A Passage to India
E.M. Forster was a British novelist who traveled a lot in the early 1900’s to India and other countries. He wrote a bunch of other famous novels, all of which are about class, race, prejudice, friendship and love in one form or another. Almost all of them have been made into very well known movies like A Room with a View, Howard’s End, and this one.
Dr. Aziz:The main guy, a Mohammedan (Moslem) Indian doctor. People like him a lot – he wants to be friends with the English but ends up being sorry he is. He’s friendly and eager to please.
Mr. Turton: The collector (British), he’s basically a jerk.
Mr. Fielding: British school master-Government College in his late-40’s, nice and really doesn’t get why the Indians and English can’t get along.
Ronny Heaslop: British, City Magistrate, he’s supposed to marry Miss Quested. He thinks the English are better than the Indians.
Major Callendar: British Civil Surgeon, Aziz’s boss, he’s an ass.
Mahmoud Ali: Indian, lawyer and friend to Aziz.
Hamidullah: Indian friend/uncle to Aziz.
Mrs. Moore: British, Ronny’s mother, an older woman who thinks everyone is equal regardless of race.
Miss Adela Quested: British, fiancé to Ronny Heaslop, she is all prim and proper and thinks she wants to be friends with the Indians, but in the end, she finds she can’t.
Professor Godbole: Hindu Indian, works for Fielding, he’s a teacher who is kinds distant from the conflicts between the races.
The story takes place in the city of Chandrapore in India in the early 1920’s when the British occupied, colonized, and controlled India.
Dr. Aziz, an Indian Doctor, gets to be friends with a British Professor, Fielding, and two British women, Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested. He offers to take them to see the famous Marabar Caves. Once there, a strange and unexplained event occurs and Aziz winds up being accused of attacking Miss Quested. He is arrested and put on trial. This trial represents and heightens all the conflicts between Indians and English, and is especially scandalous because Fielding has taken the side of the Indians over the British.
Eventually, Miss Quested is on the stand and takes back her accusation, causing widespread chaos in the streets. Miss Quested, Fielding and Aziz all go their separate ways. Two years later, Fielding and Aziz are reunited only to come to the conclusion that as long as the English are still in India, the English and Indians cannot be friends.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
PART I – MOSQUE
- Describes the landscape of the town of Chandrapore in India where the story takes place. It is near the river Ganges, and 20 miles away are the famous Marabar Caves.
- There are a few beautiful houses, and some dirty alleys in parts of the city, and many gardens in other parts that are full of palm trees.
- The sky is beautiful and is many colors. The Marabar Hills which house the Marabar caves are described.
- Young Indian Dr. Aziz arrives at the home of his friend (uncle), Hamidullah and his wife for dinner. Their mutual friend Mahmoud Ali is also there.
- The three men smoke from a Hookah (a water pipe) while Hamidullah’s servants prepare dinner.
- They talk about whether or not it’s possible to be friends with an Englishman. They discuss how when the English first come to India they are friendly to the Indians, but after a while, they learn prejudice from the other English, and behave as if the Indians are not human or worth speaking to.
- Aziz and Hamidullah go inside and speak to Hamidullah’s wife, who asks Aziz when he is going to get married again.
- Aziz replies that once was enough, and tells us that his three small children live in another town with his mother-in-law (Aziz’s wife is dead).
- Finally they all sit down to eat, and in the middle of dinner a messenger arrives and says that Aziz has been summoned by the Civil Surgeon, Major Callendar. Aziz is angry because the British Callendar is always calling him away from dinner for no good reason in order to prove his power over Aziz.
- Aziz arrives at the Major’s quarters after a long while (his bike got a flat tire and he has to wait to find a tonga [taxi]). When he gets there, the Major’s servant informs Aziz that the major is not even there, and has left Aziz no message.
- Aziz leaves angrily and begins walking back. He gets tired and stops to rest inside one of his favorite mosques. While he is sitting inside, he is startled by a woman who has also been resting inside. Aziz scolds her angrily telling her that she shouldn’t be there, and asks her if she has remembered to take her shoes off. She has, and Aziz becomes less angry and the two talk. She is an older woman, 50’s, and her name is Mrs. Moore. They exchange stories about their children (both have three). She has come to the mosque to get away from the stuffy British Chandrapore Club where there was a performance of the play "Cousin Kate" going on.
