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One consequence of Aziz’s trial is improved relations between Hindus and Muslims in Chandrapore. Mr. Das visits Aziz one day at the hospital and asks Aziz to write a poem for his magazine. The magazine readership is mostly Hindu, but Das hopes to make it appeal to the general Indian and believes that Aziz’s poem might help. Aziz agrees and goes home to write. All his attempts at poetry are too extreme, though—they veer toward too-sad pathos or too-harsh satire. Aziz tries to envision a successful poem for Das, and this speculation leads him to visions of a successful India. Aziz vows to be friendly to Hindus and to hate the British. His character becomes hardened.
Aziz meets with Hamidullah one day and explains his plan to take a job in a Hindu state. Hamidullah protests that such a job will not pay enough and scolds Aziz again for not making Adela pay reparations. Then Hamidullah passes on a rumor he has heard that Fielding was having an affair with Adela during her stay at the college. Aziz becomes explosive, yelling that everyone has betrayed him.
When Aziz calms down, he and Hamidullah prepare to visit the women of Hamidullah’s household in purdah. Hamidullah mentions that the women seemed to be ready to give up purdah at the time of Aziz’s trial, but that they have not yet done so. Hamidullah suggests that Aziz take a realistic view of the Indian lady as a subject for a poem.
Aziz muses on the rumor of Adela and Fielding for several days, eventually believing it to be fact. When Fielding returns from a conference, Aziz picks him up and tries to address the rumor indirectly, mentioning that McBryde and Miss Derek were caught having an affair. Fielding is uninterested in this gossip, however. Finally, Aziz overtly mentions the rumor about Adela and Fielding, expressing fear that the affair will hurt Fielding’s reputation. Aziz clearly is fishing for a straightforward denial, but Fielding does not provide one. Instead, Fielding chides Aziz for worrying too much about reputation and propriety. Aziz finally takes it for granted that Fielding and Adela were having an affair, and he states this directly. Fielding, startled, blows up at Aziz. Aziz is immediately pained at his own mistake and Fielding’s harsh words. Aziz agrees, reluctantly, to have dinner with Fielding that night.
Fielding runs into Turton at the post office. Turton demands Fielding’s presence at the Englishmen’s club at six that evening. Fielding stops by the club briefly to find that many new officials have replaced the old ones, but the tenor feels the same. Fielding likens this repetitive bigotry to an evil echo.
At dinner, Fielding tells Aziz that he is traveling to England briefly on official business. Aziz changes the subject to poetry. Fielding expresses hope that Aziz will be a religious poet, because though Fielding is an atheist, he thinks there is something important in religion that has not yet been celebrated—perhaps something in Hinduism. Aziz asks if Fielding will visit Adela in England. Fielding indifferently says that he probably will. At this, Aziz rises to leave. Fielding asks forgiveness for his harshness that morning, but Aziz rides away feeling depressed. He suspects that Fielding is going to England to marry Adela for her money. Aziz decides to travel with his children tomorrow, so that Fielding will be gone for England by the time he returns.
Fielding’s ship journeys up to the Mediterranean and then docks at Venice. With a feeling of disloyalty, Fielding rediscovers his appreciation for form in architecture. Unlike the random temples and lumpy hills of India, the Venetian buildings appear in harmony with the earth. Fielding feels divided from his Indian friends because of their inability to appreciate form that has “escaped muddle.” On arriving in springtime England, Fielding feels a romantic sense reawakening in him.
A Passage to India might have ended after Aziz’s trial, but it continues for many more chapters, as Forster clears the ground for the new concerns of the novel. Many elements of the pre-trial community of Chandrapore break up in the aftermath of the trial. Some of the English officials, such as Ronny Heaslop and Major Callendar, are assigned to new posts in distant cities. Ronny and Adela break their engagement, and Adela returns to England. Mrs. Moore leaves for England and dies. Godbole takes a new position in a distant state. Finally, the two main characters who remain—Aziz and Fielding—undergo serious changes, of both setting and character.
