A Passage to India
Part I, Chapters IX–XI
Summary: Chapter IX
Three days after the tea party, Aziz falls slightly ill. Exaggerating his illness, he remains in bed and contemplates a brief trip to a brothel in Calcutta to lift his spirits. Aziz takes a rather clinical view of his occasional need for women. Aziz knows that Major Callendar and others would be scandalized by his plans to visit the brothel. Nonetheless, Aziz does not mind breaking social codes—he simply tries not to get caught. Aziz suddenly notices that flies cover the inside of his room, so he summons his servant, Hassan, to dispose of them. Hassan is inattentive.
Hamidullah, Syed Mohammed, Haq, and Syed Mohammed’s young nephew, Rafi, all crowd into Aziz’s room to inquire about his health. Rafi gossips that Professor Godbole has also fallen ill. The visitors briefly toss around a suspicion that Mr. Fielding poisoned the men at his tea. Syed Mohammed and Haq discuss how all disease comes from Hindus. Aziz recites an irrelevant poem by an Urdu poet. Though not all of the men comprehend poetry, they are happily silent and for a moment feel that India is one. Hamidullah silently contemplates the nationalist meeting he must attend later in the day, which will gather Indians from many different sects. Hamidullah sadly considers that the group never achieves anything constructive and that the meetings are only peaceful when someone is denouncing the English.
The visitors announce their intent to leave, but they remain seated. Dr. Panna Lal arrives, under Major Callendar’s orders, to check on Aziz. Dr. Lal immediately realizes that Aziz is not very ill, but he decides to cover for Aziz anyway, in hopes that Aziz will return the favor one day. After some prodding, Dr. Lal reluctantly reports that Professor Godbole’s condition is not serious, which prompts the men to scold Rafi for spreading rumors. Dr. Lal’s troublesome driver, Ram Chand, insults Rafi’s uncle, Syed Mohammed, and a loud argument breaks out.
At this moment, Fielding walks into the room. Aziz would normally be humiliated at Fielding’s seeing his poor, dirty home, but Aziz is distracted. Concerned about showing hospitality to Rafi, Aziz murmurs to the boy and tries to make him comfortable again after his scolding. Meanwhile, the men begin to question Fielding about his belief in God, the declining morality of the West, and what he thinks about England’s position in India. Fielding enjoys being candid with the men. He explains that he is not certain that England is justified in holding India and that he is in India personally to hold a job. The men are shocked by the plainness of Fielding’s honesty. Fielding, feeling disappointed by his first visit to Aziz, leads the other men out of Aziz’s sickroom.
Summary: Chapter X
Fielding and the others emerge from Aziz’s home and feel oppressed by the weather and the general atmosphere outside. Several animals nearby make noises—the inarticulate animal world seems always more present in India than in England. The other men mount their carriages and go home, rather than back to work. All over India, people retreat inside as the hot season approaches.
Summary: Chapter XI
Fielding stands on the porch of Aziz’s house, but no servant brings his horse, for Aziz has secretly ordered the servants not to. Aziz calls Fielding back inside. Though Aziz self-pityingly draws Fielding’s attention to the shabbiness of his home, Fielding is matter-of-fact in response. Aziz directs Fielding to a photograph that he keeps in a drawer, which is of his late wife. Flattered, Fielding thanks Aziz for the honor of seeing the picture. Aziz tells Fielding he likes him because he values men acting as brothers. They agree that the English government has tried to improve India through institutions, when it should have begun with friendship.
Fielding suddenly feels depressed, feeling that he cannot match Aziz’s fervent emotions. Fielding wishes he had personal details to share with Aziz. Fielding momentarily feels as though he will not be intimate with anyone, but will travel through life, calm and isolated.
Aziz questions Fielding about his family, but the Englishman has none. Aziz playfully suggests that Fielding should marry Adela. Fielding replies vehemently that Adela is a “prig” who tries to learn about India as though it were a class at school. He adds that Adela has become engaged to Ronny Heaslop. Aziz is relieved, assuming that this means he will not have to host a trip to the Marabar Caves after all, as it would be unseemly to escort an engaged woman. Aziz agrees with Fielding’s distaste for Adela, but Aziz objects to her lack of beauty rather than her attitude.
Aziz suddenly feels protective of Fielding and warns him to be less frank with other Indians. Aziz worries that Fielding might lose his job, but the Englishman reassures him that it wouldn’t matter. Fielding explains that he believes in “traveling light,” which is why he refuses to marry. Fielding leaves, and Aziz drifts off to sleep, dreaming happily.