- Mrs. Moore tells Aziz that she is new to India and has come to visit her son, the City Magistrate, Ronny Heaslop.
- Aziz blurts out how unfair Major Callendar always is to him.
- Aziz escorts her back to the club, but he can’t go in because Indians are not allowed.
- At the club, Mrs. Moore meets up again with Adela Quested, whom she has brought from England as the girl Ronny will probably marry.
- Adela is saying she wants to see the real India, and real Indians. The other British laugh at her for wanting to see "natives." Mrs. Callendar remarks that "…the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die."
- Mr. Turton says that if she wants he will arrange a Bridge Party for her so that she can meet some of the Indians, if it would amuse her. Adela says that she only wants to meet those Indians that he comes across socially and as friends. Turton replies that the British don’t come across any of them socially.
- Back at their home, Mrs. Moore is scolded by Ronny when she tells him of her encounter with Aziz. Ronny is also furious with Aziz for being kinda rude with Mrs. Moore. She innocently tells Ronny that Aziz didn’t seem to like the Callendars, and Ronny threatens to report that to Major Callendar, but Mrs. Moore talks him out of it.
- The next day, the Turtons invite the Indian gentlemen of the neighborhood and their wives to a garden party.
- This causes quite a stir among the Indians, who are not sure whether or not they want to go. In the end, most of the men decide that they will go.
- The garden party starts off uncomfortably, like a 7th grade dance with the Indians stand on one side, and the British on another.
- Finally Mr. Turton makes the rounds, shaking hands with the Indian men, and Mrs. Turton, Mrs. Moore and Adela do the same with the women. On an impulse, Mrs. Moore asks one of the Indian women, Mrs. Bhattacharya, if she and Adela want to come over for tea. Mrs. Bhattacharya says yes, and a date is set for Thursday morning.
- Mr. Fielding the Principal of the Government College, invites Mrs. Moore and Adela to his house for tea Thursday afternoon, so they can meet some more Indians. Adela asks him if he can invite Dr. Aziz, and Mr. Fielding says yes.
- Later that night, Ronny and Mrs. Moore talk again, about Adela and India. Ronny wonders if Adela will fit in with the others, since she is so individual. Mrs. Moore remarks how Adela is upset by the unpleasant treatment the Indians receive from the British. Ronny becomes angry and says that the British are not there to be pleasant, but rather to keep the peace.
- The day of the garden party, to which Aziz was invited, Aziz and Major Callendar have a fight about why Aziz did not come the night that he was summoned by the Major.
- Aziz becomes depressed thinking about how he misses his wife. He decides not to go to the garden party. He goes to Hamidullah’s house, but Hamidullah is at the party. Aziz borrows his pony and rides. Dr. Panna Lal, with whom Aziz was meant to go to the party, rides by in his carriage and scolds Aziz for not being at home when he came for him. Aziz is pissed and purposefully spooks the old man Lal’s horse, who bolts, with a terrified Lal in tow.
- When Aziz arrives home, he receives an invitation to Mr. Fielding’s tea. Aziz and Fielding have never met, and Aziz is psyched.
- Mr. Fielding didn’t get to India until he was 40 years old and he doesn’t really fit in with either the Indians or English. He is not racist enough for the English, and the Indians are wary of him because he does not treat them as the other British do.
- Aziz arrives for the tea party while Fielding is still getting dressed. Fielding has lost his collar stud and Aziz lends him his. Aziz is happy and surprised at how open and friendly Fielding is toward him, even inviting Aziz to make himself at home. Fielding complains about having to wear collars at all, and Aziz comments that as an Indian, when he wears British clothing like a collar, he is left alone by the British police, whereas when he wears traditional Indian dress, he is harassed.
- Mrs. Moore and Miss Adela Quested arrive, feeling bad because the carriage that the Bhattacharyas were supposed to send for their morning get-together did not arrive. Aziz, a Moslem Mohammedan, says that this happened because the Bhattacharyas are Hindus, who are known to be slack and unsanitary. Aziz then invites the ladies to his house sometime. They accept and Aziz panics when he thinks about how dirty and awful his tiny bungalow is.
- Professor Godbole, Fielding’s assistant, and a Brahmann, arrives, and remains almost completely silent all through lunch.
