’s decision to include this episode emphasizes the presence of sexual agitation in Adela before her visit to the cave. The event foreshadows the next scenes of A Passage to India. As a result, it makes the conflict of the movie more powerful than it could be. The scene also helps to observe the development of Adela’s identity. The cross symbolizes her English parenting. However, her decision to ride away from the cross points to the presence of curiosity and distance from that upbringing. The event shows the audience that the woman is confused and sexually inexperienced, but, at the same time, intrigued. It also helps Lean to make Adela’s experience in the caves understandable to viewers.
The audience may also notice that Adela’s intent to come to India is connected not only with meeting her fiancé, but also discovering something new. Once in India, Mrs. Moore and Adela arrange an expedition to the Marabar Caves with Dr. Aziz, who is a local physician. Despite the fact that it is controversial for an Indian male to accompany two British females on an outing, the doctor’s reputation and spirit suggest that he is a trustworthy person. In A Passage to India, the Marabar Caves play an essential role as they serve as the place where the cultural tensions rise to their climax. In these caves, all characters totally change. Adela Quested is not an exception in this case. The movie shows that the mysterious atmosphere and darkness of the caves are apparent causes of her thoughts about her loveless marriage to Mrs. Moore’s son. She admits to herself that she does not love him, but she will have to spend a loveless marital life with him. Therefore, Adela innocently asks Dr. Aziz about his ex-wife and the number of wives he possesses. Out of annoyance, she enters another cave, where she is attacked by hallucination that the man tries to rape her. When everyone returns from the expedition, the police arrest Aziz for the attempted rape. As Adela is a wealthy British woman and Dr. Aziz is a local man in colonized India, his trial is not fair.
Symbolically interpreted, the caves reveal the primitive nature of people. The life of primitive and uncivilized individuals was full of bloodshed and chaos. Similarly, the caves show Adela’s primitive nature because she accuses an innocent man of rape. Another aspect is that the experience during the expedition makes her undergo a crisis of rationalism contrasted with spiritualism. While her character substantially alters in the several days after her assumed assault, her testimony at the trial symbolizes a return of the old Adela.