Analysis: Chapters IX–XI
Though Forster clearly portrays the Indians in the novel more sympathetically than the British, he occasionally shows how the Indians sometimes succumb to racism in the same ways that the British do. Thus far, we have been acquainted only with Aziz and his similarly well educated, upper-class friends. In Chapter IX we meet several other acquaintances of Aziz, Muslims, some of whom are not as enlightened or privileged as Aziz himself. These men stir up an atmosphere of paranoia, suspicion, and racism equal to the behavior of the British: they first suspect Fielding of poisoning the non-English guests at his tea party, and then they blatantly disparage the Hindu religion. Forster satirizes their sentiments in the same way that he satirizes the British, showing how their racism leads them into contradiction. The Indians uphold the ill Hindu professor Godbole against the English Fielding, but then disparage Hindus in general as disease-ridden. The men, in their clamor about the alleged dirtiness of Hindus, resemble the English who fear infection or contamination from the Indians.
Similarly, though Forster satirizes English behavior toward Indians, he seems to remain somewhat pro-Empire in his views. Forster’s logic does not argue against England’s presence in India, but rather suggests that England might better serve India by improving personal relations with Indians. We can see Forster’s fundamentally pro-Empire stance in his implication in these chapters that India, without British presence, would dissolve into fighting among its many sects. Hamidullah is Forster’s mouthpiece for this sentiment in Chapter IX: as the other men disparage Hindus and bicker among themselves, Hamidullah contemplates the lack of national feeling in India. He notes that Indians from different sects—like those at his political meetings—unite only against the British. Forster portrays a united India as only a fleeting illusion, brought on by Aziz’s recital of nostalgic poetry that imagines a single, Islamic India.
Furthermore, Forster implies that political action and energy may be impossible in India because the country is so oppressed by natural forces. In Chapter X, he shows that animals have as much voice as humans in India: their chaotic and meaningless noises sometimes dominate, blocking out rational human discussion. Additionally, the approaching onset of the hot season prevents action and sends people scurrying into the shelter of their homes. Looking closely, we see that each of the three parts of A Passage to India corresponds to one of the three seasons in India: Part I corresponds to the cold season, Part II to the hot season, and Part III to the wet season. As we see later, the oppressiveness of the hot season directly relates to the divisive and inflammatory plot events of Part II. Chapter X foreshadows the hot season and the turmoil, argumentativeness, and inexplicable sadness to come.
The majority of Part I has focused on developing the characters of Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore in relation to Aziz, to Ronny, and to their new surroundings. In these final sections of Part I, attention shifts somewhat to the character of Fielding, especially in terms of his relation to Aziz and to the rest of the English in Chandrapore. The development of Fielding’s relations begins to constitute a second plotline throughout the rest of the novel, moving in parallel to plot developments involving Adela and Mrs. Moore.
Though Fielding is generally on friendly terms with the English in Chandrapore, Fielding’s character presents a threat to the Englishmen because of his stance as an educator of individuals. The English fear that Indians become less obedient when they are better educated; indeed, the new ideas that Fielding fosters have the potential to undermine Britain’s rule over India. The English see Fielding as suspect because his model of education works through interaction, sitting down with individuals and exchanging ideas. This model treats Indians as separate, distinct individuals, rather than a homogeneous and easily stereotyped group. As such, it places even Fielding himself—a representative Englishman—in a position of vulnerability. While other English people present themselves as knowledgeable and dominant, Fielding lets himself play the role of learner as well as teacher.
As Fielding grows apart from the Englishmen at the club, he grows closer to Aziz. In these chapters we see Forster set up these two characters as the potentially successful answer to the question of whether an Indian can ever be friends with an Englishman. More than merely a cross-cultural bridge, the friendship between Fielding and Aziz seems to develop a homosocial undertone as well. Aspects of heterosexual interaction dominate Chapter XI—the photograph of Aziz’s wife, Aziz’s happy thoughts of visiting prostitutes, the men’s discussion of Adela’s qualities—but these marks of heterosexuality function as a means to develop and cement a homosocial (but not implicitly homosexual) connection between Fielding and Aziz. These heterosexual tokens, conversations, and thoughts are passed between the two men and serve primarily to strengthen their relationship—though women are the focus of the men’s conversation, women are effectively excluded, reduced to simply a medium of exchange between the men. Furthermore, we may interpret Fielding’s sentiments against marriage in Chapter XI as Forster’s own. The author implies that marriage shuts people off from educationally and emotionally fruitful relationships, such as the one that we see growing between Fielding and Aziz.
by UGLYHASSNAA69, November 12, 2012
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