- Aziz asks Adela if she will settle down in India; she replies that she can’t, which is a strange comment since she’s supposed to be marrying Ronny, who is indefinitely stationed in India.
- Fielding takes Mrs. Moore on a tour of the school, and Adela stays behind with Godbole and Aziz. They start to talk about the Marabar Caves and how hard they are to describe, when Ronny bursts in, angry that his mother is not here and that Adela is alone with two Indians. Mrs. Moore returns and Ronny hustles the two women away with him. Aziz loudly offers to take the women on a tour of the Marabar caves.
- On the ride to polo, Ronny criticizes Aziz for his missing back collar stud and says that that shows how slack Indians are as a people. (He doesn’t know, of course, that Aziz lent his stud to Fielding).
- Mrs. Moore asks to be dropped off at the bungalow, and Ronny and Adela go on together. Adela tells him she has decided not to marry him. The two are quietly sitting and talking, when an older Indian, Nawab Bahadur drives up in his new car and insists that he take them for a ride. They go, and the car takes off. They get into an accident, when an animal that no one but Adela sees runs out of the darkness and into the car.
- They all walk around looking for tracks, when Miss Derek appears in her car and offers them a ride back (all except the chauffeur). Miss Derek is employed by the Indians. She is called the Maharani of Mukdul. In the midst of all the excitement, Adela changes her mind and she and Ronny become engaged.
- When they return to their bungalow and tell Mrs. Moore, she doesn’t seem very thrilled, and when they tell her about the accident she gasps and says that it was a ghost that hit them. When Adela asks her about this later, though, Mrs. Moore denies saying anything about a ghost.
- By himself, Nawab Bahadur recalls how 9 years ago he had driven over a passed-out drunk and killed him, and how ever since then, that man’s ghost waited for chances to attack him.
- Aziz comes down with a fever and stays in bed, not going to work. He lies in bed and thinks about how he would like to be with a woman, and how he has written letters a to a friend of his with plans to go to Calcutta (a bigger city) and sleep with a prostitute. His friends come visit him. They tell him that Prof. Godbole is sick, too, and they wonder if the sicknesses have something to do with Being at Fielding’s.
- Dr. Panna Lal arrives to make sure that Aziz is really ill, because Major Callendar doesn’t believe it. Fielding also arrives to check on Aziz. The Indians challenge Fielding as to whether it is right that when so many Indians would like to have Fielding’s job, an Englishman should have it. Fielding replies that he is taking another man’s air when he breathes, does that mean he should not breathe? He also says that he doesn’t believe in God.
- The men decide to leave Aziz alone to rest.
- Describes how horribly hot it is getting, now that April has arrived.
- Fielding, as he is leaving, is called back into the house by Aziz. Aziz feels embarrassed by his dirty apartment full of flies. Aziz shows Fielding a picture (which he keeps locked in a drawer) of his wife. This is a tremendous honor, because it is a lifting of Purdah, in which Indian women are not allowed to be seen by men other than their husbands and immediate family. This means that Aziz values Fielding like a brother. The two talk further about women and why Fielding isn’t married (the woman he loved didn’t want to marry him) and Aziz comments on how if he doesn’t marry his name will die.
- Aziz scolds Fielding for speaking about God and his job the way he did in front of the others, and Fielding replies that he has nothing to lose by doing so. Aziz thinks about how that is a major difference between the two of them. Aziz has everything to lose and so must be careful always, while Fielding can be free with his speech and ideas.
PART II - CAVES
- This chapter contains a short but very beautiful description of the Marabar Caves.
- Aziz arranges an excursion to the caves for Mrs. Moore, Miss Quested, Mr. Fielding. The planning of this is quite complicated because the trip to the caves is long and Aziz has to ask for a half day off work. Also, he has to get food for Godbole, who is a Hindu and won’t eat some foods, while Aziz, a Moslem, will eat some that Godbole will not eat, and not eat others that Godbole will.
- On the day of the journey, Aziz, his cousin Mohammed Latif, Mrs. Moore, and Ms. Quested meet at the train before dawn. Due to the length of a prayer that Godbole was saying, he and Fielding miss the train, and Aziz and the Englishwomen are alone. The women and men travel in separate train cars.
- The women in their car talk about India’s heat, servants, and look at the sunrise.
