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A Passage to India

Characters

Cyril Fielding

Characters Cyril Fielding

Of all the characters in the novel, Fielding is clearly the most associated with Forster himself. Among the Englishmen in Chandrapore, Fielding is far and away most the successful at developing and sustaining relationships with native Indians. Though he is an educator, he is less comfortable in teacher-student interaction than he is in one-on-one conversation with another individual. This latter style serves as Forster’s model of liberal humanism—Forster and Fielding treat the world as a group of individuals who can connect through mutual respect, courtesy, and intelligence.

Fielding, in these viewpoints, presents the main threat to the mentality of the English in India. He educates Indians as individuals, engendering a movement of free thought that has the potential to destabilize English colonial power. Furthermore, Fielding has little patience for the racial categorization that is so central to the English grip on India. He honors his friendship with Aziz over any alliance with members of his own race—a reshuffling of allegiances that threatens the solidarity of the English. Finally, Fielding “travels light,” as he puts it: he does not believe in marriage, but favors friendship instead. As such, Fielding implicitly questions the domestic conventions upon which the Englishmen’s sense of “Englishness” is founded. Fielding refuses to sentimentalize domestic England or to venerate the role of the wife or mother—a far cry from the other Englishmen, who put Adela on a pedestal after the incident at the caves.

Fielding’s character changes in the aftermath of Aziz’s trial. He becomes jaded about the Indians as well as the English. His English sensibilities, such as his need for proportion and reason, become more prominent and begin to grate against Aziz’s Indian sensibilities. By the end of A Passage to India, Forster seems to identify with Fielding less. Whereas Aziz remains a likable, if flawed, character until the end of the novel, Fielding becomes less likable in his increasing identification and sameness with the English.