Part 2 begins with a description of how ancient the Marabar hills and caves are.
The caves, which are dark and all alike, are about twenty feet in diameter. A
narrow tunnel leads into them.
Aziz arranges the expedition to the caves that he had mentioned earlier. He does
not really want to do this, but he has heard a story that Mrs. Moore and Adela are
offended with him because no invitation has reached them. Fielding and
Professor Godbole are also to come on the trip, but when the day comes they
miss the early morning train from Chandrapore that goes to the caves. Aziz is
distraught, because he thinks the expedition has been ruined. But Mrs. Moore
encourages him, and he determines to ensure that he handles with trip
competently, just to refute those who say Indians are incapable of responsibility.
On the train journey, Adela enjoys making plans for her future with Ronny, but
Mrs. Moore has become apathetic about life. At sunrise, the train approaches the
Marabar Caves. Aziz has gone to great trouble to arrange for the ladies to be
transported the remaining distance on an elephant. When they are close to the
caves, they stop to eat. Aziz is pleased because so far, everything is going well
and according to plan. He entertains Mrs. Moore, to whom he is devoted, and
Adela, with stories about Mogul Emperors of the past.
After Adela has confessed her desire not to adopt the mentality of the other
Anglo-Indians she has met, they go inside the first cave. Mrs. Moore dislikes it. It
is too crowded with villagers and servants, and she nearly faints. She also
dislikes the echo in the cave. As a result of this bad experience, she decides not
to visit another cave, and she gives permission for Aziz and Adela to go alone to
the next one. They are accompanied by only one person, a guide. Mrs. Moore
remains behind in a deck chair, but she is tired, and this soon turns into despair.
She feels that nothing has value. She loses interest in everything and doesn't
want to communicate with anyone.
The visit to the caves is the key event in the novel. The first cave is significant for
the effect it produces on Mrs. Moore. The echo is really a symbolic point about
the Indian religious philosophy. A famous passage in the Upanishads, which are
revered Indian scriptures, is "I am That, Thou art That, all This is That." This
means that everything in creation, from the highest to the lowest, is an
expression of Brahman. All the diverse forms of life are really only manifestations
of the one life, the divine consciousness, that takes on different forms. So in the
cave, whatever sound is made, the echo sends it back as a "boum" sound. It
makes everything the same. This is too much for Mrs. Moore, who has been
brought up on Protestant Christianity, with its concern for ethical conduct, for
distinctions between right and wrong. As Forster wrote elsewhere, "The Hindu is
concerned not with conduct, but with vision. To realize what God is seems more
important than to do what God wants" (quoted in Wilfred Stone, "The Caves of A
Passage to India," in A Passage to India: Essays in Interpretation, edited by John
Beer, Barnes and Noble, 1986, pp. 18-19). This invasion of Mrs. Moore's mind by
a philosophy that is so different from what she has been brought up to believe is