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A Passage to India | Study Guide

E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India | Part 3, Chapter 36 ((Temple)) | Summary



In the palace the usual procession following the birth of Krishna had not taken place. Normally a sacred dance troupe would act out certain scenes from the story of Krishna before the Rajah. But the Rajah is dead, leaving two claimants to the throne, and the festival continues, free of rancor or suspicion. Meanwhile, Aziz remembers he had promised Ralph an ointment to soothe his bee stings, and leaves to bring one over. He bumps into Godbole, who is part of the state procession, and learns the Professor already knew about Fielding's marriage to Stella but never told Aziz. Aziz is displeased to see the English maneuvering the Guest House boat on the Mau tank, "proceeding in their work of patrolling India." He now thinks of "seeing India" as ruling India.

Aziz rides over to the Guest House and walks from room to room, and then finds some private letters. One is from Ronny to Fielding, an attempt at reconciliation after reacting badly to Fielding's marriage to his sister. The other is from Adela to Stella. Aziz envies their easy interactions. In a momentary fit of temper, he strikes the keys of the piano, and Ralph Moore comes in. Aziz says he is there to examine the bee stings, but when he does so, Ralph exclaims. Ralph says there is cruelty in Aziz's touch. Aziz criticizes Ralph for his reaction, and then Ralph sobs, "You should not treat us like this," and names Dr. Aziz. Just then guns go off as part of the celebration, a rocket signaling the release of the prisoner.

Then Aziz, preparing to leave, holds out his hand, and Ralph senses it is a sincere gesture. "Can you always tell when a stranger is your friend?" Aziz asks. "Yes," Ralph says. "Then you are an Oriental," Aziz replies. Aziz makes him a gift of the ointment, which had been precious to Mohammed Latif, and Ralph tells Aziz his mother loved him, but the English and Indians cannot yet be friends. Aziz then tells Ralph the monsoon season is the time when all things are happy in India. He says he would show him his country if Ralph weren't traveling with officials; instead, he offers to take him out in a boat for a half hour. He finds the hidden oars and rows out, and Ralph guides him to see the tomb of the former Rajah. Ralph then asks him to row nearer to the procession, and Aziz obeys, knowing in his heart this is indeed Mrs. Moore's son. The boat drifts closer to the proceedings of the festival, with a storm in the sky, guns and rockets going off, singers singing, and a model of the village of Gokul on a tray pushed into the waters. Suddenly Aziz's boat collides with the Fieldings' boat, just as the elephants trumpet, guns fire, and thunder sounds. After this the festival winds down.


Events in this chapter echo events from the novel's start. Aziz sees a party of English people out to "see India," but instead of welcoming them, he sneaks into the Guest House; this parallels his visit to Fielding's tea party at Government College, except this time his attitude is angry and cynical rather than gracious and welcoming. Instead of Mrs. Moore, he finds her son, and instead of Fielding, Ronny, and Adela, he finds their letters. The festival at Mau, rather than Godbole's song, confounds and intrigues him. And just as he took Mrs. Moore to the caves to see an India he really didn't know, he takes her son to the festival to show him an India he doesn't understand.

Ralph truly is a stand-in for his mother; he is wise, keenly intuitive, and sensitive to emotion, just as she was. Aziz once again meets an English person whom he compliments for being an Oriental. Aziz heeds Ralph, who directs him in his rowing of the boat; Ralph is so intuitive he seems to know more about the festival than Aziz does.

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