- After an hour, the train stops, and an elephant takes their party the rest of the way to a hill called Kawa Dol, on which a boulder balances as if my magic, which houses many of the caves.
- They stop in a shady place and have breakfast and Aziz and the women talk about his religion, and Ms. Quested’s plans to marry Ronny, and whether or not she will become like all the other English who become rude to the Indians after one year.
- They go into the caves. Mrs. Moore hates the first one she goes in. She feels faint and claustrophobic. The cave is full of villagers and servants (other tourists!), and is pitch black inside. There is a very distinct echo inside the caves, which no one had described to her.
- They all emerge from the cave, and Aziz wants to take them to more, but Mrs. Moore says no, that she’s an old woman and tired and that Aziz should take Ms. Quested, but with fewer people than to the previous cave. Aziz agrees and he, Ms. Quested and a guide head off.
- Mrs. Moore sits down and is taken over by sadness and a feeling that nothing in life, the misunderstandings, religion, unhappiness, amounts to anything more than a vague echo in a cave. She feels despair and terror, and no longer wants to communicate with anyone, not even God.
- Adela (Miss Quested), Aziz and the guide walk up a hill to the next cluster of caves. Aziz thinks about how to organize their next meal, and Adela thinks about her upcoming wedding to Ronny.
- She realizes suddenly that she doesn’t love Ronny, but that she will probably marry him anyway. She asks Aziz about his family and if he is made happy by it. She asks him if he has more than one wife, and he, not knowing how to answer, ducks quickly into one of the caves; Adela, unaware of having asked an improper question, wanders into the cave after him (or so she thinks).
- Aziz, however, is alone in his cave. When he comes out, the guide tells him that Ms. Quested has gone into another cave, but cannot remember which one. The two men hear the sound of a car approaching, but cannot see who is in it.
- The two men look in several caves for Ms. Quested, but cannot find her. Aziz assumes that she has gone to see whomever has arrived in the car, and he heads back toward "camp" where Mrs. Moore and the others are relaxing.
- On the way back, in the mouth of the cave, he finds Ms. Quested’s glasses lying on the ground, the leather strap broken. He puts them in his pocket and rejoins the others. As he is walking back, he hears the sound of a car starting and driving away.
- When he gets to the others, he sees that Fielding has arrived. Fielding, after missing the train had gotten a ride with Miss Derek. Miss Derek and her car are down the hill, since the car couldn’t go all the way up into the hills where all are sitting. Aziz still has no idea where Miss Quested is, but tries to pretend that everything is fine.
- Miss Derek’s chauffeur arrives and tells them that Miss Derek and Miss Quested have driven back to Chandrapore by themselves. Fielding feels that something strange has happened, but when he asks Aziz about it, Aziz lies and says that everything was fine, and that he saw Miss Quested get safely into Miss Derek’s car.
- When Aziz, Fielding, and the others arrive back in the Chandrapore Train station, Aziz is arrested by Mr. Haq, the Inspector of Police and taken to prison.
- Fielding wants to go with Aziz to the police station, but Mr. Turton, the Collector, stops him from doing so, and tells him that Aziz has been accused of "insulting" (in other words, sexually attacking) Miss Quested in the cave, and that Fielding cannot be seen with such a man.
- Fielding refuses to believe that Aziz could have done such a thing. Turton says that he has been in India for 25 years, and has never seen anything but disaster result from Indians and English trying to be friends.
- Turton tells Fielding that Miss Quested has fallen ill.
- Fielding goes to the police station and speaks to Mr. McBryde, the District Superintendent of Police, who tells Fielding that according to Miss Quested, Aziz tried to attack her in the cave -- she hit at him with her field-glasses (binoculars), he pulled at the glasses, the strap broke, and she ran away. Aziz of course had those binoculars in his pocket (he found them on the ground in a previous chapter), which is all the evidence McBryde needs.
- Fielding still insists that Aziz is innocent. McBryde says that Fielding doesn’t understand Indians as well as he. He says that Indians are all right when they’re young boys, but they go bad when they’re men. He shows Fielding one of Aziz’s letters which is about his plan to go to a prostitute in Calcutta, and that even though he (Fielding) and McBryde had gone to prostitutes themselves when they were young, it is different when an Indian does it and is a sign of his bad character.
