A Passage to India
by E.M. Forster
Mrs. Moore, mother of Ronny, Stella, and Ralph, friend to Aziz and Adela, is a loveable sweet-little-old-lady.
Or is she?
When she first arrives in India alongside Adela, Mrs. Moore, like Adela, is appalled at the way that the British treat Indians. Unlike Mrs. Turton, Mrs. Moore is respectful, humble, and open to everyone and everything she encounters, from jittery Aziz to the teeny wasp on her clothes peg. The novel chooses Mrs. Moore as the voice of Christianity and universal love – "God...is...love," she tells Ronny (1.5.97). She even enjoys brief celebrity as "Esmiss Esmoor": rumored to have been whisked away by the British because she would have proven Aziz's innocence, Mrs. Moore is set up by the Indians as a martyr, a Hindu goddess with her own little shrines around Chandrapore.
Does the novel let Mrs. Moore continue to be charming and loveable? Oh, no. The novel does the rough literary equivalent of throwing our sweet-little-old-lady to the wolves. Well, into a cave, to be more precise. Mrs. Moore's visit to the Marabar Caves turns her Christian love on its head. It exposes her to the meaninglessness of life and the mean-sidedness of human nature. It's an experience that saps her of her will to live, and she dies on a ship back to England.
Why would Forster pick such a fragile vessel for his message of universal love? Why reduce her credo to a sad typo – "God si love" (3.33.2)? Is there any way to reclaim Mrs. Moore – or Esmiss Esmoor – from the ou-boum of the cave?