A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 1, Chapter 11 ((Mosque)) | Summary

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Summary

Fielding is still waiting for his horse when Aziz calls to him to come back in. Ashamed of his shabby bungalow and of having been a wretched host, Aziz shows Fielding the photograph of his dead wife. Fielding is deeply touched by this intimate gesture. Aziz says if his wife were alive, Fielding would have seen her. Fielding is surprised, but Aziz says Hamidullah and others saw her. Fielding, culturally aware on this point, asks if she thought they were Aziz's brothers. Aziz answers, "All men are my brothers, and as soon as one behaves as such, he may see my wife." And then Fielding answers, "And when the whole world behaves as such, there will be no more purdah?" showing he fully appreciates the purpose of a practice most English consider backward. Aziz tells him, "It is because you can say and feel such a remark as that, that I show you the photograph." Aziz is struck by Fielding's kindness, by his willingness to come back after having been turned away. He tells Fielding, "No one can ever realize how much kindness we Indians need ... Kindness, more kindness, and even after the more kindness. I assure you it is the only hope ... We can't build up India except on what we feel ... What is the use of all these ... official parties where the English sneer at our skins?"

Aziz, having shown Fielding his only possession of value, tells Fielding to put it away. Fielding is flattered by Aziz's trust, but concludes he will not reciprocate with Aziz or with anyone else. Fielding then asks Aziz how he liked the two English ladies, but Aziz, not wanting to think of his promise to them, instead asks Fielding why he has never married. Fielding explains the woman he wanted to marry didn't want to marry him. When Aziz asks how Fielding feels about having children, Fielding says he doesn't care and doesn't mind his name dying out, which puzzles Aziz. Aziz then suggests Fielding marry Adela, which Fielding rejects, explaining she's engaged to Ronny. Aziz then disparages Adela's looks and suggests Fielding deserves a woman with "breasts like mangoes," which makes Fielding uncomfortable.

Aziz then tells Fielding that he must be more careful about the things he says, such as not believing in God; spies are everywhere. Fielding agrees; he has gotten in trouble in the past. But he says he is not rooted to the community; he travels light, like a Hindu saddhu—a holy person who has renounced the worldly life—and he can move on if need be. Aziz, however, is rooted by Islam, his children, and his ties to the community. Aziz, who had prevented his servant from bringing Fielding's horse, now lets the schoolmaster go. He has warm feelings for Fielding but feels his frankness of speech is unwise. Aziz falls asleep to happy thoughts of Fielding, Hamidullah, and his wife and sons.

Analysis

In this chapter Fielding demonstrates important aspects of his character: he believes in education; unlike the other English, he is not a part of the herd, but someone who relates to others on an individual basis; and without children or community ties, he has little to lose and can act as he likes. Because he is free of the opinions and approbation of his fellow Englishmen, he can truly appreciate the unusual gesture Aziz makes. With no children to consider—and no desire to have any—and with a portable profession, Fielding doesn't seem to worry about how what he says or does will be taken by others.

This chapter also emphasizes the importance of feelings. Aziz makes himself vulnerable and shows Fielding something very close to his heart—his wife's picture—because he trusts him. This stands in stark contrast to the last time readers saw his wife's photograph, on the day of the Bridge Party, when he feels too sensitive to let himself be seen by the English ladies at the club. Fielding returns Aziz's trust by understanding the intent of purdah, an institution even Aziz thinks is backward. Because these two men trust each other, they can expose their feelings and have a true human interaction.

Other repeated themes include Aziz's sexual snobbery, which he expresses when discussing Adela. Also discussed is the value of marriage. Adela has come to India for marriage, Fielding seems to dismiss it, and Aziz seems to think marriage, and especially children, are necessary to one's existence. Finally, Aziz, aware of the power of rumor, is somewhat taken aback by Fielding's frankness, a quality the doctor cannot afford. Unlike Fielding, Aziz mostly does not say what he feels, unless he is with people he can trust implicitly.

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