- Officers of McBryde’s enter with a drawer from Aziz’s house. It contains women’s pictures. Fielding tries to explain that the woman was Aziz’s wife, but McBryde doesn’t believe him.
- Fielding leaves McBryde and sees Hamidullah. Hamidullah is very upset and tells Fielding that the defense will probably hire a Hindu lawyer so the trial won’t be so obviously British vs. Indian.
- Hamidullah asks Fielding if he is really on Aziz’s side and therefore against his own people, and Fielding says yes.
- The English meet at their club to discuss what has happened. They begin to whip up stories about how Aziz paid servants to leave Miss Quested alone with him; how he had paid others to suffocate Mrs. Moore in a cave; how they should call in the army to subdue "the natives."
- In the midst of this, Fielding declares that he believes Aziz to be innocent. He goes on to say that he will wait and see what the court decides, and that if Aziz is found guilty he will resign and leave India. He also then and there resigns from the club.
- Fielding walks out of the club, and watches the beginnings of festivities of the festival of Mohurram.
- Adela Quested rests in the McBrydes house, where Mrs. McBryde and Miss Derek pick hundreds of cactus thorns out of her skin (she got stuck by them when she ran out of the cave and down the hillside to Miss Derek’s car).
- Adela is plagued by a constant echo in her head which has not stopped since she left the cave. She feels that only Mrs. Moore can make it go away, but Mrs. Moore refuses to come and see her.
- After a few days, Ronny comes and brings her back to their bungalow. Mrs. Moore is completely different than she was before. She is irritable, frustrated, hard and angry; she only wants to talk about when she can return to England. She says that Adela will probably hear the echo for the rest of her life, but won’t tell her what it is. She also refuses to testify at Adela’s trial.
- Adela begins to panic and wonder aloud if Aziz might be innocent. When she says this, her echo gets a bit better. She begins to say that Aziz never did it, and Mrs. Moore declares that of course Aziz is innocent. But Ronny tells her that it’s too late to take it back now.
- Mrs. Moore gets passage with another British woman, Lady Mellanby, on a boat to England.
- The first day of the trial. The heat has risen to 112. Adela complains that her echo has returned badly. Indians are gathered around the courthouse, and small demonstrations are brewing. Mr. McBryde is the lawyer for Adela. Mahmoud Ali is the pleader of Aziz, as is the Calcutta Barrister Mr. Amritrao. Mr. Das, who works under Ronny is acting as Magistrate.
- Mr. McBryde, in his opening statements, says that Aziz is an evil, cruel man, who trapped Mrs. Moore in another cave with his servants so he could have Adela alone so he could rape her. When he says this, the courtroom explodes, and people begin to cry out for Mrs. Moore so she can testify to whether or not this is true, but Ronny announces that she is sailing back to England. In a rage, Mahmoud Ali leaves the courtroom.
- Adela takes the stand next and Mr. McBryde begins to question her about what happened. She enters a sort of trance state and recalls the events as if she is back in them. She suddenly realizes that Aziz never followed her into the cave. She says that she made a mistake and that she withdraws her accusations. Hysteria breaks out in the courtroom. Aziz is released, and is so happy he faints.
- In the confusion, Adela is carried away from her people and is caught up in a mass of Indians. She is suddenly thrown up against Mr. Fielding, who takes her away in his carriage, accompanied by some of his admiring students, to the government college. Rioting continues and swells, and then, in the heat, subsides.
- That evening, Adela tells Fielding that her echo has disappeared. Fielding is uncomfortable with her and angry. They discuss what might have happened in the caves; that she was hallucinating; that maybe it was another man who attacked her in the caves. They try and figure out where she should go now.
- Ronny arrives and tells her that Mrs. Moore is dead; that she died on the boat on the way home. Fielding offers that Adela might stay at the college with him for a few days, because she is so distressed at the thought of staying with Ronny.
- There is a victory banquet held for Aziz and later he and Fielding talk about the future. No one has told Aziz about Mrs. Moore’s death, so as not to ruin the day for him. Fielding begs Aziz to be kind to Adela, since she was brave in admitting her mistake. Adela will have to pay his legal costs, and Fielding worries about her being ruined completely.
- Ronny feels sad about his mother’s death, and thinks about how he cannot marry Adela now, and how as soon as possible, she should leave India.
