A Passage to India

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A Passage to India Part 3, Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The ceremony of Krishna’s birth is complete, but there is still a sense of anticipation, as if God had not been born yet. The procession of the Chief God, another ceremony, is about to begin. The two possible successors to the Rajah’s throne have arrived at the palace, sensing that the Rajah might have died, but they make no trouble while the festival is still going and everyone feels a universal love for one another.
The Krishna festival is the principal backdrop for Part 3, but the death of the Rajah offers another background motif of change. The old ruler is dead and it is now time for a new one, and this turning point offers the potential for a better future, just as the presence of Aziz’s children represents hope for a new generation.
Themes
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Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
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Around sunset Aziz remembers that he had promised to send ointment to the guest house for Ralph Moore’s bee stings. Aziz gets some from Mohammed Latif and decides to bring it to the guest house himself. Aziz runs into Professor Godbole on the way and tells him about Fielding’s wife. Godbole says that he has known for more than a year that Fielding married Stella Moore, not Adela. Aziz almost gets angry, but Godbole reminds him that he is his “true friend” and in the middle of a holy festival, and Aziz forgives him, smiling.
Godbole is still a mysterious figure unconcerned with worldly matters, and Aziz finds himself unable to get angry at him for withholding information about Fielding. Despite just having declared that he wants nothing to do with the English visitors, Aziz impulsively decides to visit the guesthouse, presumably in the hopes of seeing Fielding again.
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Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Aziz continues on towards the guest house, but then spits cynically when he sees the English visitors in the guest house boat, approaching the Hindu festival to watch it. Aziz resents the English interest in “seeing India,” which he now sees as another form of trying to rule it. Aziz continues on to the guest house, which is watched only by one sleeping sentry. Aziz goes inside and looks through the rooms, reading two letters he finds. One is from Ronny to Fielding, which discusses Fielding’s marriage and new problems in India, which Ronny blames on “the Jews.”
Aziz now returns to his bitterness towards the English. He is especially sensitive about the colonialist tendency to “sightsee” the country they rule, as it was both the worldview that drives such desire to “sightsee” and an actual sightseeing trip this that that led to the Marabar Cave incident. We see how Ronny has devolved into further prejudice and racism in the last two years.
Themes
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The other letter Aziz reads is from Adela to Stella. He resents the intimate tone of it, and how Fielding, Adela, Stella, Ralph, and Ronny all refer to each other so familiarly, like the English all in their private club. Aziz angrily strikes the piano in front of him. The noise startles Ralph Moore, who is still in the house. Ralph comes in and Aziz is surprised to see him, but he quickly recovers and patronizingly examines Ralph’s bee stings.
Aziz has been happy avoiding the English and thoughts of Fielding, but now the messy emotions of the past return to haunt him. Once again he feels excluded from the English-only “club,” but this time even Fielding is part of that club. Aziz starts to take out his anger on Ralph.
Themes
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Friendship Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
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Aziz tries to treat Ralph “as Callendar had treated Nureddin,” but Ralph draws back, saying that Aziz’s hands are “unkind.” Aziz presses on belligerently, and Ralph asks why he is being so cruel to him and other English visitors. Aziz sarcastically brings up Adela, their “great friend,” but as he starts to mention the Marabar Caves his words are drowned out by an outburst of guns from the festival, signaling that the prisoner has been released.
Ralph shows an immediate intuition to the intent behind Aziz’s words and actions, as he can sense that Aziz is angry at him for an unrelated reason. Symbolically, a prisoner is released at the moment Aziz brings up the bitter past that has kept him imprisoned—showing that his own release—his own freedom— is at hand.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Aziz decides to go, and he absentmindedly puts out his hand to shake Ralph’s. Ralph takes his hand, and Aziz can sense that Ralph no longer fears him. Ralph says that Aziz isn’t unkind anymore, and Aziz asks if Ralph can always tell when a stranger is a friend. Ralph says yes, and Aziz says “then you are an Oriental.” Aziz shivers then, recalling that he said those exact words to Mrs. Moore in the mosque years earlier. Aziz worries that he is going to be caught in the same cycle he has just escaped, the inevitable cycle that results when Indians befriend the English—the closeness of the mosque, but then also the disaster of the caves.
