Mr. Turton, the Collector, issues invitations to numerous Indian gentlemen in the neighborhood for the Bridge Party. While he argues with Mr. Ram Chand and the elderly and distinguished Nawab Bahadur, Mahmoud Ali claims that the Bridge Party is due to actions from the Lieutenant Governor, for Turton would never do this unless compelled. The Nawab Bahadur is a large proprietor and philanthropist; his decision to attend the Bridge party carries great weight. Mr. Graysford and Mr. Sorley, the missionaries who live nearby, argue that no one should be turned away by God, but cannot decide whether divine hospitality should end at monkeys or jackals or wasps or even bacteria. They conclude that someone must be excluded or they shall be left with nothing.
The Bridge Party is a significant event for the Indians, who consider it with an appropriate skepticism. They believe that the motivation for the party is not a sincere attempt to stimulate a sense of reciprocity among the two societies, but rather the dictate of a higher-ranking colonial official. The decision of the Nawab Bahadur, however, dictates that those invited should accept the invitation. Forster specifically shows the Nawab Bahadur to be a distinguished member of Indian society whose decisions must be respected, a symbol of Indian authority; this foreshadows later events in which he does not receive the appropriate deference from others.
The discussion about religion by the missionaries is a reminder of the hierarchies that dominate A Passage to India. The purpose of these hierarchies is to degrade others to elevate the elite; when such an elite system of inclusion and exclusion occurs, the ability to set who can be can included is the only power that these elites truly have. Their conversation has an obvious analogy in British India. The British define their power by their ability to dominate the Indians and exclude them from certain privileges, whether political or social.
Neither Mrs. Moore nor Adela Quested consider the Bridge Party to be a success. The Indians for the most part adopt European costume, and the conversations are uncomfortable. Mrs. Moore speaks to Mrs. Bhattacharya and asks if she may call on her some day, but becomes distressed when she believes that Mrs. Bhattacharya will postpone a trip to Calcutta for her. During the party, Mr. Turton and Mr. Fielding are the only officials who behave well toward the Indian guests. Mr. Fielding comes to respect Mrs. Moore and Adela. Mr. Fielding suggests that Adela meet Dr. Aziz. Ronny and Mrs. Moore discuss his behavior in India, and he tells her that he is not there to be pleasant, for he has more important things to do there. Mrs. Moore believes that Ronny reminds her of his public school days when he talked like an intelligent and embittered boy. Mrs. Moore reminds him that God put us on earth to love our neighbors, even in India. She feels it is a mistake to mention God, but as she has aged she found him increasingly difficult to avoid.
The Bridge Party is an honorable failure for all those who attend, borne of mostly good intentions but extremely poor execution. It represents all of the problems of cross-cultural exchange between the English and the Indians. With a few notable exceptions, the British who attend the party do not behave well. Of the men, only Mr. Fielding and Mr. Turton behave well, while among the women only Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested are interested in speaking with the Indians. However, these two women, who wish to learn from the Indians, find that this particular setting is stifling.
Even when Mrs. Moore and Adela attempt to reach out to Indians, they find that their attempts go awry. F The interaction between Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Bhattacharya is indicative of this; while Mrs. Moore simply wants to visit with Mrs. Bhattacharya, this woman, unaccustomed to such polite behavior, misinterprets this as a significant event and plans to postpone her vacation for it. Forster indicates that the desire for each of these groups to be polite and sensitive to one another creates a stifling atmosphere between them; those who wish to interact socially have such a fear of offending one another that they create barriers to their own interaction. This also illustrates a prevalent motif in A Passage to India, the insufficiency of good intentions.
Mrs. Moore serves as the moral center in A Passage to India, a woman of exemplary behavior and intentions toward others. She behaves with a direct simplicity, reminding her son of Christian teachings. Mrs. Moore does bear a certain burden because of this uncomplicated goodness; her unwavering, righteous mindset will make her a victim of others’ less stringent moral systems, while her belief in the tenets of Christian morality will be tested in the nonChristian landscape of India. Forster mentions that Mrs. Moore finds it more difficult to avoid mentioning God as she ages; this shows that Mrs. Moore has a great concern for her own morality and that she has a preoccupation with death.