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A Passage to India

Summary

Part I, Chapters IX–XI

Summary Part I, Chapters IX–XI

Fielding suddenly feels depressed, feeling that he cannot match Aziz’s fervent emotions. Fielding wishes he had personal details to share with Aziz. Fielding momentarily feels as though he will not be intimate with anyone, but will travel through life, calm and isolated.

Aziz questions Fielding about his family, but the Englishman has none. Aziz playfully suggests that Fielding should marry Adela. Fielding replies vehemently that Adela is a “prig” who tries to learn about India as though it were a class at school. He adds that Adela has become engaged to Ronny Heaslop. Aziz is relieved, assuming that this means he will not have to host a trip to the Marabar Caves after all, as it would be unseemly to escort an engaged woman. Aziz agrees with Fielding’s distaste for Adela, but Aziz objects to her lack of beauty rather than her attitude.

Aziz suddenly feels protective of Fielding and warns him to be less frank with other Indians. Aziz worries that Fielding might lose his job, but the Englishman reassures him that it wouldn’t matter. Fielding explains that he believes in “traveling light,” which is why he refuses to marry. Fielding leaves, and Aziz drifts off to sleep, dreaming happily.

Analysis: Chapters IX–XI

Though Forster clearly portrays the Indians in the novel more sympathetically than the British, he occasionally shows how the Indians sometimes succumb to racism in the same ways that the British do. Thus far, we have been acquainted only with Aziz and his similarly well educated, upper-class friends. In Chapter IX we meet several other acquaintances of Aziz, Muslims, some of whom are not as enlightened or privileged as Aziz himself. These men stir up an atmosphere of paranoia, suspicion, and racism equal to the behavior of the British: they first suspect Fielding of poisoning the non-English guests at his tea party, and then they blatantly disparage the Hindu religion. Forster satirizes their sentiments in the same way that he satirizes the British, showing how their racism leads them into contradiction. The Indians uphold the ill Hindu professor Godbole against the English Fielding, but then disparage Hindus in general as disease-ridden. The men, in their clamor about the alleged dirtiness of Hindus, resemble the English who fear infection or contamination from the Indians.

Similarly, though Forster satirizes English behavior toward Indians, he seems to remain somewhat pro-Empire in his views. Forster’s logic does not argue against England’s presence in India, but rather suggests that England might better serve India by improving personal relations with Indians. We can see Forster’s fundamentally pro-Empire stance in his implication in these chapters that India, without British presence, would dissolve into fighting among its many sects. Hamidullah is Forster’s mouthpiece for this sentiment in Chapter IX: as the other men disparage Hindus and bicker among themselves, Hamidullah contemplates the lack of national feeling in India. He notes that Indians from different sects—like those at his political meetings—unite only against the British. Forster portrays a united India as only a fleeting illusion, brought on by Aziz’s recital of nostalgic poetry that imagines a single, Islamic India.

Furthermore, Forster implies that political action and energy may be impossible in India because the country is so oppressed by natural forces. In Chapter X, he shows that animals have as much voice as humans in India: their chaotic and meaningless noises sometimes dominate, blocking out rational human discussion. Additionally, the approaching onset of the hot season prevents action and sends people scurrying into the shelter of their homes. Looking closely, we see that each of the three parts of A Passage to India corresponds to one of the three seasons in India: Part I corresponds to the cold season, Part II to the hot season, and Part III to the wet season. As we see later, the oppressiveness of the hot season directly relates to the divisive and inflammatory plot events of Part II. Chapter X foreshadows the hot season and the turmoil, argumentativeness, and inexplicable sadness to come.