In every remark [Aziz] found a meaning, but not always the true meaning, and his life though vivid was largely a dream.
This quotation occurs in Chapter VII during Aziz and Fielding’s first meeting at Fielding’s house, just before the tea party. Fielding has just made a brief comment in which he meant that the post-impressionist school of painting, to which Aziz has just made joking reference, is obscure and silly. Aziz, however, takes Fielding’s comment to mean that it is silly for Aziz to have Western cultural knowledge. Aziz’s embarrassment and discontent does not last long in this instance, but the incident foreshadows the misunderstandings that eventually break down the men’s friendship.
Aziz’s capacity for imagination and intuition leads him to genuine and deep friendships with Mrs. Moore and Fielding. However, Forster also shows that Aziz’s intuition, which lacks grounding in fact, can lead him astray. In the aftermath of his trial, Aziz’s false hunch that Fielding is courting Adela Quested leads to the breakdown of the men’s relationship. In the above quotation, an early case of this false intuition, we see that Forster lays the blame for the breakdown on Aziz. Forster does not fault the difficulties of cross-cultural interaction, but rather Aziz’s overactive imagination.
This flaw in Aziz’s character, in a sense, also stands for a flaw of India itself. Forster presents Aziz’s attitudes toward others as unfounded in reality. Cut off from a logical cause, Aziz’s responses damage relationships rather than build them. This cut-off quality is later mirrored in the very landscape of India: the land around the Marabar Caves, described in Chapter XIV, appears “cut off at its root” and “infected with illusion.” Forster presents India and Aziz as somewhat threatening to the logical and reasonable apprehension and reaction to reality that the author sees as epitomized by Western order.
This type of narrative comment that diagnoses Aziz’s character is characteristic of Forster’s writing. The author is concerned with presenting actions and dialogue, but he also seeks to draw comparisons and distinctions, to categorize and characterize. Indeed, Forster tells and comments as much as he shows. Still, not all of Forster’s narrative diagnoses can be taken as absolute truth that stands throughout the novel. Though Forster depicts Aziz’s imaginativeness as a handicap here, in other scenes we see that Forster values it.