A Passage to India

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A Passage to India Part 3, Chapter 35 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
There was once a young Muslim saint who came to Mau and freed all the prisoners in the local fort before he was beheaded by the police. There are now two shrines to him in Mau, one for his head and one for his body, and both Muslims and Hindus worship at them. Islam usually scorns any kind of idol-worship, but in Mau this rule has been softened by Hindu influence. Aziz was angry at the idolatry when he first arrived, but soon he came to like the saint, associating him with his own time in prison. The shrine of the saint’s body is now in Aziz’s own garden.
After showing Aziz still trapped in bitterness about the Marabar, Forster then gives us this more optimistic image of prisoners being freed. This clearly relates to Aziz’s own time as a prisoner, but also suggests that he may soon be freed from the “prison” of the Marabar incident. Just as the Muslim Aziz has tried to “unite” with the Hindus of Mau, so Islam itself has begun to meld into Hinduism in the area.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
The morning after the religious ceremony, Aziz takes his three children to visit the shrine of the saint’s head, which is atop a hill near their home. They explore the shrine, which is full of bees, and then the mosque next to it. The mosque seems small, lumpy, and tilted compared to the usually austere Islamic architecture. Aziz and the children then wander to the old fort where the saint freed the prisoners. They admire the view from the hill, though Aziz avoids looking at the European guest house. It is the rainy season and the water tanks are full, which is good for future crops. In the distance are hills full of temples for local Hindu gods.
Forster has described Muslim architecture as the most logical and beautiful in India, but in Mau it has begun to dissolve into the formless “muddle” of Hinduism, as evidenced by the shrine and mosque. Each of the novel’s three sections has corresponded to a season, and this section, “Temple,” takes place during India’s rainy season. Unlike the oppressive hot season, this is a time of optimism for new growth. The fact that Aziz is with his children now also adds a sense of hope for the future.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Soon they pass a line of prisoners. The children ask them which one of them will be freed that night during the ceremonial Hindu procession of the Chief God. In the ceremony, the Chief God will pass through town, stop at the jail, and free one prisoner. The prisoners politely discuss their hopes with Aziz’s children. The prisoner’s guard asks Aziz about the Rajah’s health, and Aziz says that his condition is improving, though in fact the Rajah had died the night before after overexerting himself at the celebrations. His death is being concealed until the festival is over, so as not to overshadow the religious ceremonies.
Forster gives us more images of prisoners being freed, this time in relation to Hinduism as well as Islam, adding to the sense of optimism for both Aziz and India itself. The Rajah, like Mrs. Moore, somehow achieves a kind of immortality by not having his death acknowledged or believed.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Aziz’s children then notice that Fielding and his brother-in-law are climbing up to visit the saint’s shrine. The children ask if they should throw stones at the Englishmen, and Aziz rebukes them but is proud and pleased. They watch the two Englishmen enter the shrine and then be chased out by a swarm of bees. The children laugh, and the incident puts Aziz in a sudden good mood. He addresses the Englishmen, at which point Fielding’s brother-in-law says that he has been stung. Aziz approaches and pulls some bee stings out of the man’s wrist.
Aziz has clearly passed on his dislike of the English to his children. Fielding once again seems like more of a “tourist” as he visits a shrine uninvited. Aziz starts to feel extremities of emotion at the sight of Fielding, beginning with this delight in his former friend’s suffering and embarrassment.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
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Fielding immediately asks Aziz why he hasn’t answered his letters, but he is interrupted by a sudden downpour. They hurry down to Fielding’s carriage with Aziz, who bows sarcastically to the Englishmen. Aziz answers Fielding’s questions curtly, and Fielding soon gives up trying to be friendly and familiar. He becomes more “official,” asking why no one has met them at the guest house or answered any of their questions.
The Indian landscape itself seems determined to divide the two men, as a sudden rainstorm cuts off Fielding’s question about his letters. This leaves Aziz time to recover and put up his emotional walls against the Englishman, which Fielding responds to by again showing his “Britishness” and acting like a typical official. The two are playing out the larger tensions that separate Indians from English.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
They reach the carriage, and while helping the Englishmen inside, Aziz addresses Fielding’s brother-in-law as “Mr. Quested.” Fielding is shocked, for he didn’t marry Adela, but instead married Mrs. Moore’s daughter Stella. The brother-in-law is Ralph Moore. Fielding realizes that this is the cause of Aziz’s unfriendliness, and he immediately blames Mahmoud Ali, who knew Fielding’s wife’s name. Mahmoud Ali had even referred to her as “Heaslop’s sister” in an insolent letter written on Aziz’s behalf.
This sudden revelation is startling to both Aziz and Fielding, as they recognize the miscommunications that have marred their friendship. Clearly Mahmoud Ali and Aziz’s other friends have also tried to keep him from remaining close to an Englishman.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The name “Heaslop” enrages Aziz, who is already ashamed and angry at his own mistake. He admits that he was mistaken, but proudly says that he doesn’t care—he still doesn’t want Fielding to visit him while in Mau. Aziz declares that he will stick to his own people from now on, and he still feels that Fielding has betrayed him. Furthermore, Aziz says that he will forgive Mahmoud Ali anything because Mahmoud Ali loved him. Aziz gathers his children around him and says in Urdu that he doesn’t want anyone English to be his friend. He returns home, feeling moved and excited, especially by the mention of Mrs. Moore’s name. Aziz feels as if her spirit has returned to help him.
This moment encapsulates Aziz’s character, as his passions swing back and forth at the news. The name of Mrs. Moore inspires his love, while the name Heaslop makes him enraged. He feels angry at himself for being deceived, but still angry at Fielding for the perceived coldness and betrayal, and then excited by his own dramatic actions. Aziz states that he wants nothing more to do with Fielding, but as usual the intention behind his words is more complicated, and the feelings Mrs. Moore invokes imply that a reconciliation may soon be at hand.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon