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Mr. Turton invites several Indian gentlemen to the proposed Bridge Party at the club. The Indians are surprised by the invitation. Mahmoud Ali suspects that the lieutenant general has ordered Turton to hold the party. The Nawab Bahadur, one of the most important Indian landowners in the area, announces that he appreciates the invitation and will attend. Some accuse the Nawab Bahadur of cheapening himself, but most Indians highly respect him and decide to attend also.
The narrator describes the room in which the Indian gentlemen meet. Outside remain the lowlier Indians who received no invitation. The narrator describes Mr. Grayford and Mr. Sorley, missionaries on the outskirts of the city. Mr. Sorley feels that all men go to heaven, but not lowly wasps, bacteria, or mud, because something must be excluded to leave enough for those who are included. Mr. Sorley’s Hindu friends disagree, however, as they feel that God includes every living thing.
At the Bridge Party, the Indian guests stand idly at one side of the tennis lawn while the English stand at the other. The clear segregation dismays Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore. Ronny and Mrs. Turton disdainfully discuss the Indians’ clothing, which mixes Eastern and Western styles. Several Englishwomen arrive and discuss the earlier production of Cousin Kate. Mrs. Moore is surprised to note how intolerant and conventional Ronny’s opinions have become.
Mr. Turton arrives, cynically noting to himself that each guest has come for a self-serving reason. Reluctantly, Mrs. Turton takes Adela and Mrs. Moore to visit a group of Indian ladies. Mrs. Turton addresses the Indian women in crude Urdu, and then asks Mrs. Moore and Adela if they are satisfied. One of the Indian women speaks, and Mrs. Turton is surprised to learn that the women know English. Mrs. Moore and Adela unsuccessfully try to draw the Indian women out into more substantial conversation. Mrs. Moore asks one of them, Mrs. Bhattacharya, if she and Adela can visit her at home. Mrs. Bhattacharya agrees to host the Englishwomen the upcoming Thursday, and her husband promises to send his carriage for them.
Mr. Fielding, who is also at the party, socializes freely with the Indians and even eats on the Indian side of the lawn. He is pleased to learn that Adela and Mrs. Moore have been friendly to the Indians. Fielding locates Adela and invites her and Mrs. Moore to tea. Adela complains about how rude the English are acting toward their guests, but Fielding suspects her complaints are intellectual, not emotional. Adela mentions Dr. Aziz, and Fielding promises to invite the doctor to tea as well.
That evening, Adela and Ronny dine with the McBrydes and Miss Derek. The dinner consists of standard English fare. During the meal, Adela begins to dread the prospect of a drab married life among the insensitive English. She fears she will never get to know the true spirit of India.
After Adela goes to bed, Ronny asks his mother about Adela. Mrs. Moore explains that Adela feels that the English are unpleasant to the Indians. Ronny is dismissive, explaining that the English are in India to keep the peace, not to be pleasant. Mrs. Moore disagrees, saying it is the duty of the English to be pleasant to Indians, as God demands love for all men. Mrs. Moore instantly regrets mentioning God; ever since she has arrived in India, her God has seemed less powerful than ever before.
The morning after Aziz’s encounter with Mrs. Moore, Major Callendar scolds the doctor for failing to report promptly to his summons, and he does not ask for Aziz’s side of the story.
Aziz and a colleague, Dr. Panna Lal, decide to attend the Bridge Party together. However, the party falls on the anniversary of Aziz’s wife’s death, so he decides not to attend. Aziz mourns his loving wife for part of the day and then borrows Hamidullah’s pony to practice polo on the town green. An English soldier is also practicing polo, and he and Aziz play together briefly as comrades.
Dr. Lal, returning from the Bridge Party, runs into Aziz. Lal reports that Aziz’s absence was noticed, and he insists on knowing why Aziz did not attend. Aziz, considering Lal ill mannered to ask such a question, reacts defiantly. By the time Aziz reaches home, though, he has begun to worry that the English will punish him for not attending. His mood improves when he opens Fielding’s invitation to tea. Aziz is pleased that Fielding has politely ignored the fact that Aziz forgot to respond to an invitation to tea at Fielding’s last month.