- Aziz decides to let Adela out of paying him damages, thinking that that was what Mrs. Moore would have asked him to do. Ronny breaks off his engagement with Adela, and 10 days later she leaves for England, thinking that when she arrives she will look up Mrs. Moore’s other children, Ralph and Stella.
- An outcome of the trail is an unusual friendliness between Hindus and Moslems.
- Mahmoud Ali and Aziz talk. Aziz tells him that his biggest mistake all these years was in taking his rulers (the English) as a joke. Mahmoud Ali tells him that there is a rumor going around about Adela and Fielding being lovers.
- After a few days, Aziz believes this rumor to be true. It is discovered that Miss Derek and Mr. McBryde have been having an affair, and Mrs. McBryde found them and is divorcing Mr. McBryde.
- Fielding and Aziz try and talk, but they keep having misunderstandings. Fielding tries to tell Aziz that he has no interest in Adela, but this, too seems to cause a fight.
- Fielding leaves for his travels, and Aziz becomes convinced that Fielding encouraged him to not take Adela’s money because he wanted to marry her and be her rich husband.
- Fielding conducts business in Egypt, Crete and Venice, and then to England.
PART III - TEMPLE
- Two years later, in the city of Mau, where both Prof. Godbole and Aziz have moved, Professor Godbole takes part in and leads his school choir in a great ceremony celebrating the birth of the Hindu God Krishna. The ceremony is described in great detail. The Rajah (the "king" of this particular part of the country), who is very ill, comes to the ceremony.
- The celebration takes Godbole and the others outside in a kind of parade. Aziz sees Godbole, and Godbole tells him that Fielding is in town. Aziz has heard that Fielding did in fact marry Miss Quested, and Aziz has no desire to see him. Over the years he has ripped up Fielding’s letters.
- When Aziz arrives home, there is a note for him stating that not only is Fielding in town, but his wife and her brother are as well. Aziz feels angry and decides to avoid them.
- The next morning Aziz takes his children on a walk up to an old shrine. Aziz thinks about how the Rajah has died overnight, but it has not been announced so as to not ruin the festivities of the Hindu celebration.
- They bump into Fielding and his brother-in-law, who are running around because they are being chased by bees. Soon it begins raining and the bees go away, and everyone heads down the hill. Things are uncomfortable between Fielding and Aziz. Aziz discovers that Fielding has not married Miss Quested, but rather Stella Moore; and that the man with him now is Mrs. Moore’s son, Ralph.
- Aziz feels like an idiot and bursts out with something like "I don’t care, I don’t like you anyway, leave me alone!" He then walks away.
- Aziz, feeling bad, later that evening takes some bee-sting ointment over to the European Guest house (which is by the water and the royal tombs) where Ralph, Stella and Fielding are staying. When he arrives no one is there and he snoops around a bit.
- Ralph Moore appears, and Aziz at first is very mean to him. Ralph tells him that Fielding and Stella have gone out in a boat. Aziz feels bad and is about to leave. He is gentler with Ralph and Ralph notices this. Aziz asks him if he is always able to tell when someone is his friend, and Ralph says yes. To this Aziz replies "The you are an oriental." Aziz remembers that he had said the same thing to Mrs. Moore many years ago, and he feels sad at how he sometimes wants to be friends with the English but how he is hurt in the end. He remarks that Ralph is Mrs. Moore’s son, but he is also Ronny Healsop’s brother and that the two cannot be friends.
- Thinking of Mrs. Moore softens him and he takes Ralph out in a boat. He thinks about his cycle with the English as mosques, caves (being open, being hurt).
- While out in the boat, Ralph spots a reflection of the Rajah in the water. It is an extraordinary illusion, caused be the moonlight going through the tomb where the Rajah lies and reflects it on the water. It can only be seen from one spot and Aziz is touched that Ralph has led him to it.
- Aziz’s boat and Fielding’s boats collide and capsize.
- The next day, Aziz and Fielding go for a ride together knowing it will be their last. They make up with each other essentially, but it is still sad, because both of them admit that in this world they can never really be friends.
- Aziz cries out for an India that is free of the English, and where all of the different Indian religions will unite and stand together against the English, and that until that happens, the English and Indians cannot be friends.
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