Though Forster presents Adela as brave and well intentioned in testifying to Aziz’s innocence, the author by no means allows us to forget the negative consequences of her initial accusation. Aziz’s arrest reveals to Indians the deep hatred that the majority of English feel for them at all times. Aziz’s time in prison hardens him generally about personal relationships and teaches him to be cynical about the English in particular. Whereas the Aziz of the early parts of the novel is open to friendship with anyone, regardless of race, his openness is now prejudiced by his universal hatred for the English. Aziz feels less and less that friendship has the power to overcome cultural or racial differences.
The single positive effect of the trial is that the Hindu and Muslim communities in Chandrapore begin to come together and overcome their existing animosity. Heartened by these advances, Aziz makes a conscious effort to turn his mind toward a vision of a motherland. Uncharacteristically, he remains steadily focused on the goal of an independent India. He turns his poetry away from nostalgic invocations of Islam and toward a realistic suggestion of what India really is and could be. In these later chapters, then, Forster comes across as less invested in the idea that the British Empire is the best way to rule India. Through Aziz’s musings we get a prescient sense of a multicultural, independent India—an India that, in reality, finally formed twenty-five years after the publication of Forster’s novel.
These later chapters of the novel shift concern from the broader picture of English-Indian relations to a smaller focus on the breakup of Aziz and Fielding’s friendship. Even after the divisive Adela leaves India, Aziz and Fielding continue to grow apart. Aziz’s characteristic overactive imagination and distrust of evidence and reason continue to plague him when the rumor of Adela and Fielding’s affair reaches him. Even Fielding’s denial of the rumor does not dispel Aziz’s suspicion, as he already feels Fielding drifting away from him and becoming less trustworthy. Aziz’s Indian friends encourage him in his suspicions, as they include Fielding in their backlash against the English after the trial. Fielding, for his part, is gradually drawn—though perhaps unwillingly—back into the English circle, especially after the lieutenant-governor approves of Fielding’s actions during the trial.
Sexuality continues to remain a significant and constant barrier to the connection between Aziz and Fielding. When the two men discuss the rumored affair with Adela, Fielding is so shocked that Aziz believed the rumor that he calls Aziz a “little rotter” and immediately regrets it. Forster attributes the tense misunderstanding between the two men to the tension that arises when two people do not think of sex in the same way. Sex has always been a point of contention for the two men because Fielding resents Aziz’s crass attitude toward female beauty and sexuality. In the same way that sex troubles Aziz and Fielding, Adela’s painful thoughts about sexuality and her impending marriage to Ronny may be what cause her to imagine an assault in the Marabar Caves. Sexuality in A Passage to India is never a connecting force between characters, but rather a divisive one that sends the characters back into their shells.
In one of the only genuine and unstrained moments of their conversation over dinner in Chapter 32, Aziz and Fielding each foreshadow the events and concerns of Part 3 of the novel. Fielding, though an atheist, senses something in the Hindu religion that could be valuable, that is still “unsung.” Aziz then has a brief vision of himself living in a “Hindu jungle Native State.” As we soon see, Part 3, which takes place two years later, features Aziz in a new position in Mau, just such a Hindu Indian-ruled jungle state. Indeed, Part 3takes Hinduism as its backdrop, suggesting just what Fielding has implied—that in Hinduism may lie the mysterious remedy to cultural and individual conflict.
Fielding’s brief stop in Italy on the way to England, especially his admiration of Venetian architecture, continues Forster’s exploration of architecture as representative of the cultural differences between East and West. The Western architecture of Venice shows the triumph and beauty of logical form. Building and earth complement each other, and proportions relate correctly. In Forster’s eyes, Western architecture signifies everything that is positive about the logic, literalness, and reason of the West and Western thought. Fielding is uneasy about his appreciation of Venice because he knows that such appreciation—like the Englishmen’s salute of the tragic Ronny in Chapter 20—implicitly rejects India. From Fielding’s point of view, the worst, most “muddled” qualities of India are represented in its architecture, which to him is disproportionate, unpredictable, and formless.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Passage to India!