Fielding did not even want to [correct Aziz]; he had dulled his craving for verbal truth and cared chiefly for truth of mood. As for Miss Quested, she accepted everything Aziz said as true verbally. In her ignorance, she regarded him as “India,” and never surmised that his outlook was limited and his method inaccurate, and that no one is India.
This passage, occurring at Fielding’s tea party later in Chapter VII, highlights a major distinction between the English and the Indians. Forster shows that Indians value the emotion and purpose behind a statement more than the literal words being stated. Indeed, we see that Aziz often tells lies—or, at least, lies by English standards—that are nonetheless truthful to Aziz himself because they reflect his desire to be hospitable, or because they serve to keep a conversation progressing smoothly. Similarly, other Indians, such as the Nawab Bahadur, give elaborate speeches that seem to have no coherent point, but that serve to rescue the other party from disgrace or impoliteness. Whereas the Indians seem to favor indirect speech, the English value statements primarily on the basis of literal truth. The English are incapable of intuiting the larger purpose or underlying tone behind a speech. Fielding’s ability, as seen in this quotation, to respect statements for their mood as well as their truth, shows that he has learned cross-cultural lessons and can interact with Indians on their own standards, rather than his own.
This passage also highlights a problem with Adela’s approach to India. Adela is still caught up with English literalism, even though she is well meaning and her intelligent individualism sets her apart from the rest of the English. Without a capacity for sympathy or affectionate understanding, Adela cannot realize that she is evaluating Indians on her own terms, rather than their terms. Adela’s relationship with Aziz is, in this sense, without understanding or compassion. Rather, it is somewhat materialistic—Adela wants to know the “real India,” and she expects Aziz to render it for her. This goal in itself is Adela’s second mistake: whereas she seeks a single India, the real India exists in hundreds of guises, and no single Indian can offer an entire sense of it.