In an eerie recurrence, Aziz impulsively tells Ralph the same thing he told Mrs. Moore years earlier at the novel’s start. This brings him to a sudden recognition of the mysterious cycle he has been a part of, where friendship with the English ultimately leads to disaster. Aziz can now make a conscious decision about reentering that cycle, however, rather than naively being led along by his own emotions and the colonial mindset.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Aziz says that Ralph is Mrs. Moore’s son, but also Ronny’s brother, and therefore “the two nations cannot be friends.” Ralph responds with “I know. Not yet.” Aziz is then overcome with more memories of Mrs. Moore and his lasting affection for her. He knows that she never did anything concrete to help him, but he still adores her. Aziz suddenly offers to take Ralph out on the water and show him “his country.”
Here the relationship between the two nations is explicitly represented by the relations between the novel’s characters. There are many Ronnys among the English, but also a few Mrs. Moores—yet until the Ronnys are stripped of their colonial power, Indians and English cannot truly be friends. Aziz suddenly decides to do the very thing he was scorning earlier, and “sightsee” the festival.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Aziz worries that the cycle of mosques and caves is beginning again, but he is too overcome with emotion to resist, and he impulsively embraces the cycle for Mrs. Moore’s sake. Once they are on the water in a boat, Aziz suddenly finds that his old kindness and hospitality have returned. He is an effusive tour guide, pretending to understand the Hindu festival and explaining it to Ralph.
This time Aziz makes the conscious choice to reenter the cycle, implying that it may be a new cycle altogether—Ralph is a new generation of Englishman, and this new friendship might not end in disaster. Yet, there are echoes of the past too: just as on the trip to the Marabar Caves, Aziz acts as a “guide” to something he knows nothing about.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
There is a flash of lightning and Ralph points at something, asking if it is the Rajah. Aziz rows towards a light in the distance, and sees a mysterious image of a shining king floating in the water. Aziz is unsettled and admits that he doesn’t know what it is, and he tells Ralph that the Rajah is dead. He then suspects that it was an image of the old Rajah, which can only be seen from one point on the water. Ralph directed him to that point. Aziz suddenly feels like Ralph is the guide and he is the visitor.
Unlike Adela and Mrs. Moore at the Marabar, Ralph becomes a sort of guide as well, pointing out the mysterious image of the Rajah that is almost impossible to see. This supernatural image adds to the sense of mystery behind the muddle of this penultimate scene. This time Aziz stops pretending to be a tour guide, and recognizes that he too is out of his depth.
Themes
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Ralph asks to be taken closer to the Hindu procession, and Aziz complies, asking Ralph not to share the news of the Rajah’s death yet. Ralph seems in control and asks to row closer. Rockets and guns are being shot off in celebration. Suddenly the procession appears, closer than Aziz wanted to be. Godbole, who is part of the ceremony, sees the boat and waves his arms at them, but it is unclear if he is joyful or angry. The storm rages on, and the Hindus prepare for the ceremony of “throwing God” away into the storm.
Everything is now approaching chaos, and both Aziz and Ralph are in entirely unfamiliar territory with the storm, the rockets, and the Hindu ceremony. Yet Ralph seems oddly in control, showing that he shares his mother’s natural affinity for Hinduism. This mixture of weather, religion, and English intrusion aptly captures the muddle of India.
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Suddenly Fielding’s boat collides with Aziz’s boat just as the Hindu ceremony climaxes. Stella shrinks towards Fielding but then throws herself at Aziz, and the boats capsize. All four of the English fall into the warm, shallow water, scattering Ronny’s and Adela’s letters alongside the sacred props of the Procession of the God. Suddenly the festival is all over, and the crowd breaks up quietly. Something mysterious has happened, but there is no easy explanation for it.
This is another climax that is basically a confusing nonevent. The boats crash and everything is scattered in the storm, but nothing definable takes place. Stella lunges towards Aziz rather than to her husband, symbolically reaching out to Aziz just as her brother and mother did. Everything that occurs is a muddle, yet there is a mysterious meaning behind it, as it brings reconciliation to Aziz, Fielding, and the Moores.
Themes
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Division vs. Unity Theme Icon