A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 3, Chapter 35 ((Temple)) | Summary

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Summary

Mau is the site of the legend of a Muslim saint who freed prisoners held in a fort and was beheaded by the police; there is now a shrine to his body right outside Aziz's house as well as a shrine to the head at an old fort up the hill. Both are worshipped by Muslims and Hindus. Although Aziz originally objected to this adulterated form of Islam, he has come to accept it, having been a prisoner once himself. On the day after the ceremony, he walks up to the latter shrine with his children to explore the fort and admire the views. They meet some prisoners, one of whom is to be pardoned in this evening's ceremony. Their guard asks about the Rajah's health, Aziz says he is getting better; in fact the Rajah is dead, but this is being concealed until the religious festivities end.

Aziz and his children encounter Fielding and his brother-in-law, who was stung by bees emerging from the temple. Fielding greets Aziz and asks him why he hasn't answered any of his letters, but his voice is drowned out by the torrential rain. Fielding asks Aziz to accompany him to his carriage and along the way questions him about trifles in the Guest House and his desire to see this evening's religious procession. When they reach the carriage, Aziz tells Fielding's brother-in-law, "Jump in, Mr. Quested"; Fielding then understands Aziz has been under the wrong impression all this time. Fielding did not marry Adela; he married Stella Moore, whose brother, Ralph, is with them now. Mahmoud Ali knew this but never told Aziz. Aziz is ashamed of his mistake but also enraged. Fielding pursues him to apologize; Aziz insists he wants nothing to do with English people.

Still, when Aziz returns home, he is excited that Mrs. Moore's children are now here.

Analysis

This chapter highlights the power of subjectivity, the notion that what people believe is more powerful than objective evidence. Once again a real, historical figure has been made into an object of worship. The shrines to the Muslim saint here echo those to Mrs. Moore in Chandrapore. Aziz seems to put up with this "idolatrous" shrine for it seems in some small way to have achieved the Hindu-Muslim unity so sought after throughout the novel. And once again, someone who is dead is kept alive in the minds of others, just as Mrs. Moore was during and after the victory party at Dilkusha. This recalls Fielding's thought: "We exist ... in terms of each other's minds." Now Aziz is in Fielding's position, trying to preserve truth of mood. Finally, Aziz's elaborate fiction about Fielding unravels. But when he learns the truth, he cannot accept it, and he retains the emotions that accompanied his misconceptions.

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