The wildly unsuccessful Bridge Party stands as the clear focus of this portion of the novel. Though the event is meant to be a time of orchestrated interaction, a “bridge” between the two cultures, the only result is heightened suspicion on both sides. Indians such as Mahmoud Ali suspect that Turton is throwing the party not in good faith, but on orders from a superior. Turton himself suspects that the Indians attend only for self-serving reasons. The party remains segregated, with the English hosts regarding their guests as one large group that can be split down only into Indian “types,” not into individuals.
Though the Bridge Party clearly furthers our idea that the English as a whole act condescendingly toward the Indians, Forster also uses the party to examine the minute differences among English attitudes. Mrs. Turton, for instance, represents the attitude of most Englishwomen in India: she is flatly bigoted and rude, regarding herself as superior to all Indians in seemingly every respect. The Englishmen at the party, however, appear less malicious in their attitudes. Mr. Turton and Ronny Heaslop are representative of this type: through their work they have come to know some Indians as individuals, and though somewhat condescending, they are far less overtly malicious than the Englishwomen.
Cyril Fielding, who made a brief appearance in Chapter 3, appears here to be the model of successful interaction between the English and Indians. Unlike the other English, Fielding does not recognize racial distinctions between himself and the native population. Instead, he interacts with Indians on an individual-to-individual basis. Moreover, he senses that he has found like-minded souls in Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore. Of the two, Fielding is more closely akin to Mrs. Moore than Adela: Fielding and Mrs. Moore are unself-conscious in their friendship with Indians, whereas Adela consciously and actively seeks out this cross-cultural friendship as an interesting and enriching experience.
Forster fleshes out the character of Adela Quested significantly in these chapters. As part of this effort, the author uses Fielding as a sort of moral barometer, a character whose judgments we can trust. In this regard, we can see Fielding’s judgment of Adela—that she appears to object to the English treatment of the Indians on an intellectual, rather than emotional level—as Forster’s own judgment. Adela, perhaps because of this intellectual, unemotional curiosity about Indian culture, conducts her interactions in India in a negative sense rather than a positive one—attempting to not act like the other English rather than attempting to actively identify with Indians. Adela always acts as an individual, rejecting the herd mentality of the other couples at the English club. While the other English try to re-create England in India through meals of sardines and plays like Cousin Kate, Adela hopes to experience the “real India,” the “spirit” of India. Yet we sense that Adela’s idea of this “real India” is vague and somewhat romanticized, especially when compared to Mrs. Moore’s genuine interaction with Aziz or Fielding’s enthusiastic willingness to partake in Indian culture.
The primary Indian protagonist, Aziz, develops in these chapters as significantly distinct from English expectations of Indian character. While the English pride themselves on dividing the Indian character into “types” with identifiable characteristics, Aziz appears to be a man of indefinable flux. Forster distinguishes Aziz’s various guises—outcast, poet, medical student, religious worshiper—and his ability to slip easily among them without warning. Aziz’s whims fluctuate in a way similar to his overall character. In Chapter 4 we see Aziz shift from mood to mood in the space of minutes: first he wants to attend the Bridge Party, then he is disgusted with the party, then he despairingly mourns his dead wife, then he seeks companionship and exercise. Ironically, one of Aziz’s only constant qualities is a characteristically English quality: an insistence upon good breeding and polite manners. This quality makes Aziz slightly prejudiced—it leads him to reject his friendship with Dr. Lal—yet it also allows him to disregard racial boundaries, as when he feels automatically affectionate toward Fielding because of the Englishman’s politeness.
Furthermore, Forster uses these chapters to begin to develop one of the major ideas he explores in A Passage to India—the inclusiveness of the Hindu religion, especially as compared to Christianity. Forster portrays Hinduism as a religion that encompasses all, that sees God in everything, even the smallest bacterium. He specifically aligns Mrs. Moore with Hinduism in the earlier scene from Chapter 3 in which she treats a small wasp kindly. The image of the wasp reappears in Chapter 4 as the wasp that the Hindus assume will be part of heaven—a point on which the Christian missionaries Mr. Grayford and Mr. Sorley disagree. Mrs. Moore is a Christian, but in Chapter 4 we see that she has begun to call her Christianity into question during her stay in India. Whereas God earlier was the greatest thought in Mrs. Moore’s head, now the woman appears to sense something beyond that thought, perhaps the more inclusive and all-encompassing worldview of Hinduism.
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