Question: Discuss the symbolic significance of Marabar Caves in A Passage to India.
The Marabar Caves play a very important role in the novel “A Passage to India”. It is Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested’s visit to these caves that develops the plot and creates all the excitement of this novel. Various individuals’ reactions to these caves help us to understand their character. These caves also have a philosophical significance that helps Foster create the atmosphere of this novel.
The origin of Marabar Caves
E. M. Foster (1879-1970) tells us that the source of these caves was the Barabas Caves, located near the Gaya in Bihar. They were associated with Buddhism, but Foster has placed his own creative importance on the caves.
The atmosphere of the caves
The Caves are absolutely dark and in one of them Adela gets hallucinations and she alleges that Dr. Aziz had tried to rape her. This creates a storm in Chandrapore and Aziz is arrested for trial. The British community is convinced that the girl is telling a lie. However, at the trial, Adela withdraws the accusation and Aziz is released.
The mystery of the caves
There is a sense of mystery about the Marabar Caves. They are known for their vastness, emptiness, and nothingness. They have the reputation of being extraordinary, but nobody knows what is extraordinary about them. All the caves are alike. Forster tells us that,
“They are dark caves. Even when they open toward the sun, very little light penetrates down the entrance tunnel into a circular chamber.”
Sundry effects of the caves on major characters
The Marabar caves produce different effects on the three major characters – Mrs. Moore, Adela Quested, and Fielding.
Emptiness and nothingness to Mrs. Moore
Mrs. Moore, who wishes to be one with the universe, hears an infinite echo in the cave that indicates the meaninglessness of the world. She has heard that everything exists, nothing exists, and nothing is worth it. She becomes skeptical about all human efforts and all values of life. She suffers from the emptiness of life and the meaninglessness of love and Christianity.
The unconscious fear of Adela
Adela is similarly arrested by the echo of the cave. The echo that is actually coming from the caves of her mind reflects her unconscious fear that loveless marriage with Rony is nothing but rape.
Creating skepticism within Fielding
The Marabar spirit also touches Fielding. Being touched by the caves, he begins to doubt his long-cherished principles and ideals. That is why Mrs. Moore, Adela, and Fielding return to England with a negative answer that is the paradigm of the caves.
The symbolic significance of the caves
The caves represent the Indian heart which was dark to the English. The caves symbolize the whole world which is absolutely dark because of the imperialist governing system. The echo of the cave is the echo of all India; It is used effectively from the beginning of the novel to the conclusion. The echoes at Marabbar are the symbol of evil and negation. The stones of the caves are important symbols in the novel. The stone hence remains symbolic throughout the novel of man’s inability to obtain completion. Therefore, Forster is unique in representing the Marabar Caves.
Religious concept about the Marabar Caves
The Hindu trinity consists of Brahma who is the creator, Vishnu who is the preserver, and Shiva who is the destroyer. After Mrs. Moore’s experience in the cave, it seems that Shiva is dominating Chandrapore. There is an atmosphere of conflict, animosity, and destructiveness everywhere. Racial hatred dominates the scene. Even Fielding who sympathizes with India finds it difficult to be friendly with Aziz.
To conclude we can say that the allegorical journey of Dr. Aziz, Mrs. Moore, and Adela to the Marabar Caves is the central point of the novel’s symbolic as well as the dramatic framework. They lead to an event that results in bitter tensions between the British authorities and the Indian people, and for Adela and Mrs. Moore they represent a voice of evil and neglect.