E.M. Forster's A Passage to India concerns the relations between the English and the native population of India during the colonial period in which Britain ruled India. The novel takes place primarily in Chandrapore, a city along the Ganges River notable only for the nearby Marabar caves. The main character of the novel is Dr. Aziz, a Moslem doctor in Chandrapore and widower. After he is summoned to the Civil Surgeon's home only to be promptly ignored, Aziz visits a local Islamic temple where he meets Mrs. Moore, an elderly British woman visiting her son, Mr. Heaslop, who is the City Magistrate. Although Aziz reprimands her for not taking her shoes off in the temple before realizing she has in fact observed this rule, the two soon find that they have much in common and he escorts her back to the club.
Back at the club, Mrs. Moore meets her companion, Adela Quested, who will likely marry her son. Adela complains that they have seen nothing of India, but rather English customs replicated abroad. Although a few persons make racist statements about Indians, Mr. Turton, the Collector, proposes having a Bridge Party (to bridge the gulf between east and west). When Mrs. Moore tells her son, Ronny, about Aziz, he reprimands her for associating with an Indian. When Mr. Turton issues the invitations to the Bridge Party, the invitees suspect that this is a political move, for the Collector would not behave so cordially without a motive, but accept the invitations despite the suspicion.
For Adela and Mrs. Moore, the Bridge Party is a failure, for only a select few of the English guests behave well toward the Indians. Among these is Mr. Fielding, the schoolmaster at the Government College, who suggests that Adela meet Aziz. Mrs. Moore scolds her son for being impolite to the Indians, but Ronny Heaslop feels that he is not in India to be kind, for there are more important things to do; this offends her sense of Christian charity.
Aziz accepts Fielding's invitation to tea with Adela, Mrs. Moore, and Professor Narayan Godbole. During tea they discuss the Marabar Caves, while Fielding takes Mrs. Moore to see the college. Ronny arrives to find Adela alone with Aziz and Godbole, and later chastises Fielding for leaving an Englishwoman alone with two Indians. However, he reminds Ronny that Adela is capable of making her own decisions. Aziz plans a picnic at the Marabar Caves for Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore. Adela tells Ronny that she will not marry him, but he nevertheless suggests that they take a car trip to see Chandrapore. The Nawab Bahadur, an important local figure, agrees to take them. During the trip, the car swerves into a tree and Miss Derek, an Englishwoman passing by at the time, agrees to take them back to town. However, she snubs the Nawab Bahadur and his chauffeur. Adela speaks to Ronny, and tells him that she was foolish to say that they should not be married.
Both Aziz and Godbole fall sick after the party at Mr. Fielding's home, so...